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.
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)Posted 4 years, 10 months ago