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After a successful first day, with a cracking ride from Danny Mullins helping Felix Yonger get over the line, we approach day 2 of Punchestown in the driving seat with a card that has considerably more betting shape. At the time of writing things are dry over County Kildare, with suits the fancies for tomorrow’s racing all proven on a sound surface.
I was very keen on Identity Theft being well overpriced at Fairyhouse when he attempted to bounce back from a dreadful showing in the Delotitte when obvious wrong, and he ran a fine race before being readily outsped by Sempre Medici after the last. The step back upto today’s trip, over which he won his maiden in such taking style, should be right up his street and if improving for his first run for two months, then he should take the beating in the Louis Fitzgerald Hotel Hurdle (4.25).
Willie Mullins already has three Grade 1 winners to his name and will be much fancied to make it four with Shaneshill in the Irish Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle (4.55). The Supreme second coasted home when taking advantage of a weak Grade 2 at Fairyhouse, and is now being stepped upto 3 miles for the first time. He holds a strong chance, but is unproven at the trip and looked to be outstayed, beaten fair and square, when meeting No More Heroes in December at Navan. Gordon Elliott’s charge makes more appeal of the two at the prices, with plenty of time to recover from what would have been a hard race at the Festival in the Albert Bartlett when third to Martello Tower. He should go well, but the value in the race may well be Thistlecrack, who looked a different horse for three miles when landing the Sefton at Aintree last time and could possibly have more improvement in him still.
He was going tooth and nail before being left infront by Alpha Des Obeaux at the least, and while the result was not confirmed by any stretch of the imagination, the distance he had between him and the solid yardstick Vyta du Roc helps to underline the form of what had looks at least an upto standard renewal. On just his second start over this trip, he is well worth chancing for a big run.
Cheltenham Festival winner Killtuagh Vic has already done us a fine service by winning the Martin Pipe, and he should thrive at this new trip, so has to be respected here with his third behind Outlander at Leopardstown looking excellent after Martello Tower’s Albert Bartlett victory. Fletchers Flyer was just beaten by Definitely Red when last seen in February, but lost no cast in that defeat and is one of a few outsiders who can get in the shakeup here today.
The Bibby Services Punchestown Gold Cup (5.30) is a fascinating and well upto strength renewal, with the first two from the Cheltenham Gold Cup meeting in a rematch and facing one of the most exciting chasers around.
Willie Mullins Djakadam, a fine second at Cheltenham, holds an obvious form chance of taking the big prize today, but may find that conditions on this occasions suit Gold Cup third Road to Riches more, and the Noel Meade horse can turn the form around today.
At Cheltenham the two were the only horses within hailing distance, and Road to Riches, having been in the firing line all the way round, just folded late up the hill as Djakadam – held out of the firing line – stayed on late to grab the runner up spot. The two should be closely matched again today, but around this sharper track, on better ground, and crucially, over 1 furlong less, it’s not impossible that Road to Riches can turn the tables today.
The big form threat is Don Cossack, who was almost unbelievably impressive when landing the Melling Chase at Aintree, and compensating for his Ryanair third by beating Cue Card to the tune of 26 lengths. He looked like a horse that would stay then – and if doing so today, will be a major player.
However the one horse I just can’t be leaving is Ballynagour, who came so close to landing us a massive pot at Aintree when beaten just a head by Silvinaco Conti in the Aintree Bowl. He may well have won there if he’d met the cross fence correctly, and the form looks top class here.
Some will put forward the argument that he is best fresh, but he ran fine races at Cheltenham, Aintree and then here last year and there should be no reason that he can’t go at least as well again. Take the 9/1 with Bet365, who pay ¼ the odds for three places each/way.
In the Guinness Handicap Chase (6.40), if the ground stays good, then there’s nothing to stop a big run from Rathlin, who ran a fine race in the Topham at Aintree last time. That was his first run on good ground since finishing a creditable fifth in the Melling Chase last year at Aintree, and he now gets his favoured conditions again, effectively now 5lbs lower thanks to Ger Fox’s claim in the saddle compared to last time.
Gigginstown’s first colours are carried by Bright New Dawn, who may get his favoured conditions as well regarding ground and who is dangerously well treated based on form from just earlier this season.
1 pt win Identity Theft, 4.25 Punchestown (2/1 general)
1 pt each/way Thistlecrack, 4.55 Punchestown (7/1 Bet365)
1 pt win Road to Riches, 5.30 Punchestown (4/1 general)
1 pt each/way Ballynagour, 5.30 Punchestown (9/1 Bet365)
1 pt each/way Rathlin, 6.40 Punchestown (11/1 general)
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