punchestown festival day 1 tuesday 22nd april

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punchestown festival day 1 tuesday 22nd april

Postby beaker1 » April 22nd, 2013, 9:45 pm

Tuesday, April 23rd – punchestown



3:40 Kildare Hunt Club FR Sean Breen Memorial Chase

Not the most inspiring race to kick off the five days often being the worst cross country race at the meeting (that said, last year’s winner was Big Shu who won this season’s Cheltenham Festival Cross Country Handicap)

Enda Bolger has won three of the seven runnings so inevitably much of the focus will be on his quartet of Near Perfection, Zest For Life, Mount Sion and Keep On Track. Near Perfection is the most intriguing though this is his cross country debut. He runs in the colours of J P McManus and is a promising pointer/hunter having won four times from seven starts between the flags and was even sent off odds-on to beat the smart Gooneyella in his only hunter chase over Christmas where he was pulled up after being brought to a standstill. Zest For Life won this race three years ago but is only a nine-year-old. He then fell in this when favourite the following season before finishing second in another cross-country race at the same meeting four days later and was beaten seven lengths into third in this contest last season. I think we can assume that he has been trained for it again so his earlier efforts this campaign wouldn’t mean a lot though the last of his nine runs since he placed here 12 months ago was comfortably his best when third in a fair hunter chase beaten 3¼ lengths just over three weeks ago. Coming to the boil at the right time I would suggest. Mount Sion and Keep On Track don’t appeal as much but Bolger has booked Derek O’Connor and Katie Walsh respectively so they must be respected. Mount Sion has not run for 211 days and was tried in blinkers last time and did not fare well in his two cross country races last season so I have reservations about him. Keep On Track beat a horse called Paul Jones in a maiden point-to-point in November so he must be some serious piece of equine talent! Seriously though, that form doesn’t add up to a whole lot and he has beaten in his three point-to-points since. It’s more the Katie Walsh booking that intrigues me and she has won this race on Wedger Pardy.

Away from the Enda Bolger massive, and Enniskillen makes more appeal than most for the same owner-trainer combination that won last season with Big Shu (the trainer also runs Exit Legs It but he looks very slow indeed) and he has been finished third and fourth on his last two runs in point-to-points. No wins in 14 starts between the flags and under Rules would make him more interesting as an each-way rather than straight win option.

Short List

Zest For Life

Near Perfection

Enniskillen

Conclusion

I’m feeling generous so we’ll call this a fun way of starting a brilliant opening day’s racing to the meeting featuring no less than nine horses that either won or finished second at the Cheltenham Festival. ZEST FOR LIFE and NEAR PERFECTION look the pick of the Bolger quartet in a race he has won three times in its seven runnings but as the latter is a banks-race debutant whereas the former has form figures of 1F3 in this race and looks to have been laid out of it again, he looks a better percentage option though Near Perfection in the J P McManus silks is the one I can see the money coming for having the more scope to improve. Zest For Life offered plenty of encouragement last time and with a clear round it is very hard not seeing him finish thereabouts. ENNISKILLEN is still a maiden but I respect the fact his owner-jockey won this race with a cross country horse the quality of Big Shu last season and he looks the pick of the non-Bolger runners for each-way purposes.


4:20 Herald Champion Novice Hurdle

A belting renewal featuring the winner and third in the hottest Supreme Novices’ Hurdle I’ve ever seen, Champagne Fever and Jezki, plus the Neptune runner-up, Rule The World, and the Vincent O’Brien County Hurdle winner, Ted Veale, who was running away with the race from the home bend. Art Of Logistics and Mallowney complete the sextet and should be outclassed in a race in which the favourite has won six times in the last ten years and, looking back further, 11 times in the last 19 runnings. That said, every winner in the last decade emerged from the first four in the market though so the two outsiders can go.

All but two of the last 16 winners finished first or second last time out which should statistically count against Jezki but it was the best Supreme I’ve seen, he was only beaten 2¾ lengths by Champagne Fever despite errors at the final two flights and the runner-up has since bolted up at Aintree since. When the pair previously met in the Royal Bond Novices’ Hurdle it was Jezki’s turn of foot that won the day by 1½ lengths but the stronger pace at Cheltenham and more galloping track helped turn around that deficit. Five of the last eight winners contested the Royal Bond which is particularly eye-catching when we bear in mind that there is the best part of five months between the two races. If you believe that just to be a statistical blip then also consider that if we stretch the stats out a little further, eight of the last 13 winners of this contested the Royal Bond.

A couple of winners were unplaced in the William Hill Supreme Novices’ Hurdle won by Champagne Fever. In the main, though, history says you want to be with horses that were on the premises at the Festival and that can certainly be argued for the County Hurdle winner, Ted Veale, and the Neptune runner-up, Rule The World. If Ted Veale does follow up here, he will emulating Alderwood who won the same two races last season. Is this drop back to 2m against Rule The World though? He’s got three-mile chaser in time written all over him.

The Rathbarry & Glenview Studs Novice Hurdle, a Grade 2 run at Fairyhouse over Easter has been contested by three of the last five winners. It’s only representative this year is Mallowney who started at 7/2 and fell at the fourth flight having been most progressive up until that setback. The Deloitte Hurdle over 2m2f at Leopardstown on Irish Hennessy Day has also featured a couple of winners in the last decade and was won this season by Champagne Fever who made all to beat Bright New Dawn.

Short List

Champagne Fever

Jezki

Conclusion

The Royal Bond has been such a strong guide and given the 1-2 then finished first and third (though in the other order) in the best Supreme I’ve ever seen in a four seconds’ faster time than the Champion Hurdle, despite how well Ted Veale travelled when winning the County Hurdle and the fact that Rule The World has a big future, it would be a big surprise to me if either CHAMPAGNE FEVER or JEZKI doesn’t win. With little between them on two runs, it will be interesting who starts favourite (6/4 each of two with Paddy Power as I write) as the market leader has a fine record. If pressed, I would just go with Champagne Fever as he also won at this meeting last year after winning at the Cheltenham Festival, his trainer is mustard at this meeting and Jezki’s connections have stated they think he is better going left-handed despite beating Willie Mullins’ (going for a third win in five years in this race) giant grey in the Royal Bond at right-handed Fairyhouse where I didn’t think Walsh rode the runner-up to best suit his strengths and he was picked off by a speedier rival that day.


4.55 Bragbet.com Handicap Hurdle

A 20-runner, Grade C, 2m handicap hurdle, for which the last ten winners have all started at a double-figure price so good luck with this one. Snap Tie showed his class to win off a very long layoff with 11st 9lbs on his back last season but only one other winner in the last ten years has won with more than 10st 5lbs on their back and the going is likely to be testing so I’d prefer to go with low weights again. He is off a big weight again off an 11lbs higher mark this year but, given how well he goes fresh, you can bet that he has been primed for this by Philip Hobbs.

Willie Mullins has won two of the last seven runnings and runs the Vincent O’Brien County Hurdle runner-up, Tennis Cap, with Walsh in the saddle leaving Paul Townend to take the mount on Tasitocht. Tennis Cap has run again since the Festibal back in novice company when a disappointing fourth in a Grade 2 at Fairyhouse beaten 30 lengths as the 11/8 favourite so it is interesting Walsh that stays loyal as he also preferred him to the winner that day, Pique Sous. Tasitocht is also a novice and couldn’t complete his hat-trick last time out but he is now given his handicap debut and looks intriguing off 10st.

Short List

Tasitocht

Citizenship

Sitcom

Shamiran

Conclusion

A nightmare race for punters down the years so go easy. I quite like TASITOCHT’s chances for a yard with two wins in the race having his handicap debut off a low weight and, generally for this race, the lower the weight the better. Mullins’ latest winner of this handicap was also a novice having its handicap debut. CITIZENSHIP finished sixth in this race last year but last season’s Boylesports Hurdle winner bypassed Cheltenham this time which could be in his favour and he was only beaten 2½ lengths in another competitive handicap at Fairyhouse over Easter so I would expect him to go well off 10st 2lbs. SITCOM runs off 9st 12lbs and off the back of a win in a maiden hurdle at Cork last month for Christy Roche and J P McManus. I can see him being a popular choice on his handicap debut with likely improvement to come on just his fifth career start. SHAMIRAN is more of a flyer given his lack of recent form but a first-time visor for a horse that won a 25-runner handicap at this meeting last season is interesting. That said, his recent form of two down-the-field efforts over the last six weeks following a break since October may well have been just to get him spot on to try and nab a second valuable handicap at this Festival.


5:30 Boylesports.com Champion Steeplechase

A handicap up until 1999 so only results from there onwards really matter regards trends. If successful at massive odds-on, Sprinter Sacre will become the sixth British-trained winner from low representation. The Queen Mother Champion Chase is proving to be top dog as you might expect featuring eight of the last ten winners and it is hard to see Sizing Europe clawing back the 19 lengths he was defeated atCheltenham. The only chance that those wanting to take Sprinter Sacre on is that he had had enough for the season (which could also mean a bad mistake) having also won at Aintree in between as other two-mile greats Moscow Flyer and Master Minded were no way near their best in this race at the end of a long season (Moscow Flyer was beaten at 1-4 after winning at Aintree in between) but he has such a huge ratings advantage it is hard to see him running a stone below form and still not winning. Four of the last eight Tingle Creek Chase winners (also won by Sprinter Sacre) have also triumphed here.

The leading Irish guide featuring four of the last nine winners is the Paddy Power Dial-a-Bet Chase over 2m1f where Sizing Europe beat Rubi Light this season but it was hard work given he was long odds-on suggesting to many that 2m4f is what he needs now to show his best. If successful, he would become the sixth dual winner since 1950 and the third former Champion Chaser to do so following Skymas and Klairon Davis. Now aged 11, the only three winners since 1992 aged older than nine were all ten-year-olds that won the previous season’s Queen Mother Champion Chase in which he was second last season to Finian’s Rainbow having won it 12 months earlier.

Only two of the 14 winners since this became a level-weights Grade 1 contest started outside the first three in the betting. I expect Noble Prince to be the outsider of five having lost his way since last season’s Cheltenham Festival but there isn’t much between Foil Dubh and Days Hotel on their 1-2 and Fairyhouse earlier in the month.

Short List

Sprinter Sacre

Conclusion

SPRINTER SACRE is as unopposable on trends as he is on ratings and should saunter to another emphatic victory at an unbackable price which makes finding a bet in the race tricky. There are two options; (1) keep your money in your pocket and watch and admire or (2) look for a forecast bet or betting without the favourite. Sizing Europe is the obvious contender to finish second again but, despite winning this race last year, he ran well below his best when scraping home from Realt Dubh at odds-on and he was also beaten in this race when the defending Champion Chaser so there has to be an argument this late stage of the season does not bring the best out of him as he usually starts off as early as October. Therefore, his stablemate, Days Hotel, might be a little bit of value in a without Sprinter Sacre market being 6lbs better off with Foil Dubh than when beaten 1¾ lengths in the Normans Grove Chase earlier this month. I don’t think he was at his best that day.



6:05 Goffs Land Rover Bumper

The first of six bumpers at this meeting and the second most prestigious behind the Grade 1 event, this 100,000 euros prize is restricted to horses offered at the sponsors’ two-day sale in June last year aged four or five and was won by the subsequent Champion Chaser, Newmill, ten years ago. Four-year-olds have won six of the last seven runnings.

Over half of the 27 runners are having their debut so your guess is as good as mine regarding those so it is not a great help that four of the last five winners were having their first outing in this race and the other had only run in a single point-to-point. That said, I do think the leading players with racing experience look stronger than usual this year so I won’t be in the slightest but surprised if that recent trend is reversed.

Short List

Wrath Of Titans

Moyle Park

Harvey Logan

Rock On Bach

Conclusion

MOYLE PARK has to be the pick of those to have run under Rules despite being a five-year-old as four-year-olds have certainly held the edge recently in a race restricted to just four and five-year-olds. In fact, after winning what is often a very hot bumper at the Leopardstown Christmas Meeting that has featured a number of Weatherbys Champion Bumper winners where he beat the highly-regarded Blackmail, Moyle Park was then bought by Rich Ricci for a king’s ransom but the decision was taken to bypass Cheltenham. On his form, price tag and connections, Moyle Park is going to be well fancied here despite 26 rivals to give his yard a third win in the race since 2006. The Game Changer has already won a bumper for Charlie Swan whereas Classic Move (for the Don Cantillon yard that sent over a 25/1 shot from East Anglia to win the other bumper on this card last season) and the Gordon Elliott-trained WRATH OF TITANS have won their only point-to-point, the latter by a distance in the colours of Gigginstown Stud and they have turned to Jane Mangan to take off the very valuable 7lbs she is more than worth. The J P McManus-owned HARVEY LOGAN finished second on his debut for Noel Meade last month having travelled notably well but he failed to pick up quickly enough on tacky ground. If that experience has brought him on, he may be able to emulate Texas Jack for the same yard that won this race two years ago. Of the newcomers I’ll nominate ROCK ON BACH mainly because John Kiely knows how to train bumper horses and he is a four-year-old. Last year’s winner stable of Thomas Mullins run two debutants; Indian Rupee and Matchaway.



6:40 Growise Novice Chase

Since this race was upgraded from a Grade 2 2m5f event to a Grade 1 3m1f race in 2007 there have been six runnings to work off so, in reality, patterns are thin on the ground at present. I would say this is the deepest running so far by a long chalk featuring the NH Chase 1-2 (Back In Focus and Tofino Bay), the likely RSA winner but for a fall (Boston Bob), the RSA runner-up (Lyreen Legend), the Powers Gold Cup runner-up (Dedigout), a two-time Grade 2 novice chase winner (Argocat), the talented-when-he-jumps-properly Mount Benbulben and the unbeaten-when-completing over fences, Harry Topper.

The Punchestown Festival equivalent of the RSA Chase first run in 1992 and won by the Martin Pipe-trained Milford Quay, who was the first of five British-trained winners, and they are solely represented this season by Harry Topper who bypassed Cheltenham.

Sir Des Champs became the first successful favourite last season since the race took on a new look when outclassing his field at odds of 2/7 so he was giving Gigginstown House Stud successive wins in the race following on from Quito De La Roque 12 months earlier and Dedigout is their representative in their hat-trick bid. With Ruby Walsh riding Back In Focus leaving Paul Townend to continue his partnership with Boston Bob, I expect Back In Focus to start favourite.

A big run at Cheltenham Festival can take too much out of a novice, it certainly did for the RSA Chase winner, Cooldine, four years ago who had the look of a horse that had not come close to recovering from those Festival exertions when beaten here and that is the concern with Back in Focus who nailed Tofino Bay in the final yards of the NH Chase. The runner-up probably had even harder a race having been six lengths clear half-way up the run-in. The RSA is over 7f less and didn’t seem as taxing a race so maybe the runner-up, Lyreen Legend, and the probable winner but for his last fence fall, Boston Bob, will be fresher? With the over-the-top factor to consider, this race has so far had an end-of-season feel to it which has resulted in three relatively-surprising winners at 7/1, 9/1 and 16/1 in small-field events in the six years since it became a Grade 1 event so don’t be afraid to look away from the obvious. Two of the last four winners ran at the Fairyhouse Easter Meeting which is where Dedigout finished second in the Grade 1 Powers Gold Cup two places ahead of Mount Benbulben whose jumping let him down again.

The first three winners since the elevation to a Grade 1 had all won at least three times over fences and also over at least three miles as had Quito De La Roque two years ago. The two winners that had not won over 3m+ over fences were both trained by Willie Mullins and Boston Bob would be his third if successful. It’s a short enough time span to be honest but others yet to win at 3m+ over fences are Dedigout, Mount Benbulben, Lyreen Legend and Argocat. The only one of those horses that the race distance would concern me regards would be Argocat as the others should get this trip standing on their head. Three-time winners over fences are Back In Focus, Harry Topper and Tofino Bay.

It has been young novices that have held sway so far with all six winners aged no older than seven (8+ are 0-15). Tofino Bay is aged ten whereas Boston Bob, Back In Focus and Mount Benbulben are eight-year-olds.

Short List

Dedigout

Harry Topper

Lyreen Legend

Conclusion

DEDIGOUT won the Grade 1 novice hurdle over 2m4f on this card last season and has always looked a stayer so he is most interesting back up to 3m1f having finished second to the brilliantly-ridden winner of the Grade 1 Powers Gold Cup last time out (two of the last four winners ran at that meeting) and he has decent claims of giving his owner a third straight victory in this race on soft underfoot conditions which is what he needs. Missing Cheltenham may have been a blessing as four of his rivals had hard or pretty hard races at that meeting. The missing Cheltenham argument also applies to HARRY TOPPER who is one of three three-time winners over the fences whereas the other pair are eight-year-olds and this has been a race for younger novices since its elevation. The counter argument is that the Irish dominated the NH Chase and the RSA Chase and, bar Dynaste, they have looked have looked comfortably superior to the British staying novices this spring. The RSA Chase runner-up LYREEN LEGEND strikes me a tough sort so I rate his chances of having got over his Festival effort as high and this stiffer test of stamina will also play to his strengths (I was hoping he would go for the NH Chase and not the RSA). Dessie Hughes has won this race with a similar type in Rare Bob but I rate Lyreen Legend a better horse than him, though he would have to be to win this much hotter renewal.



7:15 Finlay Motor Group Bumper

A bumper restricted to 4yo maidens under Rules but we do have a point-to-point winner in the line up in the shape of VERY WOOD for Gigginstown Stud and Gordon Eliott and they have again turned to Jane Mangan who is very good value for her 7lbs. I did feel after her unfortunate episode in the Cheltenham Foxhunters that big names would want to support her (she is very good) and they have done so today in two of the last three races.

Not a lot else to say with over half the field being debutants except that Willie Mullins has won this bumper three times since 2005 and purely relies on WICKLOW BRAVE and that Jessica Harrington trained the second and third last year and relies on fellow debutante, GAMBLING GIRL.

Short List

Very Wood

Wicklow Brave

Gambling Girl

Gold Turtle

Conclusion

Too much guesswork to take any strong opinion but VERY WOOD is likely to be popular with good reason given he will be the joint-most experienced horse in the race, the only winner of a race and is representing powerful connections so his short list place is predictable enough. Given how Mullins and Harrington have fared in the race recently I would also prefer to have WICKLOW BRAVE and GAMBLING GIRL on my side and, for the final guess, GOLD TURTLE is a newcomer representing the Noel Meade team that have won this race fairly recently and he looks like he should appreciate the soft ground judged on his breeding. Dermot Weld gives Windsor Park his debut in a bumper in the famous Dr Lambe colours but, looking at his breeding, this would not have been Plan A for this son of Galileo who missed Flat campaigns at the age of two and three so he is the most fascinating of the newcomers. I don’t usually associate the yard with bumper winners at this meeting though outside of the Grade 1 prize.
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