Punchestown Day 2 preview
The top-quality action keeps coming on Day 2 of the Punchestown Festival. The Punchestown Gold Cup is the feature race of the day, but we also have a very competitive 3 mile Grade 1 Novices Hurdle and a Champion Bumper rematch where Sir Gerhard and Kilcruit are set to do battle once again. Day 1 saw a few upsets on the card, but we did manage an impressive winner in the form of Echoes In Rain at 10/11.
Hopefully Day 2 kicks off with a Great White Start
Punchestown Gold Cup day kicks off with a typically competitive Handicap Hurdle over the intermediate trip. With the current betting reading close to 13/2 the field, it is about as competitive as it gets! I have decided to go for The Great White 9/1 to get us off to the perfect start. He put in a career best performance on his last start when destroying his rivals by 11 lengths at what appeared to be an absolute canter. This emphatic win coincided with a return to good ground and taking a closer look at his lifetime form, you would have to think he thrives on a sounder surface. He gets those conditions here and is clearly in the form of his life. He needed a rise in the weights to get in here and the handicap duly put him up 11lbs. P J O’Hanlon takes off a handy 4lbs and I think he can be more than competitive off a subsequent mark of just 7lbs higher.
The aptly named Surprise Package can be just that in the second race of the day
The Connnolly’s Red Mills Irish EBF Auction Hurdle Series Final is next on the cards over 2 miles and 4 furlongs. Heather Rocco is likely to prove a popular pick for her top connections after a good win last time out. He is short enough at the prices though and I think he is worth taking on. Born Patriot has the Codd Father on board and is another who is likely to attract support. He has failed to kick on from a promising first two runs though and could be vulnerable to an improving type. I have decided to go for one at a huge price here in the shape of Surprise Package 33/1 who I believe may be just that! Sent off at huge prices for his four hurdles starts to date, Surprise Package took a big step forward when finishing second to the Willie Mullins trained El Barra. El Barra is a horse with some useful form lines, and I think this represented a very solid effort. The third placed horse, Buddy Rich, has come out and won a very weak race easily since, whilst the fifth placed horse, Young Jack Yates, has also come out and run a good race to finish a close fourth. It was also encouraging to see the seventh placed horse, Gaelic Des Chastys, come out a run a monster race at 100/1 to finish seventh in the first race on Day 1. Surprise Package encountered better ground for the first time on his last start which may be the reason for steep improvement. Meeting similar ground again and with the form working out nicely, I think he could be seriously unexposed and worth chancing at 33/1.
Blue Sari can continue his resurgence with a win here
Blue Sari 9/4 was running an absolute cracker in the Coral Cup at Cheltenham and I’m hoping he can get his head in front in the Louis Fitzgerald Hurdle over 2 miles and 4 furlongs. His Champion Bumper form behind Envoi Allen and ahead of the likes of Thyme Hill and Abacadabras speaks for itself. He is clearly a horse with plenty under the bonnet. He has been raised just a pound for his Cheltenham effort where I believe he would’ve been a good second to the impressive Heaven Help Us. The early form indicators of the Coral Cup have been average, but I’d be very disappointed if Blue Sari is unable to record a win off a mark of 139. Henry De Bromhead’s Decimation is the obvious danger after suffering a narrow defeat in A Grade 2 last time out. He looks sure to run a big race, but I do believe Blue Sari has the greater scope for improvement and therefore gets the vote at around 9/4.
The Girls can land Grade 1 Glory
The first Grade 1 of the day is the Irish Mirror Novice Hurdle over 3 miles. Cheltenham Festival winners Vanillier, Galopin Des Champs and Tellmesomethinggirl 13/2 all collide here and I’ve decided to side with the filly. Vanillier was impressive at Cheltenham but horses in behind have been beaten even further since so I’d question the strength of this year’s Albert Bartlett. I would have similar concerns about the strength of this year’s Martin Pipe which Galopin Des Champs won so impressively. On Official Ratings he is bang there with these, but he has to prove himself at the top level first and his price looks a tad skinny. Tellmesomethinggirl was an ultra-impressive winner of the Mares Novices and that form would appear strong at this stage. Skyace has come out and won a Grade 1 since whilst both Martello Sky and Allavina have picked up nice prizes. If Tellmesomethinggirl can translate her 2-mile form to three miles she’s a huge player receiving the 7lb mares’ allowance. She’s been strong at the finish over two and a half miles a few times, so I am inclined to think she’ll stay especially on this good ground so absolutely relishes!
One last chance for Melon!
The big race of the day is up next on the cards and I have decided to stay loyal to one of my favourites in The Punchestown Gold Cup. Melon 12/1 was one of my stronger each way fancies at this year’s Cheltenham Festival where I unfortunately knew it wasn’t going to be from extremely early stage. Melon has to be ridden under forceful prominent tactics and I’m praying Patrick does just that here. He’s a completely different horse when he can get out in front and let his jumping do the talking. He was a massive eye catcher in the Savills Chase at Christmas where he appeared to have plenty of very good rivals cooked coming down to the second last. He made a mess of it and subsequently let Kemboy sneak into the race and the pair got racing too far from home. That form reads extremely well, and you can ignore his last two starts where connections opted for more restrained tactics. If he can get into a rhythm up front, I think he’s a great each way bet at 12/1.
Al Boum Photo clearly has a big chance on the back of a fine effort in the Gold Cup, but his jumping let him down at crucial stages and I’d worry whether it may be a similar story here against some speedier types. Kemboy has very solid claims on the back of his win in this back in 2019 and this year’s Irish Gold Cup success. Clan Des Obeaux was extremely impressive at Aintree, with the first-time cheek pieces seemingly having a very positive effect. With conditions to suit he can go well but I would just be concerned about the relatively quick turn around from Aintree. The same can also be said for Fakir D’oudairies who won well at Aintree on the back of a good second in the Ryanair. Both were tough races and I’d worry how much is left in the tank, especially stepping up in trip.
Sir Gerhard can confirm his Supreme credentials with another win over Kilcruit
Champion Bumper winner, Sir Gerhard 11/8 and runner up, Kilcruit, lock horns once again in the Grade 1 Supporting Irish Store Sales Champion INH Flat Race. Elle Est Belle has come out an enhanced the form at Aintree and I expect to see the Willie Mullins inmates pull clear once again. As for the result, I expect to see Sir Gerhard uphold the form. He was given a fantastic tactical ride by Rachel Blackmore at Cheltenham, but I do believe there is reason to expect further improvement. He’s proven he can front run, but he was very keen in doing so. I would like to see Patrick tuck him in behind horses and unleash him turning for home. He showed a tremendous turn of foot at Cheltenham, appearing to have too many gears for Kilcruit. Kilcruit stayed on strongly and clearly will be a stayer in time but I think Sir Gerhard idled and had plenty left in the tank. Unless Derek O’Connor opts to turn this into a thorough test on stamina on Kilcruit, I expect to see Sir Gerhard have too much speed once again. They are two very exciting horses for the future!
Embittered can back amends for Cheltenham mishap
A devilishly tricky Handicap Chase over two and a half miles is the penultimate race on the cards where I am hoping Embittered 8/1 can make amends for his Cheltenham blunder. He was extremely well supported in the Grand Annual before taking a crashing fall at the ninth. He visually appeared to be going easily at the time and if none the worse for the fall can be very competitive here. He steps up half a mile in trip which I actually think could bring about more improvement. Looking through his career to date he has numerous pieces of strong form and is surely capable of winning a handicap like this off a mark of 141, taking into account Conor McNamara’s 3lb claim. This looks extremely competitive, but I would like to think Embittered will go well.
Condesa the value against Grangee in the lucky last
Grangee heads the betting for the Grade 3 Mares Bumper and as her price suggests, she could be hard to beat. I think Condesa 14/1 represents a solid each way play against her though. Condesa was beaten just over 4 lengths by Party Central who ran Grangee to within a neck at the Dublin Racing Festival. Considering this form line and the fact Condesa encountered a bit of trouble in running against Party Central, I’d say her current odds of 14/1 look a tad over priced. She has made considerable improvement in her 2 lifetime starts to date and there is every chance she can take another big step forward.
By Sam Rideout
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