With the jump season drawing to a close, we have one last hurrah and it’s over to Punchestown in Ireland for this top class five day festival. I’m only previewing four races today simply because I don’t know very much at all about the horses running in the 3:40, 6:05 and 7:15. I wouldn’t be helping anyone previewing those races, so rather than trying and failing, I’ll just leave them be. Onto the action I’m covering at this year’s Punchestown Festival.
4.20 Herald Champion Novice Hurdle (Grade 1)
There is only one place to start with this race and that is with the proverbial bad boy Labaik. He obviously has one hell of an engine but often doesn’t want to use it, if he jumps off then you would have to think it will take a special performance from one of the others to beat him. That is why he is a 5/2 shot, but if he didn’t have the quirk about him then surely he would be odds on.
Melon ran a superb race in the Supreme to finish runner up but you would have to say the winner beat him fair and square. That was only his second run over obstacles and the experience will have done him the world of good, only connections know how many schooling races he has had. Based on ability I can’t see him getting the better of Labaik if the latter is on a going day. At 11/8 I feel Melon is a very skinny price that I personally won’t be touching.
Colin Tizzard’s horses simply weren’t firing at Cheltenham but the yard is very much on the comeback trail now. Pinghsou epitomised that by running out a ready winner of the Top Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree. Good ground seems to be the key to this horse as both times he has ran on it he’s won, whether this ground will be fast enough I don’t know. In terms of reversing the form with the top two in the market, I would be surprised if he did but it’s not out of the question.
Cilaos Emery ran a blinder in the Supreme to finish fifth and if settling better there is no reason why he can’t at least repeat that effort here. Bunk Off Early was way back in that race and I’m very surprised he is shorter in the betting than Cilaos Emery.
Forge Meadow has ran some very good races this season, most notably when winning a Grade 2 at Naas comfortably. But she was a long way behind Let’s Dance in the Mares Novice at the festival and despite getting 7lbs here would need to produce a career best. Lastly Peter The Mayo Man looks up against it as he was readily dispatched by River Wylde at Kempton and is held by a few of these based on that form.
4.55 Killashee Handicap Hurdle (Grade B)
Pique Sous was off the track for two years after winning the Queen Alexandra at Royal Ascot but hasn’t been able to pick up where he left off. He had his first hurdles race in almost four years just over a week ago but could only manage tenth. Shouldering top weight here he looks to be firmly up against it.
Tudor City ended his run of seconditis last time when winning a 25-runner handicap by nine lengths and has been raised 4lbs for that which doesn’t look unmanageable. He was just over two lengths ahead of Veinard in the Coral.i.e hurdle but the latter gets an 8lb swing in the weights for this. Gordon Elliott’s charge ran really well at Fairyhouse last time behind Thomas Hobson and if those exploits haven’t taken too much out of him he should go well.
Winning four on the bounce, Adreamstillalive has gone up 29lbs in the weights but doesn’t look like he’s finished improving. Miles to Memphis deserves his place in the lineup after a win and a second for his new yard, his jumping isn’t always the best but he does look overpriced at 14/1 given the form he’s in.
Roconga switches from the flat back to hurdles. He won his last race over hurdles very easily but the handicapper has duly punished him with a 13lb rise. It’s not impossible as he has been in good form on the flat, but at 100/30 he looks a bit short to me.
5.30 BoyleSports Champion Chase (Grade 1)
Cheltenham Festival’s Ryanair winner Un De Sceaux is the hot favourite here and rightly so given the manner of how he won that race. It was a remarkable display of speed and jumping, if he produces a performance like that again today he will be almost impossible to beat. His only two defeats in the UK and Ireland (when he’s stood up) have come at the hands of Sprinter Sacre and there is nothing of his quality in this field.
However when you are backing a favourite that is around even money you don’t really want many floors, Un De Sceaux does have a couple of things that you could consider troubling. He tends to perform best on softish ground, that’s not to say good ground is a problem but he just isn’t as good on it. Whether a sharp two miles is what he wants now as he is nine I’m not so sure. Another point I would make is that Sub Lieutenant ultimately wasn’t far away at Cheltenham, but that one got comprehensively brushed aside by Fox Norton at Aintree and if you are one for collateral form then I would be concerned about that.
On the other hand Fox Norton did look to thoroughly enjoy the step up in trip last time and this may well be a bit sharp for him. After all they are speaking about the King George for him at the end of this year. He is definitely a viable contender and if Un De Sceaux is to get beat then I think it can only be done by Fox Norton.
God’s Own won this last year but has looked a shadow of his former self so far this campaign. In beating Vautour he boasts some of the strongest form on offer, but he has to drastically improve on what he’s shown this year to get back to that level. Sir Valentino has decent form in the book this season but has a bit to find with Un De Sceaux and Fox Norton based on the Tingle Creek and Champion Chase. If you are looking for an each way angle then you could do a lot worse than him.
Rock The World won the Grand Annual last month but his three runs before that would offer you little encouragement and will probably be outclassed here. The Game Changer was pulled up in the Irish National last time out and it seems strange to put him in here. I think this will be too quick for Ballycasey despite him winning over two miles last time (heavy ground) and Realt Mor is unfortunately just making up numbers.
6.40 Growise Champion Novice Chase (Grade 1)
The form of Disko’s last three outings is mightily impressive, he was third to Our Duke before reversing the form over a shorter distance. Then a subsequent third in the JLT behind Yorkhill has earned him favouritism here. This five year old is constantly improving and it will take a very good performance to stop him.
Acapella Bourgeois ran out a comprehensive winner of a Grade 2 at Navan in February before not running his race in the RSA. I’m not convinced you can take the former race too literally as he got an uncontested lead and the others just let him go. The majority of his wins have come on soft or heavy ground and I think he will find one too good.
Anibale Fly’s second to Coney Island in December puts him close to Disko on form. He has been a bit inconsistent this season, he disappointed in the Kauto Star at Kempton before winning a Grade 3 in January and on the pick of his form has the ability to go close. A Genie In Abottle wasn’t far behind in that Grade 3 and was last seen in the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham. He has looked as though he needs a real test of stamina and he will most likely be outpaced in this.
Having started the season encouragingly, A Toi Phil has disappointed since and no more so than when a beaten favourite in a Grade 3 last time out. This represents a giant step up in class and distance for Velocity Boy and the Alpha Des Obeaux of this season doesn’t seem to be the World Hurdle runner up of last year and it’s not long since his Irish National exploits.
Killashee Handicap Hurdle (4.55PM, Tuesday 25th April): 1pt each way Miles To Memphis (14/1 Bet365)
Growise Champion Novice Chase (6.40PM, Tuesday 25th April): 1pt win Disko (11/10 general)