Punchestown Festival – Day Two

After a magnificent opening day at Punchestown, with the highlight undoubtedly being Sizing Europe bowing out at the top, following a performance reminiscent to one of his high-class efforts in his younger years when winning the Champion Chase, we look ahead to a very open day two over in Ireland.

It will be hard to beat day one in-terms of class, following magnificent performances from Faugheen and Sizing Europe, however there is still potential for a few high-class performers to show their stuff on the big stage.

The likeliest candidate looks set to be Beat That, who was extremely impressive when landing the Grade One Sefton Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree this month. He oozed class the whole way around, traveling like the best horse in the race and even managed to hit the second last quite hard, before pulling away after landing the last in great style. The six-year-old ending up crossing the line a comfortable four lengths ahead of his nearest rival, with the highly-rated Seeyouatmidnight a further 26 lengths back in third.

He looks a likely improver, and he looks as though he could maintain the hot streak for Nicky Henderson and Barry Geraghty, who landed a winner on the opening day of the festival with Cool Macavity. Cheltenham Festival winners Don Poli and Very Wood line-up again for Gigginstown Stud, and look the main dangers, however it may pay to side with a horse firmly on an upward curve, in the shape of Beat That.

The Punchestown Gold Cup looks set to go the way of Ireland, with Lyreen Legend looking to have a great chance, facing his ideal conditions for the first time this season. He traveled smoothly throughout the Cheltenham Gold Cup, joining the leaders three out on the bridle, before jumping errors came into play, and he failed to see out the race. The drop down in trip, on quicker ground will suit him more than others and he looks set to go very close with the master of suspense Paul Carberry in the saddle.

It is an extremely open race, with On His Own and Boston Bob battling it out at the head of the market. However, there is no clear favourite in-terms of class, and the 8/1 for Lyreens Legend looks more than a fair each-way bet, with bookmakers paying out on the first three home.

12419779213_31d3ac1c45_b

The final selection is in the Grade One National Hunt Flat Race, and goes the way of the masters of the bumpers, with Black Hercules who represents the duo of Willie and Patrick Mullins.

He was sent off a warm favourite for the Cheltenham Festival equivalent, but set too strong a gallop out in front and eventually faded back to fourth late on. He lost his unblemished record in the process and will be back out to atone for this, with Mullins opting to take the ride on the gelding as opposed to the more fancied Shaneshill for the same connections. He looks set to mount a real challenge from the front this time around, and he must manage the pace a bit better if he is going to reverse the form with the Cheltenham one-two who reappear in the shape of favourite Silver Concorde, and the aforementioned Shaneshill.

Patrick Mullins has a fantastic record riding in these type of bumpers, and he is an able replacement, taking over from Ruby Walsh. The 9/2 looks extremely fair, and should Mullins manage to continue his fine form with another winner or two earlier in the day, the price will not last too long.

Selections;

4:55 Punch: Beat That @ 2/1 (Various)

5:30 Punch: Lyreen Legend @ 8/1 (Winner)

6:05 Punch: Black Hercules @ 9/2 (Various)

 

Punchestown Festival – Day One

Arguably there is only festival in the world that comes close to matching the Cheltenham Festival for it’s raucous atmosphere, and that is the Punchestown Festival. Fortunately for us, it is that time of year once again and the countdown is nearing it’s end, as action gets underway on Tuesday afternoon.

After a record-break 2013 festival, Willie Mullins will be hoping to go close to matching his 13 winner figure, and his best chance of doing that on day one looks set to be with Faugheen.

The high-class gelding managed to keep his unbeaten record in tact despite noticeable jumping errors in the Neptune at Cheltenham, and came away from the week as one for the notebook. He showed his massive engine when powering away from the field by four-and-a-half lengths, and he is going to be extremely hard to beat on Tuesday afternoon.

10909132473_ab23520f8b_b (1)

He looks a magnificent prospect for the future, and should he win impressively his price will shorten for next year’s Cheltenham Festival, as in 2013, this race was won by this year’s Champion Hurdle winner Jezki.

He is bidding for back-to-back Grade One glory, and already has course form, having beaten Supreme Novices’ Hurdle runner-up Josses Hill by a mammoth 22-lengths on his debut at the track last year. This form has been franked plenty of times, and he should take all the beating back in Ireland.

His 4/5 price seems very fair, and he is more than likely to go off around the 4/7 mark, with the Irish punters backing Mullins from the very start. However, it is another one of his runners that could go very close to matching Faugheen, in the shape of Wicklow Brave. We need to forgive his last run where he went out like a light, but earlier on in his career he had threatened to be a high-class hurdler, before fading away in his last two runs. He is an interesting contender, and should definitely be considered to make the placings at 14/1.

The Boylesports.com Champion Chase looks a very hot race, with Hidden Cyclone topping the market at 4/1. He has finished in the placings on his last six starts, including a valiant second behind Dynaste in the Ryanair Chase on his last visit to the track. He should go extremely close, but just seems to lack the required quality to get a win at the top level, consistently falling just short.

This means, we should side with Module, with Tom George’s runner bypassing Aintree when well-fancied, to have a crack at the Punchestown feature. He has been in great form this season, landing the Game Spirit Chase in tremendous fashion, before finishing a fair third behind the highly-rated Sire De Grugy at Cheltenham, in the Champion Chase.

A repeat of that run should see him go extremely close, and the decision to pull him out of his engagement on the day, at Aintree, suggests he holds high hopes of a big effort here at Punchestown. The in-form Barry Geraghty takes over from Paddy Brennan, and his mount should go extremely well in the flat track in Ireland, with the current 5/1 looking more than fair.

The final Grade One of the day could well make it a double for connections of Faugheen, with Djakadam looking set to hold a real chance.

He was travelling extremely well in the JLT Novices’ Chase, before coming down four from home, and he will be out to atone for that error on Tuesday. It is significant that Ruby has opted for Djakadam over RSA Chase favourite Ballycasey, as he must be performing with some vigor at home.

1651408881_40c9b2d3b4_b

The five-year-old receives nine pounds off his rivals, and this could be the difference between him and favourite Morning Assembly who comes into the race off a respectable third in the RSA. He is a high-class chaser in his own right, and is the worthy favourite if we’re going on form in the book. However Djakadam looks open to vast improvement, and the master handler Mullins should go extremely close to notching another winner, should his mount be none-the-worse for his Cheltenham fall.

The last selection of day one, is The Game Changer for Gigginstown Stud, whose runners have been in fine form of late.

The five-year-old was traveling extremely well before being hampered two out, behind the highly-rated Josses Hill in a Grade Two at Aintree. He ended up finishing well down the field after failing to recover from the mishap, but you can guarantee if he had managed to get a clear run, the result would have been a lot different and he would not be 16/1 for Tuesday’s handicap hurdle.

Davy Russell takes over the reigns, and should the gelding manage to settle early on, he will be able to mount a real challenge in what looks a very open race. The trip and ground look no bother to him, and with a clear run this time around, he should go very close at an attractive price.

Selections;

Win Patent: 42.2/1

4:20 Punch: Faugheen  @ 4/5 (Boylesports) 

5:30 Punch: Module @ 5/1 (Various)

6:40 Punch: Djakadam @ 3/1 (Boylesports)

 

E.W Singles & Double: 254/1

4.20 Punch: Wicklow Brave @ 14/1 (Betfred)

6:05 Punch: The Game Changer @ 16/1 (Bet365)