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Weld chances Rock solid

NOT even Frankel in Wednesday's Sussex Stakes at Goodwood is as big a certainty as Dermot Weld is to train a winner at Galway this week.

While we are certain that Weld will grace the winner's enclosure at Ballybrit, obviously picking out the winners that he'll send out is not always as predictable.

There is one horse in particular, though, that the dogs around Rosewell House are barking about, the sheep are baa-ing over and those who are in the know are raving about and that horse heads the field in tomorrow's feature Topaz Mile.

Rock Critic has been described as "in good form" by Pat Smullen, while the master trainer himself said over the weekend: "He's a smart horse who has shown his liking for Galway. He's best suited by quick conditions, but he did win on testing ground at Tipperary. He is a tough, solid performer and his proven ability to handle Galway should be a big asset."

Rock Critic ticks about as many boxes as you'd want to have ticked at Galway. First of all he is trained by Weld and ridden by Pat Smullen, who incidentally won this race last year with Stunning View.

Then there is the fact that he is not only a course winner, but has managed to win at the last two Galway Festivals (third three years ago) and won twice here last year.

Horses with 9st5lbs or more don't have an excellent record in the race and Rock Critic will have top weight of 9st12lbs tomorrow which is probably the only negative. However, of the four horses who have carried more than 9st5lbs since 1996, Weld has trained three of them.

A winner on heavy ground, Rock Critic would undoubtedly prefer a nicer surface, but nevertheless should handle whatever way the ground comes up at Ballybrit tomorrow and dropping in class following his run at Royal Ascot looks very hard to beat.

Noel Meade's Honourable Emperor is an improving three-year-old who was second last time over a mile and a quarter, but will run a big race here dropping back in trip, while Custom Cat has to be there or thereabouts on recent form. However, all the pointers look towards Rock Critic and he would prove one of the most popular winners of the week for punters if he could make it four Galway Festival wins in three years.

Hopefully, punters will still be queuing up at the bookmakers' pitches to 'E' when a fresh swarm of money comes in for another Weld horse in the race following the Topaz Galway Mile.

In the Caulfieldindustrial.com EBF Maiden, Nabat Ali is the Curragh handler's representative and after a nice debut at Fairyhouse out of which the winner was subsequently placed in Group Three company, she could be one of a few Weld runners that opens their account at Galway this week.

Ireland's winning-most trainer has a representative in the last as well, which is a seven-furlong maiden and Muntasaf is a tentative choice to potentially bring up a Weld treble on day two.

A trainer in form at the moment is Jessica Harrington whose horses seem to be bouncing back to their best and in the penultimate contest stick with her recent winner Fairy Wing to win under a mandatory penalty.

A winner last Thursday at Leopardstown, Fairy Wing went up 11lbs in the handicap for that, but will run off just a 6lbs penalty tomorrow and therefore theoretically has 5lbs in hand.

Three horses who have done well on both the flat and over hurdles may battle out the Topaz Handicap at 5.00 with the in-form Harangue getting the nod in the two-mile contest for Shark Hanlon. A win over hurdles at Sligo earlier in the month was followed up a couple of days later with a creditable third, and the four-year-old has some placed form around Galway, which is always a big help.


Indeed, his last effort on the flat was at the August meeting here when sixth and prior to that he was a shorthead second in a maiden at last year's Festival.

Proceedings on day two of the raceweek get under way with a couple of jump races and in the first, Michael Hourigan's impressive Killarney winner Run With The Wind is touted to score again.

A winner of three of his last four, the six-year-old had some good runs in maiden hurdles before opening his account at Ballinrobe back in May and then following that up at Killarney last time for which he earned a rating of 133.

Behind him at Killarney was the highly regarded Thomas Edison and Hourigan's charge is selected over John Kiely's Saint Gervais and Ross O'Sullivan's He's Our Man.

Dessie Hughes and Bryan Cooper teamed up 12 months ago to win the Latin Quarter Chase with Sarteano and this year that duo could be the winning formula again, this time with the mare Definite Class.

The bravely named daughter of Definite Article out of Class Society is a six-time winner in total and although beaten last time, it was a narrow margin behind a decent type of Henry de Bromhead's and expect her to return to winning ways tomorrow afternoon.