Archive for the ‘ Punchestown Festival ’ Category

01 May
2015

Take A Turn On Day Four At Punchestown

Three down, two to go.

A brilliant Punchestown has thrown up talking points aplenty so far, and although Jezki took the stayers’ crown yesterday it was the legend that is Hurricane Fly who got the biggest cheer, when returning to the unfamiliar runner-up space post race.

As the sun shone later on Un De Sceaux did what Un De Sceaux does, in the process earning one punter somewhere in the region of €30,000 after a reported monster bet of €200,000.

Not a bad return on investment if you can hold your nerve for the four minutes and five seconds it took for next year’s Champion Chase favourite to zoom around Ireland’s best racecourse!

Willie Mullins already has a whopping nine winners on the board, and after plundering the majority of the Grade 1’s he yesterday started throwing his weight around in the La Touche, a handicap hurdle, a novice and a bumper.

There’s a very useful horse called Domination, no prizes for guessing who it must have been named after…

On to day four then, and with massive crowds expected and the weather looking good, we’ll chance our arm with the Henry De Bromhead-trained Shanahan’s Turn in race two on the card, the 2m 5f EMS Copiers Novice Handicap Chase (4.20pm).

De Bromhead enjoyed a massive win when Special Tiara bagged a Grade 1 at Sandown Park on Saturday, and lost out by a nostril when 20/1 A Sizing Network was just beaten into second here yesterday.

This afternoon’s race looks a perfect assignment for Shanahan’s Turn, who was fifth in a Grade 1 over hurdles here 12 months ago, before going chasing in the autumn.

Ground doesn’t seem to be an issue for a horse who has thrived over fences and loves Punchestown, winning his first two over the larger obstacles, both at this venue.

His last two appearances have been in Grade 1 company at Leopardstown, and even if he’s been biting off a bit more than he can chew there, this represents a far more realistic target.

Just 35 minutes later it’s girl power that comes to the fore on Ladies’ Day, and after getting the job done with Jezki yesterday and enjoying a 50/1 stunner with Walk To Freedom on Wednesday Jessie Harrington has two leading chances in the 2m 5f Mares’ Handicap Chase, running last year’s winner Burn And Turn as well as the ever improving Annie Oakley.

Burn And Turn is 10 pounds higher in the weights than she was this time last year, and at twice the odds it might be worth investing in her two years younger stablemate.

Annie Oakley has won two of her last three, going in at Down Royal and Wexford, and although the handicapper shunted her up 10 pounds for her most recent win, the five pound claim of rider Paddy Kennedy helps negate half of that additional burden.

Good luck!

Friday’s best bets at Punchestown:

4.20 – EMS Copiers Novice Handicap Chase – 3 Shanahan’s Turn (each way) @ 11/1 (Paddy Power or William Hill)

4.55 – Hanlon Concrete EBF Glencarraig Lady Mares Handicap Chase – 3 Annie Oakley (each way) @ 8/1 (bet365, BetVictor or Paddy Power)

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Posted 2 years, 2 months ago

30 Apr
2015

It’s Sceaux Time At Punchestown

Less than three weeks after his Aintree heroics it was Don Cossack who ruled the roost at Punchestown yesterday, successfully stepping up in trip to bag the prestigious Bibby Financial Services Ireland Gold Cup, and in the process earn quotes no bigger than 8/1 (BetVictor and William Hill) for next year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Star names are rarely far away at this meeting, and on a week which has already given us Douvan, Felix Yonger, Valseur Lido, Killultagh Vic and Bellshill, the equine celebrities step up a notch this evening, with heavyweight champs Un De Sceaux and Hurricane Fly set to be unleashed.

You won’t get rich backing Un De Sceaux at 1/6 in the Grade 1 Ryanair Novice Chase (6.40pm), unlike Ryanair supremo Michael O’Leary who can count on a solid couple of grand from yours truly on an annual basis, but let’s hope he can display why he’s no bigger than 6/4 for next year’s Queen Mother Champion Chase.

Earlier in the day the big prize is the €200,000 Grade 1 Ladbrokes World Series Hurdle, a contest in which big hitters Hurricane Fly and Jezki go head to head for the ninth time.

Their lifetime score is 6-2 in favour of ‘the Fly’, but although both are former 2m 4f winners at the top level courtesy of having won the Hatton’s Grace at Fairyhouse three years apart, this is a first try for both of them up in trip at three miles.

Three Champion Hurdles between them mark them out as part of the super elite, and Hurricane Fly (who lest we forget recorded his first Punchestown win way back in 2008!) boasts Punchestown form figures of 1, 1, 3, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 2, 1, with a staggering eight Grade 1’s amongst them!

That said, while both are easy to envisage adding to their respective tallies, there could be a bit of value lurking among rivals at bigger prices.

Last year’s 20/1 winner of this race Jetson (half brother to Jezki) is back for more, but at nearly those odds it could be worth taking a chance on a fellow outsider in the shape of Tony Martin’s I Shot The Sheriff.

Both BetVictor and Ladbrokes are 16/1 about a horse who, although he has 22lbs to find with Hurricane Fly on official figures, looks as if he can only improve for the step up in distance.

I Shot The Sheriff has thrived since joining Martin, finishing second at Navan on his stable debut (his first outing for two years), and then bolting up at both Wexford and Fairyhouse over two and three quarter miles.

The way he powered home at Fairyhouse suggested he could be even better over further.

This is a massive step up from last time out, and being competitive here is a much bigger ask than winning a handicap off 130, but he now finds himself on a mark of 146 (Jetson was 145 a year ago), and appears to be improving rapidly.

If the big two don’t stay then he could be the one to capitalise, and at 16/1 he looks worth an each way interest.

Elsewhere on a big day the banks course is in action, with the famous La Touche Cup up for grabs at 4.50pm.

Banks king Enda Bolger will be hoping for better luck than at Cheltenham for favourite Quantitativeeasing, who was carried out in March’s UK equivalent when going well.

However, he also managed to get himself beaten at odds on at Punchestown at February, and at quadruple his price what about Tony Martin’s Cheltenham Festival Cross Country winner Rivage D’Or?

We can debate all we like about what would have happened had Quantitativeeasing remained in the race, but the fact is Rivage D’Or won the race, leading home the reopposing Uncle Junior and Dogora.

Top weight won’t make this easy, but he has since run well in the Irish National, and could become a big noise at this new discipline.

Bryan Cooper needs a winner after wrongly choosing Road To Riches over Don Cossack yesterday, and Rivage D’Or could well be the horse to provide it.

Good luck!

Thursday’s best bets at Punchestown:

4.50 – FBD Cross Country Chase For The La Touche Cup – 1 Rivage D’Or (each way) @ 6/1 (Paddy Power)

5.30 – Ladbrokes World Series Hurdle – 4 I Shot The Sheriff (each way) @ 16/1 (BetVictor and Ladbrokes)

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Posted 2 years, 2 months ago

29 Apr
2015

Find Beggar’s Cross To Locate The Road To Riches…

Punchestown, deep in rural Kildare.

Weaving your way through the lanes from the buzzing town of Naas, you’d be forgiven for thinking that all that lies beyond are fields, farms, sheep, and the occasional hospitable pub, but locate Beggar’s Cross and you’re just a short stagger from one of the great success stories.

For 51 weeks of the year the peace is largely undisturbed in this lush, green, beautiful part of Ireland.

Not so for five days this week, as during the five days of ‘peerless Punchestown’ and its great National Hunt Festival around 110,000 people are expected to cross the threshold, to experience the magic generated by some top class sport.

It’s a great welcome, bolstered by 12 Grade 1’s, eye-watering prize money that not even Willie Mullins has remarked upon (yet), playing out in a stunning setting.

The Irish contingent rave about the natural amphitheatre at Cheltenham, surely this place is every inch as good?

Whatever your opinion on that score we go steaming into today’s second instalment looking at another excellent card, one which features the venue’s biggest prize in the shape of the Bibby Financial Services Punchestown Gold Cup, a contest of immense prestige which carries of chunky €200,000 prize pot.

Cheltenham hero Coneygree may have hung up his boots for the summer, and Grand National winner Many Clouds is resting his hooves after Aintree, but nonetheless they’ve attracted a cast of stars from both sides of the Irish Sea.

Willie Mullins cleaned up yesterday, winning all three Grade 1’s on the opening day courtesy of Douvan, Felix Yonger and Valseur Lido, and he supplies a third of the field of nine.

Ruby Walsh stays loyal to Djakadam following his gallant second to Coneygree, though morning rain would be welcome.

Last year’s winner of this race Boston Bob is working hard to recapture that sort of form, while the 2014 Cheltenham Gold Cup bridesmaid On His Own is another capable of high class form when the mood takes him.

Gordon Elliott got on the scoreboard for the week good and early yesterday, notching an impressive winner with well backed Goffs Land Rover Bumper scorer Petit Mouchoir.

Here he supplies a live wire in the 171-rated Don Cossack, but will he blow a fuse when asked to see out today’s 3m 1f journey?

So impressive when routing his rivals at Aintree over two and a half miles 19 days ago, he has won his last two over fences here at Punchestown, but still has to prove his stamina.

If there isn’t enough petrol in the tank then a strong British challenge arrives in the shape of richly talented Cue Card, the horse who chased Don Cossack home in a distant second in Liverpool earlier this month, and also David Pipe’s Ballynagour, who ran a mighty race in defeat over two miles here a year ago, and most recently was seen putting it up to Silviniaco Conti at Aintree three weeks ago.

Perhaps the one thing that really catches the eye though is the decision of Bryan Cooper, retained jockey to the powerful Gigginstown House Stud, to overlook Don Cossack and instead partner Road To Riches.

The pair both arrive off the back of superb performances, Don Cossack lest we forget powering home at Aintree over a lesser distance, while Road To Riches lost Gold Cup second in the shadow of the post at Cheltenham, overhauled by the reopposing Djakadam as his petrol light finally flickered on empty after a valiant effort.

Here though, over a furlong and a half shorter trip, Cooper may have made the correct pick.

Road To Riches has been a remarkable success story, winning the Galway Plate last summer when sent off at a whopping 14/1 from a handicap mark of 149 – in hindsight one of the greatest certainties you’ll ever encounter!

Since then he’s won nothing but admirers, winning Grade 1 contests with swagger at both Down Royal and Leopardstown.

His Cheltenham effort was nothing short of excellent, and as long as it hasn’t left too much of a mark and he’s ready to go again then Cooper can blow a sigh of relief, and we can get on at 7/2 with Paddy Power.

There’s also Grade 1 action in store at 4.55pm with the three mile Irish Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle, in which Willie Mullins once again supplies a hot favourite in Fairyhouse scorer Shaneshill.

Second to Douvan at Cheltenham, he has class in abundance, but he’s yet to tackle today’s extended distance.

Stablemate Killultagh Vic comes here with applause still ringing in his ears after a gutsy handicap win at Cheltenham, though he too has to prove that he won’t need to hail a taxi to reach the three mile summit.

Likely to be trying to expose any stamina limitations in the intrepid Mullins duo is Gordon Elliott’s No More Heroes, for whom three miles holds not a whiff of fear, as demonstrated by his excellent third in Cheltenham’s Albert Bartlett.

Dorset trainer Colin Tizzard got a pleasant surprise when upping Thistlecrack to this trip at Aintree – a 25/1 win in the Grade 1 Sefton Novices’ Hurdle was the end result!

Joining him on the ferry was Harry Fry’s Fletchers Flyer, and having been spared the rigours of either Cheltenham or Aintree it’s the fresher horse who can prevail today.

Fry brought this lad over to win a bumper here 12 months ago, so he’s proven on the track, and is subsequently tested and well within range for today’s stamina-sapping examination.

Commanding victories at Ascot and Wincanton over the winter marked him down as a horse going places, and he went down fighting when second in a good three miler at Haydock in February.

A 74-day break is an advantage his rivals don’t have, and Fry won’t have brought him over simply for a breath of fresh air.

Flethchers Flyer is 14/1 each way with Paddy Power.

Good luck!

Wednesday’s best bets at Punchestown:

4.55 – Irish Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle – 4 Fletchers Flyer (each way) @ 14/1 (Paddy Power)

5.30 – Bibby Financial Services Punchestown Gold Cup – 8 Road To Riches (win) @ 7/2 (Paddy Power)

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Posted 2 years, 2 months ago

27 Apr
2015

Lamb A Tasty Bet On Day One At Punchestown

Champagne Fever, Don Poli, Douvan, Hidden Cyclone, Sizing Europe and Sizing John headline a star-studded opening day card at the peerless Punchestown Festival, with a mighty week in store here in County Kildare.

Three Grade 1 contests set the tone for the best week of the year in the National Hunt calendar on this side of the pond, and with a typically strong British challenge heading across the water there’s plenty to look forward to.

Unless they significantly under-perform it’s hard to envisage the Willie Mullins-trained hotpots Douvan and Don Poli not winning the Herald Champion Novice Hurdle (4.20pm) and the Growise Champion Novice Chase respectively, though the bookies aren’t taking too many risks as at the prices available you’ll get around 4/6 or 8/11 the double!

Sandwiched in between those two is a better punting proposition, with the two mile Boylesports Champion Chase attracting a field of 10, at 5.30pm.

It’s some line-up as well, and though Vautour hasn’t quite made it, that has opened it right up in terms of the level of competition.

The old boy Sizing Europe, 13 years young but a dual former winner of this prize, will have his fans and rightly so, Baily Green was second in the Arkle in 2013, while Flemenstar is trying to recapture his thrilling form of 2012.

First time blinkers are the factor trainer Shark Hanlon hopes can spark a first Grade 1 win at the ninth attempt from his stable star Hidden Cyclone, who has hit the cross bar on four occasions at this level.

He’ll have to be sharp though, as even when he isn’t happy to unleash Vautour, it’s the power of the Mullins team that could come to the fore once again, with a powerful three-pronged attack arriving from Closutton…

Ruby Walsh is on the favourite in Champagne Fever, as he bids to improve on what might have been a tough enough race when fourth at Aintree 18 days ago, while Paul Townend gets the nod to partner mudlover Twinlight.

Strictly on jockey bookings you could argue that the Graham Wylie-owned Felix Yonger is the third string, as Danny Mullins (fresh from riding five winners from just seven mounts in America) is on board, but that would be to ignore an improver who has won his last three.

This horse arrives here off the back of wins at Cork, Leopardstown and Navan, ran very well over fences at this meeting 12 months ago, and also went off favourite for a race at the Cheltenham Festival prior to that.

He has won over this course and distance, handles seemingly any ground, and will love the fast pace set by Hidden Cyclone.

At the time of writing Paddy Power are laying him at 8/1 each way, which looks a nice price in a wide open heat.

Elsewhere on the card, if the graded races are more for the purists than the punters then take a look at the 25 runner Killashee Handicap Hurdle, a two mile bun fight due off at 4.55pm.

Numerous possibilities include last year’s winner Cool Macavity for Nicky Henderson, each way gamble Henry Higgins, plus recent Fairyhouse winner Some Article.

With some bookies paying five places on the race it might not be the worse thing to try and find one at a nice price, and on a day where he could clean up there’s plenty to recommend the Willie Mullins-trained Rupert Lamb.

A whopping 22 pounds better off over hurdles than fences, he has gone well here over timber previously, and had a nice spin at Fairyhouse three weeks ago to blow away the cobwebs after a long break.

He has the assistance of Ruby Walsh in the saddle, and a feather weight to carry.

With both bet365 and Skybet offering 16/1 and the extra place, all we have to do in effect is smuggle Rupert Lamb into the first five for a 3/1 winner.

Good luck!

Tuesday’s best bets at the Punchestown Festival:

4.55 – Killashee Handicap Hurdle – 22 Rupert Lamb (each way) @ 16/1 (bet365 or Skybet – both 5 places)

5.30 – Boylesports Champion Chase – 3 Felix Yonger (each way) @ 8/1 (Paddy Power

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Posted 2 years, 2 months ago

02 May
2014

Punchestown Bookmakers Enjoy A Road To Riches

High profile defeats for a string of heavily backed horses in the shape of Ned Buntline (11/4f), Duke Of Lucca (9/4f), Quevega (9/10f) and Champagne Fever (5/4f) left Punchestown bookmakers purring after a tumultuous day three at Punchestown, a day which ended with confirmation that ‘Queen’ Quevega has seen the racecourse for the last time, departing with a gallant defeat at the hands of Jetson in the World Series Hurdle.

The great thing about Punchestown though is the racing just seems to get better and better as the week goes on, and it’s straight back into the fray for a day four featuring stars such as Hurricane Fly, Jezki and Vautour to name just three!

Hurricane Fly leads Champion Hurdle winner Jezki 2-1 in meetings this season, and boasts Punchestown form figures of 1,1,3,1,1,1,1,1,1.

He is also the most successful hurdler of all time, with a staggering 19 Grade 1 wins to his name, but today has the feeling of a decider as he once again clashes with Jezki in the three runner Racing Post Champion Hurdle at 5.30pm, live on RTE1.

It’s the smallest field in the history of the event, but it’ll be fascinating tactically as the 10-year-old ‘Fly’ takes on the new kid on the block, six-year-old Jezki (half-brother to yesterday’s World Series Hurdle winner Jetson).

Speaking of new kids on the block, the anomaly is that even though that pair are winners of three of the last four Champion Hurdles, in the race immediately after them we get another glimpse of the awesome talent who is shorter than either of them in the antepost markets for next year’s Cheltenham day one highlight – Vautour.

Simply awesome at Cheltenham, Vautour is as short as 5’s for next year’s Champion Hurdle, while reigning the champ is 7/1 and Hurricane considered past it and 20/1.

Those looks to be races to admire rather than get involved, and for anyone looking for a bet on the card we’ll try and strike early on the card in the Aon Novice Handicap Chase at 4.20pm, also live on RTE1.

In an open looking race I was highly encouraged to see the money that materialised overnight for top weight Road To Riches.

Running in his first handicap off a mark of 145, trainer Noel Meade has opted to employ the services of ace conditional jock Ger Fox, who comes with a seven pound claim that might well prove vital.

Fox has been in great form in the last eight days, riding winners at Tipperary and Limerick, before delivering in style live on the box yesterday when driving home 25/1 shot Jacks Island to spring a surprise in the La Touche.

It’s notoriously difficult for jockeys to find rides in an ultra competitive Irish racing scene, so consider this: in the last fortnight Ger Fox has ridden for 18, yes 18, different trainers!

Here he teams up with a bang in form horse who is a course winner over hurdles, and who returned to winning ways when scoring in novice company at Fairyhouse last week.

That form has already been impressively franked here at Punchestown, with Mallowney (who he saw off by nearly four lengths at level weights) winning off a mark of 139 in a very tricky handicap here yesterday.

That’s more than enough encouragement to persuade me to divert a euro or two in his direction this afternoon – Road To Riches is 8/1 with any of bet365, Betfred or Skybet.

Elsewhere, my good friend James Griffin takes hat-trick seeking Sudski Star to Bangor-On-Dee for their extended 2m 1f Novices’ Handicap Chase at 6.50pm, and he rates a strong fancy to get the job done.

Any further rain that arrives will only boost his chances, and this looks an excellent opportunity for the follow up after he motored in at Kelso and Hexham.

Finally, for anyone interested in where I do my Christmas shopping, here’s a piece we filmed for RTE this week which was aired on the show on Wednesday – go to 32 mins and 50 seconds into the programme…

http://www.rte.ie/player/ie/show/10278457/ (only viewable to readers in Ireland)

Good luck!

Friday’s best bets:

Friday’s best bets:
4.20 Punchestown – Aon Novice Handicap Chase – 1 Road To Riches (each way) @ 8/1 (bet365, Betfred or Skybet)
6.50 Bangor – 2 Sudski Star (win) @ 15/8 (bet365)
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Posted 3 years, 2 months ago

01 May
2014

A Famous Five For The Queen Of Punchestown?

Blink and you’ll miss it – a non-stop diet thrills, spills, drama and intrigue are what make up the five days of what they call peerless Punchestown, where we’ve reached the third day of what up until now has been another great renewal of jump racing’s spring carnival.

Day two belonged to Grade 1 staying novice hurdle winner Beat That, giving Nicky Henderson and his team a second winner after Cool Macavity on Tuesday, and in the process earning quotes of 14/1 (from 25/1) for next year’s World Hurdle.

He had to share top billing with Gold Cup winner Boston Bob, who was part of a Grade 1 double for a certain W P Mullins on the day (together with Shaneshill in the Champion Bumper).

Boston Bob authoritatively stepped up in trip to follow up his Aintree win in the Melling Chase, and is now no bigger than 16/1 for the 2015 Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Mullins is once again responsible for the headline act on day three – the morning ushered in with a wet start – the forecast rain arriving with a vengeance, with the incredible race mare Quevega, who holds lifetime form figures at Punchestown of 1,9,1,3,1,1,1,1.

She has won today’s feature – the Grade 1 three mile Ladbrokes World Series Hurdle (live on RTE1 at 5.30pm) – four years on the bounce, and is a warm order to make it five and what’s being hinted could be the last time we see her on the racecourse.

In addition, she is of course a true history maker, after becoming the first horse to win six years on the spin at the Cheltenham Festival, making the David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle her own since 2009.

She was made to dig deeper than ever before to land the spoils in Gloucestershire this year, but equally always seems to improve on that first run of the season and perform with added zest going right-handed a few weeks later at Punchestown.

Is the bet at as short as 5/6 with a number of bookmakers this morning?

No one will be cheering louder than me if/when she wins, but her price means we’re privy to some cracking value each way about a couple of star rivals trying to spoil the party or make the frame, and for that reason I’m going to have a few quid each with 6/1 with Ladbrokes about the Philip Hobbs-trained Fingal Bay.

The race sponsors are offering a quarter of the odds to each way players, but at the price there is a significant threat posed by Fingal Bay that he might chin Quevega and land the win element of the bet as well.

He is an almost unblemished six from seven over hurdles, and returned from 14 months on the sidelines to win at Exeter in a Pertemps Qualifier in February, which proved to be a mere warm up for an extraordinary weight carrying performance when defying top weight in the Pertemps itself at the Cheltenham Festival.

That Exeter win was especially significant as it displays his ability to handle a right-handed undulating track, plus a drop of rain has arrived to boost his chances.

It might be clutching at straws to try and suggest Quevega could be beaten, but at 6/1 each way we’re in good shape financially if Fingal Bay can make the frame, and she does face an especially searching examination here this afternoon, with both ultra tough At Fishers Cross and our selection prepared to expose any chink in her armour.

Elsewhere on the card, a trio of big field handicaps and the famous La Touche Cross Country race make up a puzzling day for punters, but the Dessie Hughes-trained Art Of Logistics could well do us a favour in the first of those handicaps at 4.15pm.

A field of 20 are set to go to post for the three.ie Handicap Chase over two miles, and Hughes has snapped up the services of Tom Scudamore to ride a horse who was fourth in his debut bumper here in 2012, and was also fourth here in 2013 in the Grade 1 Herald Champion Novice Hurdle (won by future Champion Hurdle winner Jezki).

His chasing career began with a win at Gowran Park, and continued with another step forward when taking a Grade 3 here at Punchestown in October.

Very highly tried since then, he was fifth in the Grade 1 Drinmore at Fairyhouse, and then fourth in the Grade 1 Racing Post Novice Chase at Leopardstown at Christmas time.

Art Of Logistics didn’t fire when sent off 13/2 joint favourite for a novice handicap at the Cheltenham Festival, but plenty of horses have bounced back from a disappointment there, and on a course he acts on this looks far more suitable from a mark of 136.

Good luck!

Thursday’s best bets at Punchestown:

4.15 – three.ie Handicap Chase – 9 Art Of Logistics (each way) @ 10/1 (bet365, Betfred, BetVictor and Ladbrokes)

5.30 – Ladbrokes World Series Hurdle – 3 Fingal Bay (each way) @ 6/1 (Ladbrokes)

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Posted 3 years, 2 months ago

30 Apr
2014

Legend To Strike Gold In Punchestown Feature?

A record opening day crowd of 19,459 (up from 18,605 in 2013) had Punchestown racecourse bouncing on the opening day of this year’s Festival, staged on a sun drenched day in County Kildare.

They witnessed the blossoming talent of Faugheen power clear of his rivals to land the Grade 1 Herald Champion Novice Hurdle over two miles, and in doing so earn quotes ranging between 5/1 and 7/1 for the 2015 Champion Hurdle, while at the other end of the age scale the biggest cheer of the day was reserved for evergreen 12-year-old Sizing Europe, as he landed his second Punchestown Champion Chase, and Grade 1 win no.8 of his career!

Just before racing one especially astute and well known Irish racing journalist said to me: “Why would you rather be anywhere but here today on a day like this?”

I hear you my friend, and hopefully it’ll be more of the same at peerless Punchestown this afternoon on day two of the great spring jamboree, with five races live with us on RTE between 4.00pm and 6.55pm.

The feature is the Grade 1 Bibby Financial Services Ireland Punchestown Gold Cup run over 3m 1f at 5.30pm, a contest in which Willie Mullins is responsible for Aintree’s Melling Chase winner Boston Bob (the choice of Ruby Walsh) lining up alongside Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup runner up On His Own.

Both have obvious claims, but both are coming off the back of hard races (Boston Bob ran in both Cheltenham and Aintree) at the odds I’m keen to take them on with a horse who was right in the mix at the second last in the Gold Cup at Cheltenham, and might have finished closer than sixth but for a mistake which ruined his momentum.

We’re talking about the Dessie Hughes-trained Lyreen Legend, a lightly raced seven year old only having his fourth run of the season, and who hails from a stable who have seen their recent runners performing with credit in the main (3 winners in the past fortnight).

This is what Hughes himself told the press yesterday: “He ran a hell of a race in the Gold Cup at Cheltenham. He hit the second last, which knocked the wind out of him a bit, other than that we thought he would have been placed.”

“It was three miles and two at Cheltenham and it’s three miles and one at Cheltenham and that might just suit him better.”

Bear in mind the mighty display he put up to run second in the 2013 RSA Chase behind subsequent Gold Cup hero Lord Windermere, and the fact he’s been placed at previous Punchestown Festivals over both hurdles and fences, and there’s sufficient ammunition to suggest Lyreen Legend to can go close in today’s big race at a top price of 11/2 with either BetVictor or Paddy Power.

Elsewhere on the card, rarely does a Punchestown Festival elapse without the welcoming back of a winner for Somerset trainer Philip Hobbs, and the in-form handler has strong claims with former Cheltenham Champion Bumper winner Cheltenian in the winners of 0 or 1 Louis Fitzgerald Hotel Hurdle at 4.20pm.

A race open only to horses who are yet to score over hurdles or have won just the once over timber, he sets the standard with a rating of 141 earned off the back of a staying on fourth in the Betfair Hurdle, alongside a disappointing effort in the County Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival (in which he went off 5/1 favourite), plus a much improved fourth at Aintree.

This looks a great opportunity for him to bag win number two, and he holds a huge chance if Richard Johnson can get him settled in the early stages of his race.

Last but not least – the first race on the card is a brutal looking 25-runner handicap, but if you wanted something to have a pound each way on at daft odds, then try the Brendan Duke-trained Mister Benedictine at 40’s with BetVictor.

Said to be back in the form that saw him rack up three on the spin in the summer of 2012, he’ll love the Good ground and has won before after a long absence (hasn’t raced for 204 days).

Duke has his small string – prepared on the edge of the Curragh – in good form, winning with the Jim Bolger-owned Focussed at Tipperary a fortnight ago.

These things get lost in the sands of time, but Mister Benedictine would have been a strong fancy for the Galway Hurdle two years ago had he made the cut.

He’s 11 now, but the handicapper has given him a chance – Conor Brassil’s four pound claim means he’s two pounds below his last winning mark, and it might not be the biggest surprise if he made the frame at huge odds.

Good luck!

Wednesday’s best bets at Punchestown:

3.40 – Martinstown Opportunity Series Final Handicap Hurdle – 10 Mister Benedictine (each way) @ 40/1 (BetVictor)

4.20 – Louis Fitzgerald Hotel Hurdle – 2 Cheltenian (win) @ 3/1 (BetVictor or Unibet)

5.30 – Bibby Financial Services Ireland Punchestown Gold Cup – 6 Lyreen Legend (win) @ 11/2 (BetVictor or Paddy Power)

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Posted 3 years, 2 months ago

28 Apr
2014

Somer Lovin’ Happens So Fast

The long awaited Punchestown party swings into action on Tuesday afternoon, with a glittering card boasting no less than three individual Grade 1 contests the perfect way to usher in five great days of National Hunt action, plus a total of five of seven races on the card live for Irish viewers on RTE1.

Hats off to the open minded Punchestown Executive for the brave decision to plough a lone furrow and race at punter friendly times…. it was considered a gamble when they opted to juggle the kick-off times a few seasons back, but having the first race at 3.40pm means anyone half-inching a couple of hours away from the ball and chain (or the office) can take in some truly top level sport, and for that they should be applauded.

Television audiences have benefitted too, and that in turn has had a beneficial knock-on effect, with the track reporting a huge upturn in ticket and hospitality pre-sales, as the feel good factor slowly but surely seeps back into the UK and Irish economies.

In the rather more immediate future, the economy I’m most concerned about is the one that begins and end in my back pocket, and i’m hoping the horse to get the week off to a flying start lines up in the Grade 1 two mile boylesports.com Champion Chase at 5.30pm.

A field of 10 is swelled by three UK-trained runners, with David Pipe’s Cheltenham Festival handicap winner Ballynagour having another well earned bite of the Grade 1 cherry, after a quality third behind Boston Bob in the Melling Chase at Aintree.

Rather like the race’s chief Irish-trained hope Hidden Cyclone, he faces a significant drop in trip, and might struggle to live with the proven two mile speed of his English-trained counterparts Somersby and Module.

That pair are tightly matched on a couple of runs this season, firstly at Exeter in November in the Haldon Gold Cup, in which Somersby successfully conceded three pounds to see off Module by a head, and then in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, where at level weights Somersby again came out on top with the pair finishing second and third in the race, this time by a neck at level weights.

So the score this season is 2-0 to Somersby in that private battle, and you can be certain Somersby’s trainer Mick Channon will have been mighty relieved to see Sire De Grugy (who has easily beaten Somersby twice this campaign) off on his summer hols after signing off with a fourth Grade 1 win of the campaign at Sandown Park at the weekend, rather than boarding a ferry to Ireland!

So no Sprinter Sacre, no Sire De Grugy, but a really solid substitute in the shape of Somersby!

He has his favoured decent ground, has had a nice break since Cheltenham, and given how well Exeter’s undulating right-handed circuit suited him in November, it could turn out to be something akin to a masterstroke sending him to Punchestown, which you’ve guessed it…..is right handed and undulating.

Even without Sire De Grugy or Sprinter it’s very much the red hot race you’d expect at this level, with former winner and last year’s runner up Sizing Europe back for more at the age of 12, another Cheltenham handicap scorer in Tony Martin’s Savello trying to bridge the quality gap, plus the Willie Mullins’ pair of Twinlight and Turban.

That said, the coast is clear and all looks set fair for a massive run from Somersby, who is available at 5/1 with the race sponsors.

Good luck!

Tuesday’s best bet at Punchestown:

5.30 – boylesports.com Champion Chase – 8 Somersby (win) @ 9/2 (Bet365)

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Posted 3 years, 2 months ago

27 Apr
2013

Luna To Eclipse Sandown Rivals in Final Day Dust Up

Outstanding racing on both sides of the Irish sea today, with the final day of the National Hunt season going right to the wire for jockeys Davy Russell (103 winners) and Ruby Walsh (99) on the fifth and sadly last day of a brilliant Punchestown Festival.

We’ll come to that later, but first up at Sandown the 12/1 with any of bet365, BetVictor, Stan James or Ladbrokes looks too big about the rapidly improving Galileo gelding Leo Luna in the opener at 1.30pm.

He won without even knowing he’d had a race when given a true peach of a ride by Jamie Moore at Bangor last Saturday, a run necessary to qualify for a handicap to enable shrewd connections to have a tilt at this more valuable prize.

It’s a hot contest, but this lad has loads of boot and won’t mind the quicker ground.

Jamie Moore was unlucky not to win on Ubak at Punchestown yesterday, but this might be one in the onion bag for another of his father’s promising inmates.

Sticking with Sandown Park it looks wise to stick with course specialist Sanctuaire in the Celebration Chase at 2.40pm.

The Paul Nicholls trained seven year old seems to reserve his best for the Esher track, careering away with this race by 17 lengths a year ago.

He’s been no match for Sprinter Sacre in three attempts this season, but with the undisputed heavyweight champ safely tucked up in his box after Tuesday’s Punchestown exhibition, the coast looks clear for Sanctuaire to get back to winning ways at 7/2 with any of bet365, BetVictor, Coral, Ladbrokes or William Hill.

Back here in Punchestown it’s a book of five rides for Ruby Walsh and four for Davy Russell as the former bids to pull off a spectacular smash and grab final day heist on the jockey’s title.

In all likelihood he’ll fall just short, but a couple of a ‘R Walsh’ ridden winners look likely nonetheless…

The prices are nothing to get the juices flowing, but they will be more than acceptable for anyone playing them up in multiples, as 4/6 shot Tarla looks a clear pick in the 2m 2f Grade 1 Mares Hurdle at 4.25pm.

Deep ground is right up her street, Ruby had the pick between her and improving stablemate Glens Melody, plus she has upwards of 10lbs in hand on each of her four rivals on official ratings.

Also in Grade 1 company, the first-time hooded Diakali ought to prove up to netting the AES Champion Four Year Old Hurdle at 5.00pm.

The Triumph Hurdle fourth is only 5/6 with the likes of Coral or William Hill, but with no Our Conor on display he can see off three stablemates plus Stocktons Wing and One Fine Day to take the bragging rights.

After all, he is a course and distance winner who operates on this deep ground.

Good luck!

Saturday’s best bets:

1.30 Sandown – bet365 Josh Gifford Handicap Hurdle – 2 Leo Luna (each way) @ 12/1 (bet365, BetVictor, Stan James or Ladbrokes)

2.40 Sandown – bet365.com Celebration Chase – 5 Sanctuaire (win) @ 7/2 (bet365, BetVictor, Coral, Ladbrokes or William Hill)

4.25 Punchestown – ITBA Fillies Scheme EBF Mares Hurdle – 5 Tarla (win) @ 4/6 (general)

5.00 Punchestown – AES Champion Four Year Old Hurdle – 2 Diakali (win) @ 5/6 (Coral or William Hill)

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Posted 4 years, 3 months ago

26 Apr
2013

‘Bak’ Nolan & Russell To Complete A Day Four Double At Punchestown

Proven stamina and an ability to handle really testing Heavy ground are the essential pre-requisites for those taking part at Punchestown this afternoon, with a monster crowd expected to take in Rabobank Champion Hurdle day (live on RTE) at the great County Kildare venue.

Proven stamina and an ability to walk after excessive refreshments may be the alternative requirements for those running their race in the bar rather than out on the track, but whatever your persuasion it looks set to be a cracking spectacle.

They kick off at 3.40pm over the banks course with the endearingly bizarre Bishopscourt Cup Hunters Chase – a lovingly preserved peculiarity in that it’s open only to hunters belonging to farmers from the Kildare Hunt District.

A betting contest it most certainly is not, but in a week where the multi million pound Flat racing empire of Godolphin is in turmoil, it’s a refreshing nod to a more innocent corner of the sport.

Five non-runners (nos 3, 10, 14, 16 &18) have reduced the Aon Novice Handicap Chase to a 14-runner field at 4.20pm, and I’m keen on the chances of top weight Sweeney Tunes for Enniscorthy handler Paul Nolan and jockey Davy Russell.

Three of the last five winners of this contest went to the horse tasked with lugging top weight, a task that awaits Sweeney Tunes owing to his handicap mark of 144.

Back in novice company after a belting run when fourth in the Irish National at Fairyhouse 25 days ago, this lad will love the ground and shouldn’t be in any way inconvenienced by the drop back in trip to 2m 5f.

The Irish handicapper Noel O’Brien was certainly impressed by his run in the 3m 5f marathon, as he saw fit to give him four pounds for his troubles!

Wins at Thurles and in a Grade 2 at Naas this season, as well as placed efforts here and at Leopardstown have also advertised his talents to maximum effect, and this seven year old son of Karinga Bay could well bow out with a big end of season win here.

The 8/1 available each way with Ladbrokes looks fair.

Just 35 minutes later they could be finishing strung out like the washing at the business end of the 3m 6f Handicap Chase (4.55pm).

There’s more Irish National form on display too, with the Jim Dreaper-trained Goonyella bidding to atone for a slipped saddle which ended his chances that day.

Goonyella was quietly fancied that day, but regular readers will know my each way cash was carried into fifth by another Nolan inmate, Panther Claw.

Ridden neatly by Katie Walsh that day a mistake three out ended his chances of winning the race, but he stays longer than the mother in law and loves the mud.

Happily his mark of 130 was unchanged, and that sees him arrive here with a racing weight of 10st 10lbs and Davy Russell back on board.

His form suggests he has a real chance this afternoon: a course win when taking the Amateur National here at Punchestown on Heavy ground in January, a really solid third in the Thyestes at Gowran Park, a powerful staying win at Navan, and then his decent effort in the big one at Easter.

Providing this isn’t one race too many then the 7/1 available each way with any of Boylesports, Paddy Power or Stan James might well come to fruition.

We get another chance to enjoy the might of Hurricane Fly in the big one at 5.30pm, as Willie Mullins’ dual Champion Hurdle winner goes for Grade 1 number 16!!

It would be his fifth consecutive win at this meeting, and his fourth on the bounce in this race. Incredible, especially when you stop to consider he’s still only nine years of age!

However, the other bet on the card comes in the 2m 4f Grade 1 Tattersalls Ireland Champion Novice Hurdle at 6.05pm.

The lame Pont Alexandre and also Mullaghanoe River are missing from the originally declared field of five, but Willie Mullins has a perfect deputy in the shape of Supreme Novices’ Hurdle fourth Un Atout.

He’s generally an 8/15 shot in the re-shaped market, but it’s worth remembering the jumping errors that cost him dearly at Cheltenham, plus you’d have to wonder why Sussex trainer Gary Moore has opted to supplement rapid improver Ubak…

At home on Heavy ground in his native France, this son of Kapgarde surprised every one except his trainer and jockey (father and son team Gary and Jamie) when scooting up at 22/1 in the Grade 2 Mersey Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree, and there could be more to come.

You wouldn’t imagine they’ve spent an €8,000 supplementary entry fee to bring him here for a day out, and at 5/2 in a match bet he looks the one to be with.

Good luck!

Friday’s best bets at Punchestown:

4.20 – Aon Novice Handicap Chase – 1 Sweeney Tunes (each way) @ 8/1 (Ladbrokes)

4.55 – Breakfast With Hector On 2FM Handicap Chase – 5 Panther Claw (each way) @ 7/1 (Paddy Power)

6.05 – Tattersalls Ireland Champion Novice Hurdle – 4 Ubak (win) @ 5/2 (Boylesports, BetVictor, Stan James or Coral)

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Posted 4 years, 3 months ago