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.
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.
4:55 Punch: Beat That @ 2/1 (Various)
5:30 Punch: Lyreen Legend @ 8/1 (Winner)
6:05 Punch: Black Hercules @ 9/2 (Various)