PATRICK Mullins gets another opportunity to finally break his duck in the prestigious Connacht Hotel Handicap on the opening day of the Galway Festival.
The most successful amateur jockey in the history of jump racing, Mullins is no stranger to big race success, with his excellent CV including four winners at the Cheltenham Festival and multiple Grade 1 victories aboard equine superstars like Douvan, Faugheen and Un De Sceaux.
The 31-year-old has also won two of the last three Galway Hurdles on Sharjah (2018) and Aramon (2020), but victory in Monday evening’s €100,000 feature – one of the most renowned amateur races in the Irish calendar – has so far proved elusive.
Mullins said: “I think this is my 15th go at it!
“I suppose this race and the Champion Bumper in Punchestown are the two main amateur races of the year in Ireland. Willie (Mullins) won it once way back and Ruby (Walsh) won it once, so hopefully we can join them.”
Mullins junior will partner Hook Up in this year’s renewal. The Rich and Susannah Ricci-owned mare certainly appears to hold strong claims, having been placed at Grade 1 level over hurdles and run just three times on the flat.
“I think only two winners in the last 20 years have carried more than 11 stone, so it’s a race for the light weights,” Mullins added.
“Hook Up is carrying 11st 1lb, which is kind of my minimum and puts her just above the right kind of weight bracket.
“She’s unexposed on the flat and is not the most natural jumper, so I think she’s entitled to be a little bit better on the flat than she is over hurdles.
“We’ve got a nice draw (stall eight) and we’re very happy with her at home, so she ticks plenty of boxes at the moment.”
Hook Up is just one of six contenders for the Mullins team.
Aubrey McMahon, who has already won the two-mile contest twice aboard the Mullins-trained pair of Whiskey Sour (2017) and Uradel (2018), will partner recent Curragh scorer Foveros, who is part-owned by the rider’s father Luke McMahon.
Jody Townend, who steered Great White Shark to victory two years ago, partners previous course winner Exchange Rate, with Royal Illusion (Tom Hamilton), Runrized (Elliot Ohgren) and My Sister Sarah (Jamie Codd) completing the Closutton sextet.
Mullins said: “I think Exchange Rate could be the one. I won on him at the Festival in 2017, he’s run very well off a mark of 89 in the past and he’s running off 82 on Monday with Jody Townend claiming 5lb. He could be very well-in.
“Aubrey McMahon is one of the few jockeys to have won it twice and maybe Foveros, with a nice light weight, could give him the hat-trick.”