punchestown festival day 2 wednesday 24/4/2013

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punchestown festival day 2 wednesday 24/4/2013

Postby beaker1 » April 24th, 2013, 12:20 pm

Wednesday, April 24th – Day 2

3:40 Martinstown Opportunity Series Final Handicap Hurdle

I don’t mind the handicap chases at this meeting but the big-field handicap hurdles are nothing short of a minefield and this is no different so go easy. Plenty of small yards have won this Final in the nine years since it was first run (Willie Mullins would be the only big name trainer to have won it) and just one winner has carried over 11st 4lbs of which there seven such runners and there has only been one winner aged over seven of which there as many as 13 that been declared.

Short List


Dave’s Stamper

Art Lord

Brian Who


Using the age and weights stats, I have loaded the short list with horses aged under eight that have no more than 11st 4lbs of which there are ten to choose from; Sir Ector, Treat Yourself, Brian Who, First Impressions, Kilmainham, Rawnaq, Art Lord, Dave’s Stamper, Hartside and Hazariban before any possible reserves getting a run. Shane Nolan only trains a handful of horses but has a good Punchestown record and he trained last year’s winner of this race so DAVE’S STAMPER may well have been aimed at this prize for a while. He is a maiden after four starts but his winner of this race last year had only won one of his 30 career starts at the time. Despite the presence of Flemenstar in the stable, Peter Casey is still a smallish trainer in the big scheme of things and he runs ART LORD who stayed on strongly to win a maiden hurdle 18 days on just his second start over timber so he is open to much more improvement and is clearly in form and his close second to Goulanes in a point-to-point shows he had early ability. RAWNAQ was a promising second on the Flat for another small yard, that of Matthew Smith, just nine days ago which was also his first run since mid-October so he is entitled to come on for that effort which may have been used a blowing-the-cobwebs-away exercise ahead of this Final. The Edward Cawley-trained BRIAN WHO gets the final berth arriving here off a win in a 17-runner handicap hurdle at the Fairyhouse Easter Meeting. A consistent individual so an 8lbs rise might just be enough but, then again, he won in decisive fashion.

4:20 Louis Fitzgerald Hotel Hurdle

A 4yo hurdle for horses with no more than one win over timber, I very much doubt there is another Solwhit in this race who won it in 2008. Jessica Harrington then won the next two renewals with 6/1 and 10/1 shots and she runs HURRICANE RIDGE who ran on the Flat nine days ago and is now tried in a first-time visor. Mind you, the visor follows cheekpieces two starts back and first-time blinkers last time so the impression given is they are struggling with him. DALASIRI has the strongest Irish form having finished a head second to Dogora in a Listed juvenile hurdle but he was then outclassed behind Our Conor in a Group 1 at Leopardstown though his last of four in a Grade 3 when well fancied over Easter is harder to explain away. HABESH ran well for a long way in the Fred Winter but he did have a very low weight and ultimately he was beaten 24 lengths.

Short List

Call Me Bubbles



Willie Mullins won this race for the first time last year and CALL ME BUBBLES is sure to be very well fancied having won a premier handicap on the Flat and scoring comfortably on the second of his two hurdle-race starts in a maiden hurdle at Navan 53 days ago. Mullins also runs Vicone Du Noyer who has not run for a year and was last seen winning atAuteuiland now has his first run for his new connections in the colours of Sizing Europe. Ruby Walsh rides Call Me Bubbles despite the Handicapper rated him 6lbs inferior. BAYAN can be the main threat for the Gordon Elliott yard coming off the back of a win on the Flat at Dundalk last week having won a maiden hurdle atCorktwo weeks earlier. There is little between the pair on Flat ratings so this could be tight and they might be worth boxing up in a reverse forecast. Call Me Bubbles at a push, especially if the ground starts to dry out as he looked to learn plenty from his first hurdles run to his second which bodes well for a further big leap forward.

5:30 Bet Online With The Tote.com Punchestown Gold Cup

First run as a Grade 1 level weights contest in 1999, as with the Cheltenham version, younger horses fare best with just one winner aged older than eight since 2003 and he was only a nine-year-old so I would have reservations that CHICAGO GREY will be up to this at the age of ten arriving her having never taking a cut at his fences when always in rear in the Grand National before pulling up. It would be harsh to oppose nine-year-olds purely down to that fact given that is when they should be in the prime and Captain Chris, QUITO DE LA ROQUE and RIVERSIDE THEATRE and a nine-year-old won last year.

That successful nine-year-old 12 months ago was China Rock who was the only Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup representative in the field meaning that six of the last nine winners ran in the centrepiece race of the season. The Gold Cup is well represented this season with SIR DES CHAMPS (2nd) and LONG RUN (3rd) locking horns again along with CAPTAIN CHRIS (6th). Sir Des Champs also contested the best Irish guide to this race when second in the John Durkan Memorial Chase (which has contained six of the last 14 winners) on his seasonal debut. The John Durkan is also run at Punchestown and course form has counted for plenty in this race as eight of the last nine Irish-trained winners had won at Punchestown before (I don’t include Moscow Express for the purposes of this argument as his victory in this race was when the meeting was transferred to Fairyhouse in 2001). This is a second statistic that Chicago Grey has to overcome.

Sir Des Champs also featured in Ireland’s other key race, the Lexus Chase which has thrown up three of the last ten winners just behind FIRST LIEUTENANT in a blanket finish where less than a length covered the first four. First Lieutenant has since won the Beftred Bowl at Aintree and the last three winners of that prize to run here having finished 112. Quito De La Roque was fourth in the Betfred Bowl but is allowed to take his chance giving Gigginstown House Stud three runners in the Punchestown Gold Cup and Davy Russell has elected to ride Sir Des Champs.

A good race for favourite backers with seven of the last 11 proving successful (five of the last six Irish-trained favourites have won), a position likely to be held by Sir Des Champs. In-running bettors might want to note that five of the last seven winners were leading from as far as four out and, looking at the eight runners, I can see Quito De La Roque and Long Run being the pair that head proceedings at that stage.

Seven of the last 11 winners had already won a Grade 1 race though how much we should read into that I have my doubts as three of the last four winners were breaking their duck at the very highest level when victorious here.

Short List

Sir Des Champs

First Lieutenant

Captain Chris


SIR DES CHAMPS has contested the right races (notably the Gold Cup and John Durkan), is a course winner like virtually all Irish-trained winners of this race and is also likely to start favourite in a race where five of the last Irish-trained winners were sent off the market leader so he would be the trends horse of the race. My niggle at the likely tightish price is that he did endure a very hard race in the Gold Cup when second to Bobs Worth finishing legless so he will be some tough nut if he can reproduce that level again. Betfred Bowl winners have a good record here and FIRST LIEUTENANT is given his chance to double up under Bryan Cooper having beaten Menorah at Aintree who has run well again since. My niggle with him is that his best form is on left-handed courses by some margin so far. With the Gold Cup being the best guide, it was close between Long Run and CAPTAIN CHRIS for the final berth but the latter had much the easier race not being asked to race as hard coming home in sixth, he is better suited to right-handed courses and a slightly shorter trip and, as there is nothing between the pair on King George form, he is better value at around the twice the price and has won at this meeting before proving he keep his form at this stage of the season. I really like his each-way chances taking on the probability of more jaded rivals, especially as he would probably have beaten Cue Card but for a bad error two out at Ascot in February and that form looks much better in light of what the winner has done in two subsequent starts.

6.05 Betdaq The People’s Exchange Champion Bumper

This season’s Weatherbys Champion Bumper which was won emphatically by BRIAR HILL by seven lengths looked a good renewal heading into the race and as these are the only two Grade 1 bumpers run all season, it stands to reason it is likely to be the most significant guide which has been case by a huge margin so far. Since this Grade 1 event at Punchestown was first run in 1992, ten winners contested the Cheltenhamversion of which nine finished in the first six at PrestburyPark. As for Briar Hill attempting to double up, Cousin Vinny in 2008 became the first horse to complete the Cheltenham-Punchestown double and he was quickly followed a year later by Dunguib (disqualified months later due to a banned substance found in his system) in 2009 and then Champagne Fever won both races last season. Other contenders from this season’s Cheltenham Festival Bumper are THE LIQUIDATOR (4th), POSIDEN SEA (9th), BLACKMAIL (15th) and SIZING TENNESSEE (21st).

Since this race became a Grade1 in 1995, the Brits started to take a keener in interest and won four times in the next 11 years when they were seriously outnumbered. It has gone quiet, however, over the last seven years when, ironically, the Brits have started to become a force in the Cheltenham equivalent but The Liquidator has good prospects for the David Pipe stable off the back of his very good fourth in the Cheltenham Bumper.

Noel Meade and Willie Mullins have the best records. Meade has won three of the last eight renewals of this contest (to add to Tiananmen Square in the inaugural running in 1992) and has a tried-and-tested formula for getting them here to do a job as none of those three recent winners had run at the Festival whilst two of them ran at the Fairyhouse Easter Meeting and guess where his representative, APACHE STRONGHOLD, ran last time out? He does have 4¾ lengths to find however with THE MIGHTY MILAN who beat him into third at the Fairyhouse Easter Meeting though. Willie Mullins is clearly the number-one yard for top-class bumper horses and he has won this race on four occasions including the last two years and Briar Hill will be strong favourite to continue that run. Sizing Tennessee also represents the stable but needs to bounce back from a poor run at Cheltenham.

Of the last 14 winners all but two had raced no more than three times under Rules. The only once-raced winner was Sweeps Hill who was the chief beneficiary of Dunguib’s disqualification a few months later but there are none of those this season. So, a twice or thrice-raced bumper horse it is then which means Briar Hill is fine if you don’t count his point-to-point runs which I haven’t for that statistic. Horses that have run more often than I would prefer under Rules are Blackmail,PosidenSea, Sizing Tennessee, The Liquidator, The Mighty Milan and QUE PASA.

Short List

Briar Hill


Grecian Tiger


Being an impressive winner of the Weatherbys Champion Bumper hailing from a yard chasing a hat-trick in the race and having run twice under Rules, BRIAR HILL is the obvious trends horse and will surely need to go backwards from his Cheltenham win to give the others a chance unless there is a lurker and, officially lurking is his stablemate OUTLANDER for the Gigginstown operation that prefer not to send their best bumpers horse to the Cheltenham Festival and he is 3-3 inbumpers. The same owner/trainer combination won this race with Lovethehigherlaw two years ago after bypassing Cheltenham. The horse that Lovethehigherlaw narrowly defeated that year was Dermot Weld’s four-year-old, Waaheb, and Weld has fared very well with four-year-olds in this race of late as his Hidden Universe belied his years to win in 2010. Weld runs another four-year-old this season receiving a 10lbs weight allowance in GRECIAN TIGER who made a winning debut but has been defeated on his next two starts and is now tried in a first-time visor. One less run would have made The Liquidator more interesting and the only thing that would make me look twice at Apache Stronghold at this level is his trainer’s record in the race so he could be better than he has shown thus far.

6:40 Guinness Handicap Chase

Following novices in handicap chases at the big spring Festivals is never a bad thing and they have an eye-catching record in the most valuable handicap chase of the meeting winning six of the last 14 runnings. Novices in today’s 15-runner line up are KLEPHT and CANALY. And don’t be concerned if your fancy failed to finish in the first three last time out as 11 of the last 13 winners failed to occupy a top-three slot on their previous outing yet 12 of the last 16 winners started between second and fourth-favourite which suggests that this is a handicap for plotted-up horses.

Bouchasson won for the Brits 13 years ago but that was the last time a British-trained horse proved successful. That said, the Brits have only found one too good in two of the last four seasons and were unrepresented 12 months ago. The Paddy Power Gold Cup third NADIYA DE LA VEGA won on his last Irish raid for Nicky Henderson at the Fairyhouse Easter Meeting and he returns to Ireland again for this more valuable prize.

Willie Mullins has trained five of the last nine winners including three of the last four and runs CALL THE POLICE (Ruby Walsh) and LAMBRO (Paul Townend). Ten of the last 15 winners carried under 11st and, in the last eight seasons alone, 27 of the 32 top-four places have gone the way of horses carrying less than 11st so it was some performance for Scotsirish to win off 11st 10lbs two years ago. That would suggest RUBI LIGHT (the only horse carrying over 11st this time) has it all to do off 11st 10lbs.

Short List

Call The Police





Given Willie Mullins’ record in this race of five wins in the last nine years, both CALL THE POLICE and LAMBRO have to be respected. Call The Police looks the number one with Ruby Walsh riding and he was all set to win the 2m4f handicap chase at this meeting last season as a novice until falling at the final fence six weeks after finishing third to Bobs Worth and First Lieutenant in the RSA Chase. LAMBRO wasn’t disgraced when tenth in the Topham last time out and he was a convincing winner at this course on his seasonal debut so certainly should not be forgotten. Novices have a fine record in this handicap winning six of the last 14 runnings and CANALY makes most appeal of the first-season chasers. His defeat of Terminal in December is best form this season amongst three wins, another coming over this course over hurdles and his last-time-out was too bad to be true. If you can forgive that poor run, then the chances are he may start a little overpriced as others won’t. KLEPHT is the other novice and finished third in the same race in which Canaly ran poorly in last time out. He was highly tried in the Grade 1 Dr P J Moriarty Chase in which Boston Bob narrowly beat Texas Jack, Lord Windermere and Lyreen Legend but not disgraced beaten 12 lengths and that form was franked in no uncertain terms in the RSA Chase.

7:15 Attheraces Bumper

A bumper for horses not to have won under Rules aged five, six or seven but CHUTE HALL and SESKINANE have won a point-to-point though exactly half of the 18 declarations have finished second in a bumper notably LOTS OF MEMORIES who has finished runner-up on four occasions.

Short List

Beat That

Real Steel

Sizing Chile

Master Oscar


Lots Of Memories may have four second-place finishes to his name but none of those would have been in a bumper as deep as this so the chances are he will struggle to go one better this time. Willie Mullins took the spoils last year and relies on SIZING CHILE whose second to Blackmail on his debut is useful bumper form so it was a little disappointing he couldn’t justify odds-on favouritism for his only other start. Given the Mullins factor at this meeting, I still feel I have to include him in a short list. BEAT THAT and REAL STEEL are slightly more interesting and both finished second on their only start. Nicky Henderson has fared well with his few bumper runners at this meeting and trains Beat That who has not run since finishing second at Kempton 60 days on his only start where he was sent off odds-on in the colours of Michael Buckley. However, if you take the trouble to watch that race the winner was gifted a big, uncontested lead and Beat That did well to get within 3½ lengths as a result. Real Steel represents Philip Fenton of Dunguib bumper fame and he shaped nicely when second on his only start 24 days ago to his better-fancied stablemate. He made a big mid-race move to lead at half-way where he made his ground too fast and too early so no surprise he had used up his energy before the closing stages but, under a more restrained ride, he can make his presence felt here. The Christy Roche-trained MASTER OSCAR is interesting on his bumper debut as he has had two runs in maiden hurdles and didn’t fare badly at all on the latter on occasion finishing third at the prestigious Fairyhouse Easter Meeting where even maiden hurdles will be competitive races. He plugged on to be beaten six lengths giving the impression this 2f longer trip would suit.
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