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RACING: 2005 GALWAY FESTIVAL - IT'S PLATE AND SIMPLE FOR THE PUNTERS ON ONE SIX-YEAR-OLD: Good Griff, it's Mir; TRAINER SHOCKED AT 'FAVOURITE' TAG.

Byline: MICHAEL CLOWER

MIRPOUR has been laid out for Wednesday's Galway Plate, but few people were more taken aback at the massive gamble on the horse than his trainer Eoin Griffin.

The six-year-old was a 20-1 chance when Boylesports calculated their prices straight after the weights were published.

Money for the horse saw his price shorten to 12-1 after only a few days, but a massive plunge last weekend saw him slashed to 6-1 favourite.

The Co Kilkenny trainer said: "We deliberately haven't run him this year over fences because we had the Plate in mind and we were hoping he would get into the race off last year's rating.

"I give him a nice chance, but I must say that I was surprised to hear that he had been backed like that. I haven't had a shilling on him . . . but then I don't bet."

It was at Tipperary nine months ago that Mirpour last ran over fences.

He won a novice chase in good style under Ruby Walsh, beating another of the leading Galway Plate fancies, Kickham, but disaster struck in the process. Griffin said: "He fractured a splint bone and had to have an operation. It wasn't a major one, but he had a few niggling problems after it including an infection and he didn't make it back until Aintree on Grand National day.

"It rained heavily during the morning and the ground was marginally too soft for him, but he still finished third in a handicap hurdle. He has since had two runs on the Flat and he ran particularly well at The Curragh last time.

"He has only had three races over fences - strictly speaking he is only a second season novice - and that would be a concern.

"Also, it's his first handicap, but he jumps very well and we have schooled him intensively at home."

Next Saturday's Dawn Milk Handicap Hurdle is a race close to the Slieverue trainer's heart, although he regards it with mixed emotions.

He admitted: "Rua Lass was one of the horses that got me going as a trainer and she won this race in 2001. She also won three bumpers including one at the previous year's Galway Festival.

"But Patrizio suffered a serious injury when he ran in the race last season and he had to be put down. He was a seriously good horse and he won five in a row in 2003 including races at Galway and Listowel." This time the Griffin runner in Saturday's feature looks like being Another Ticket although he could do with an increase in the weights.

He added: "He had his first run in a three mile maiden hurdle at Cork earlier in the month and, while he is only rated 80, he would have a chance if he were to get into the handicap.

"I expect to have one or two other runners at the meeting including Never Will who goes in the mile handicap on Sunday. He disappointed at The Curragh, but the straight mile didn't suit him. He will handle Galway much better and he is in good form."

Griffin, 39, was brought up at his present south Kilkenny base and gained his interest in racing from his father keeping a few broodmares.

He said: "We also had ponies, but I never progressed to riding in a race and haven't even ridden out for quite a few years. I'm too heavy. I had a permit to train the family's horses for quite a few years and Joe Cowley used to let me use his gallops. Aidan O'Brien had taken over the licence from Joe's daughter Anne Marie when I started going to Piltown and I was able to pick up something of what he was doing.

"I made a lot of mistakes to begin with, but I learned from them and tried not to make the same mistake twice.

"I took out a full licence in 2001 and now have 24 riding out. Two-thirds are race-fit horses and the remainder are the ones that have just come in to be prepared for a winter campaign."

Mirpour's one of the best Griffin's trained so far and, in addition to his two wins over fences, he won three off the reel over hurdles as a four-year-old two summers ago. Victory in the Plate would be sweet.

CAPTION(S):

CUT PRICE ODDS: Mirpour is heavily backed for Wednesday's big day
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jul 24, 2005
Words:737
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