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.
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)