The Connaught Hotel Handicap is an amateur riders only race over 2 miles and 1f at 7.40 at Galway on Monday, July 30th. Here we take a look at the main contenders.
Without question this race centres around the the Willie Mullins trained mare Limini.
After three good wins on the flat in France, the now seven year old then joined the all conquering Mullins yard in May 2015. As with so many new recruits to that yard, she quickly found her form with a win in a maiden hurdle at Punchestown after what was a 253 day absence. She was then given a 259 day break before a Grade 3 hurdle win at Fairyhouse before going on to win the Mares Novice Hurdle race at the Cheltenham festival in March 2016.
She ended that season with two placed efforts in open Grade 1 Novice company at Aintree and Punchestown, with that Aintree race being won by subsequent dual Champion Hurdle winner, Buveur D’Air. Again we didn’t see her for an extended period of 298 days before she won her prep for Cheltenham in February of last year, before going on the finish a close third in the Mares Hurlde at the 2017 Cheltenham Festival behind Apples Jade and Vroum Vroum Mag.
That was the last time she was seen in public, which means she hasn’t raced for 503 days.
Obviously one would prefer if she had a recent run under her belt, but as has been highlighted above, she has won the three times she has returned from an extended absence. Considering her improvement over hurdles and that her final French win on the flat was when beating subsequent dual Group 2 winner Manatee, she gets in very leniently here off a lowly mark of 89.
Patrick Mullins, son of father-trainer Willie, takes the ride and Limini will be very difficult to beat in this years Connaught Hotel Handicap.
Uradel is the third string Willie Mullins contender here and gets in off just 81 in what will be his first race on the flat in almost four years. Seeing as he was beaten in three Maiden Hurdles while in Mullins care before finally winning one and was also a well beaten favourite at Fairyhouse when last seen, I am willing to look elsewhere for the winner of this years Connaught Hotel Handicap.
Shrewd trainer Tony Martin always targets the Galway festival and as such anything he runs has to be considered. Indeed he saddled the winners of this very race in both 2013 and 2014 and this year runs Golden Spear.
The son of Kyllachy has good form under both the flat and jumping codes, but has been win less for nearly two years now. He can’t be ruled out but is for sure vulnerable to less exposed rivals.
Also representing Willie Mullins here is the five year old Chelkar.
This son of Azamour has only raced six times in his life. He started his career in France where he was three from five for Champion French trainer Jean-Claude Rouget. He then switched to Mullins in April of this year and made his first start for his new stable in the Ascot Stakes at Royal Ascot 41 days ago. Mullins had an extremely strong hand that day saddling five of the nineteen strong field, with four of his five finishing in the first five home.
On that occasion, when Mullins had so much firepower going into the race, Chelkar was significantly the ride of Ryan Moore and earned the notable Racing Post comments of “lengthy” and “looked well.” Keen early and short of room up the stretch, he kept on nicely under a typically kind ride from Moore to finish a never nearer fourth and crossing the line looking like he had more in the tank.
He can be expected to improve for the outing and shouldn’t be inconvenienced by the softer going conditions here. If there is a negative about him it’s that he has top weight here with 12 stone off his new mark of 100.
Connaught Hotel Handicap verdict:
Limini & Chelkar dominate the market and it is hard to see beyond this pair.
The advice is to back both of them.
Chelkar each way @ 7/2 and Limini win only @ 7/4.