I think I’m still sulking over how Nichols Canyon didn’t manage to get up. But to be fair to him Unowhatimeanharry was very tough and knuckled down when he had to. We are certainly being treated to some grandstand finishes at this Punchestown Festival so far. Bring on some more!
4.20 EMS Copiers Novice Handicap Chase (Grade A)
Le Prezien went off a well-backed favourite for the Grand Annual last month, but thoroughly disappointed with an eighth placed finish. His form prior to that stacks up pretty well with Top Notch, Baron Alco, L’ami Serge, Charbel and Yorkhill all running well at the Cheltenham Festival. This extra distance should suit him and the fact that Paul Nicholls is sending him over means he must be ready to run a big race.
Top weight Diamond King won the Coral Cup last year and has ran in a couple of decent graded races over fences since winning on debut. He has put up respectable efforts behind Coney Island and Bellshill this season and this represents a drop in class that he should be well capable of winning in.
Champagne Harmony won well last time out beating some useful types, an opening mark of 133 on his handicap debut doesn’t look unkind and he could be in the mix with Jack Kennedy on board. Mystical Knight is very lightly raced for an eight year old but he has done the majority of his racing on soft ground and longer distances so I’m not sure this will provide enough of a test for him.
Jessica Harrington and Robbie Power team up with Woodland Opera who begins life in handicaps with a mark of 142. On his penultimate start he wasn’t far away from Don’t Touch It which is strong form as that one won yesterday, but he was receiving weight that day it could be tough for Woodland Opera to defy this opening mark.
Willie Mullins has the pair of Arbre De Vie and Dicosimo. The formers last two races were the National Hunt Chase and the Irish National, so this shorter and faster ground looks to be a bit sharp. While the latter has put in some good runs, it will be his sixth start of the calendar year and with some fresh horses in here could be caught out.
Balko Des Flos has some rock solid form to his name this season, most notably when third behind Disko and Our Duke in a Grade 1 at Leopardstown. He gave Arbre De Vie a sound beating at the start of the year and that puts him right near the top of potential winners in this race. Unfortunately he came down in the JLT but if that hasn’t spooked him he must have leading claims.
4.55 Glencarraig Lady Mares Handicap Chase (Grade B)
Slowmotion comes into this in fine form, since falling on her chase debut she has won three of four starts over the larger obstacles. She a Grade 3 nicely last time on similar ground and she may still have a bit of improvement to come. Keppols Queen was runner up in that race, she gets a slight swing in the weights here but at the age of nine I can’t see her having any improvement left.
Definite Ruby and Who’s That are closely matched on their Limerick runs almost a year ago. Neither of them have gone on to do anything significant since then but with the former winning two from two at the track I would fancy her chances of reversing the form. Rock On The Moor was second in the Mares Hurdle at Cheltenham last season but has been very disappointing since and has a tough task off top weight.
Having started odds on in her first three starts for Willie Mullins and only winning once she has evidently been disappointing for connections. Making her handicap debut last time out she finished laboured in fifth and looks up against it off the same mark. She lost out to Presenting Mahler in September off level weights and this time around the latter receives more than a stone. That one has regressed since and also will probably struggle to get involved despite being right at the bottom of the weights.
Elusive Ivy has taken well to fences and after falling on her fast start over the larger obstacles has put up some solid performances. Second to Slowmotion in January she gets a 15lb pull in the weights for 1¾ length defeat so is likely to turn the tables this time around. She then went on to beat Powersbomb who ran a blinder to finish fourth at the Cheltenham Festival. A third to Hurricane Ben last time out is decent form and she should have a great chance in this if she takes to the step up in trip.
5.30 BETDAQ Punchestown Champion Hurdle (Grade 1)
Ruby Walsh opting to ride Vroum Vroum Mag could be a significant pointer into the chances of the Mullins crop. She only just won at Doncaster in January and I don’t believe she had been sparkling at home prior to her effort at Cheltenham. As the chosen ride of Ruby Walsh she must been pleasing at home and being the defending champion I expect a bold bid.
Arctic Fire was really impressive in winning the County Hurdle off top weight and if he wasn’t racing in the same era as Hurricane Fly and Faugheen we may well have been talking about him as a multiple Champion Hurdle winner. He has plenty of class and will no doubt come on for that first run so he is a big player.
This seasons Irish Champion Hurdler Petit Mouchoir showed his doubters what he was made of Cheltenham by putting in a great display from the front and kept plugging away to hang on for third. This flatter track should see him in even better light and is deservedly near the top of the market.
My Tent Or Yours is becoming a professional runner up and it’s difficult to see him winning when he hasn’t done so in over three years. He should have significant place claims from being waited with patiently. Nicky Henderson also sends over Brain Power who was travelling powerfully before fading quickly in the Champion Hurdle after losing a shoe and I would expect him to be much closer this time.
A visor is tried and Davy Russell is booked in an attempt to get the quirky Labaik to jump off today. After not wanting to race on Tuesday he is pitched in here amongst much deeper opposition and even if he jumps off you would have to think he is up against it with proven Grade 1 winners. Diakali destroyed his rivals from the front at Fairyhouse but this is a completely different kettle of fish and he won’t get it his own way at the front end.
6.05 Tattersalls Ireland Champion Novice Hurdle (Grade 1)
Finian’s Oscar comes into this with quite the reputation, unbeaten and for the Tizzard/Potts/Power combination he is almost impossible to oppose. He won the Tolworth impressively on soft ground and stepped up in trip at Aintree on better ground and looked even better. I’m a big fan of this horse and can’t wait to see him over fences next season trying to extend his unbeaten record.
Gordon Elliott was very keen on the chances of Death Duty in the Albert Bartlett but he was well beaten when unseating Bryan Cooper at the last. Prior to that he won his first four hurdle starts relatively comfortably, but Augusta Kate was upsides when falling at the last at Naas and that would have been a tight finish. He is not to be written off but he might like a bit more cut in the ground and I prefer the favourite.
Bacardys was hampered in the Neptune and his chance was lost after that and if everything goes smoothly he should play a part here. However, the form of his Grade 1 win hasn’t wasn’t out too well with Bunk Off Early being well beaten twice since and Ruby Walsh prefers Let’s Dance. She has very much used her second season novice status to her advantage by racking up five wins on the bounce. In winning the Mares Novice at Cheltenham she oozed class under a confident ride, only just losing out to stablemate Augusta Kate at Fairyhouse last time she has a fair chance of bouncing back here with her allowance.
Bleu Berry has notched up a hat-trick on wins on soft ground which is good going, but this is a huge step up. If finding some improvement for the sounder surface then he could be overpriced at 16/1. Kemboy and Runfordave both ran good races at Cheltenham but would again need to find improvement to figure in this company.
7.10 Donohue Marquees Novice Hurdle
Chateau Conti comes into this top rated but at a very attractive price. He won his maiden really comfortably, but he went from that straight to graded company and was well beaten. Pulled up on his next start he definitely has something to prove and maybe this better ground could bring out the best in him.
Susannah and Rich Ricci have three in this and at the head of the market is Riven Light. he has been soundly beaten in all four starts this campaign and even though this is a drop in class he is a very short price. Montalbano won on his first start for the yard but was beaten a long way when upped in trip and after a better performance last time over this trip he could go well. The Ricci’s final dart is Bravissimo who again won his first start but has been a long way back in all three subsequent starts and it’s hard to envisage him hitting the frame based on that.
Avenir D’Une Vie is the choice of Bryan Cooper but he was behind a few of these last time and will need to bounce back. If he can find the form of his fifth in the Grade 1 bumper at this meeting last season then that may be enough. Morgan is the other Gigginstown runner and he ran a solid race last time out giving away plenty of weight to most of the field. He has a couple of wins to his name this campaign but will need to eek out a bit more here.
Castlegrace Paddy was an easy winner last time and the form of his Fairyhouse second where he was ahead of Al Boum Photo is arguably the best form on offer. Chirico Vallis didn’t run to form last time out and I wouldn’t rule him out if he was to put in an effort similar to his third behind Any Second Now and C’est Jersey.
Veinard raced here on Tuesday but didn’t figure and could find this tough out of handicap company. Lastly Rosskerrig is the 100/1 outsider that has only completed one race out of five so it would be a shock if he was good enough.
Glencarraig Lady Mares Handicap Chase (4.55PM, Friday 28th June): 1pt each way Elusive Ivy (7/1 general)
Tattersalls Ireland Champion Novice Hurdle (6.05PM, Friday 28th June): 2pt win Finian’s Oscar (7/4 general)