Cheltenham Festival winner Band Of Outlaws has been installed as the ante post favourite for the valuable Galway Handicap Hurdle which takes place Thursday, August 1, and looks a worthy market leader for one of the highlights of the Galway Festival in Ballybrit.
This four-year-old, who hails from the Irish yard of Joseph O’Brien, was a smart performer on the level who developed into one of the very best juvenile hurdlers last season.
After shaping with stacks of promise on hurdles debut at Cork when a length third to Maze Runner, he opened his account in fine style when keeping on strongly to beat Future Proof at Limerick.
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.
He was allotted an opening handicap mark of 139 on the back of that taking success 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 on the strong travelling gelding owned by JP McManus.
When he did, the response was immediate and Band Of Outlaws showed an electric turn of foot to burst between horses and beat Coko Beach by two lengths.
He won with any amount in hand and it was a most taking performance which suggested he had a big future.
Perfect Prep Run
Although then disappointing on his final start of the campaign when fifth to Pentland Hills in a Grade 1 at Aintree, there was lots to like about Bound Of Outlaws warm up run for this when runner-up to Thomas Hobson in a Grade 3 at Tipperary earlier in the month.
He kept on well from off the pace to go down by just a neck after making a mistake two out and was not unduly knocked about.
That looked like a perfect prep run for this and Band Of Outlaws is a strong traveller with a potent turn of foot.
Those are the perfect attributes for the Galway Hurdle, so at 6/1 with bet365 in the ante post betting he looks a worthy market leader in my eyes and the one they all have to beat.
Gardens Of Babylon another player for O’Brien
O’Brien also has another fascinating contender in the shape of Gardens Of Babylon, who is also owned by McManus.
This gelding posted some cracking efforts last season and looks the type to progress further in 2019/20.
He came good at the second time of asking over hurdles when landing a 22-runner contest at Punchestown and went on to run very well when 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.
He then went down fighting in a Grade 2 at Fairyhouse when beaten just 1/2 length by French Made before getting back to winning ways with an easy 6 1/2 length success at Punchestown.
Gardens Of Bayblon got turned over when sent off odds-on for a maiden on the flat at Killarney earlier in the month, but shaped as if needing the run and should now be fully tuned to do himself justice.
A hurdles’ handicap mark of 142 looks exploitable and at 12/1 with Paddy Power, who are paying five places, Gardens Of Babylon makes plenty of each-way appeal.