Band Of Outlaws looks to have the perfect profile for the valuable 2m Galway Hurdle, the Grade A handicap that takes centre stage on day four of the Galway Festival this Thursday (16:55).
This four-year-old hails from the Irish yard of Joseph O’Brien who saddled fellow JP McManus owned runner Tigris River to land the spoils in 2017. Band Of Outlaws developed into a top class juvenile hurdler last season.
The son of Fast Company was a smart performer on the level and came good at the second time of asking over the obstacles when landing a 17-runner contest at Limerick when keeping on strongly to beat Future Proof by three-quarters of a length
Band Of Outlaws then pulverised the opposition in a six-runner novice hurdle at Naas where, after being held-up, he made smooth headway to go second before the last and overcame a slight mistake at the final flight before quickening clear to score easily by 4 3/4 lengths from Maze Runner.
He was allotted an opening handicap mark of 139 on the back of that taking display and made a mockery of it when landing the 21-runner Grade 3 Fred Winter at the Cheltenham Festival.
Band Of Outlaws was given an ultra-confident ride under JJ Slevin, who waited until after the last to push the button and asked him to go about his business.
Eye-catching prep run
When he did, he showed a smart turn of foot to burst between horses and easily beat Coko Beach by two lengths.
Although then disappointing on his final start of the campaign when fifth to Pentland Hills in a Grade 1 at Aintree, that race wasn’t run to suit.
There was lots more to like about Bound Of Outlaws’ prep run for this when runner-up to Thomas Hobson in a Grade 3 at Tipperary earlier in the month off a rating of 145.
He kept on well from off the pace to go down by just a neck after making a mistake two out and was not given an unduly hard time.
That should have put Band Of Outlaws spot on for this and he is now able to race off 1lb lower.
A revised rating of 144 is just 5lb higher than when impressively landing the Fred Winter, so makes him look a major player at the weights.
Band Of Outlaws is a strong traveller with a potent turn of foot, and those are the ideal attributes for this test. With Slevin once again in the saddle, he looks a worthy 5/1 market leader with Betfred and the one to be on.
Riven Light a formidable Galway Hurdle opponent
Closutton handler Willie Mullins has won two of the last three runnings of the Galway Hurdle, and Riven Light looks the clear pick of his representatives in this year’s renewal.
This Rich Ricci owned seven-year-old has won twice on the level at this meeting, landing the BMW Handicap in 2017 before following up in the same contest last year.
He comes into this on the back of two solid runs on the flat, going down by just a short-head by Guaranteed before finishing a keeping on never nearer 6 1/4 lengths sixth of 16 to Addeybb in the Listed 1m 2f Wolferton Stakes at Royal Ascot off an official rating of 112.
Riven Light now switches back to hurdles off a rating of 139 and that looks very workable in relation to his flat mark and back form over the obstacles.
After winning first time up over hurdles in the 2017/18 jumps season, Riven Light went on to finish a solid 4 3/4 lengths fourth of nine to stable companion Bleu Berry in a Grade 2 at Fairyhouse.
The winner is a smart sort who has since landed the Coral Cup at the 2018 Cheltenham Festival off a mark of 143 and finished third in a Grade 1 at the Punchestown Festival off a rating of 148.
That form reads well in relation to this. It looks a master-plan by Mullins to send Riven Light back hurdling for the first time in 825 days off a jumps rating that could seriously underestimate his ability.
It’s hard to see him not finishing in the frame at least, so Riven Light makes plenty of each-way appeal at the 10/1 on offer with William Hill who are paying five places.
Gardens Of Babylon weighted to go well
O’Brien and McManus also have another very interesting contender in Gardens Of Babylon, an 11/1 shot with Bethard.
This four-year-old came good at the second time of asking over hurdles when landing a 22-runner contest at Punchestown by half-a-length from Surin.
He then went down by a nose to that rival at Fairyhouse, before running very well to finish a staying on six-length second to the ill-fated Sir Erec in Grade 1 at Leopardstown.
Gardens Of Babylon backed that up with a fine 6 3/4 lengths third of 14 to the exciting Pentland Hills in the Grade 1 Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival off an official rating of 145.
The son of Derby winner Camelot then went down fighting in a Grade 2 at Fairyhouse when beaten just half-a-length by French Made, before getting back to winning ways with an easy 6 1/2 lengths success at the Punchestown Festival.
Gardens Of Bayblon got turned over when sent off odds-on for a maiden on the Flat at Killarney last month, but weakened late on and shaped as if needing the run.
With that spin under his belt, Gardens Of Babylon should now be cherry ripe and a handicap of 142 – 3lb lower than when third in the Triumph – entitles him to be very competitive on the pick of his form.
Davids Charms appeals each-way in Galway Hurdle
In a race in which a case can be made for most of the 20-runners, the John J Walsh trained Davids Charm is another that looks well worth considering from an each-way punting perspective.
The eight-year-old has won three of his 12 starts over hurdles, and was far from disgraced in this 12 months ago when sent off a heavily-backed 11/2 and finishing a keeping on 13 1/2 lengths ninth of 20 to Sharjah off a mark of 144 having been given plenty to do.
Davids Charm went on to finish a fine 1 1/4 lengths second of 24 in the Irish Cesarewitch at Navan, a Premier Handicap on the Flat run over 2m.
The son of Milan also ran well at the Punchestown Festival bach in May when fifth of 25 to Mr Adjudicator in the Ballymore Handicap Hurdle and beaten just over six lengths off a mark of 143.
Davids Charm is able to trace in this off the same rating and that entitles him to plenty of respect from a handicapping point of view.
He is also versatile as regards and can usually be relied upon to run his race, so a bold bid looks assured.
That’s why Davids Charm had to feature as another potential each-way punt at 12/1 with 888sport and thus completes this Galway Hurdle preview.