GRADE 1 PREVIEWS:
5.30 Betdaq Punchestown Champion Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m
Last year’s winner and runner-up Supasundae and Wicklow Brave will do battle once more, however, they face sterner opposition tomorrow.
The former landed the Grade 1 Aintree Hurdle 4 weeks ago following a succession of second placed efforts earlier in the season. While the latter, who landed the spoils in 2017, was narrowly touched-off in a photo-finish the Coral Cup in March and commands respect given his record in the race.
Melon may have posed a threat to the above named pair had he not crashed out at three from home and he may have had Supasundae’s measure at Aintree before falling at the same hurdle. He placed second in the Champion Hurdle once again in March and is a danger to all if on a going day.
Buveur D’Air and Summerville Boy placed second and fourth respectively in the same Aintree contest and it’s fair to say that the former was inconvenienced by the late departure of Melon.
The dual champion hurdler is on somewhat of a recovery mission following three straight defeats and will be sent off a short priced favourite tomorrow. He was beaten fair and square in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton and it’s possible that his fall at Cheltenham was still fresh in his mind when suffering defeat on Merseyside. He may bounce back but his price is skinny enough given the circumstances.
The latter landed the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle last season and was diagnosed with hairline fracture of his right-hind femur following two disappointing efforts earlier in the season. He is entitled to come on for his reappearance at Aintree and could pose a threat if recapturing his best form.
Apple’s Jade was sent off a 7/4 favourite to land the Champion Hurdle in March on the back of a sparkling success in the Irish equivalent at the Dublin Racing Festival in February. However, it was clear from a very early stage that she wasn’t herself during that race and it came as no surprise when she scoped dirty in the aftermath.
She has since confirmed her well-being with a gutsy third placed finish in the Grade 1 Ryanair Stayers Hurdle at Aintree and, providing that race hasn’t taken too much out of her, she could easily bounce back with a big performance tomorrow.
Petit Mouchoir is without a success since October 2017 and could only finish fourteenth of eighteen runners in the Stayers Hurdle in March. Therefore, he makes little appeal here.
Buveur D’Air will attempt bounce back following three straight defeats but his price certainly doesn’t reflect the question marks hanging over him at present. Supasundae won this last year and bounced back to form at Aintree. While Wicklow Brave’s record in this race commands respect, however, Melon, who was an unlucky faller on Merseyside, is Willie Mullins’ first string on jockey bookings. That leaves APPLE’S JADE, who has looked unbeatable in Ireland this season and scoped dirty following her disappointing effort at the Cheltenham Festival in March. She returned to something like her best form when running a huge race in the Stayers Hurdle at Aintree and a reproduction of her Irish Champion Hurdle success would make her very hard to beat.
6.05 – Alanna Homes Champion Novice Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m4f
City Island ran out a good winner of the Grade 1 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham and the runner-up, namely Champ, gave that form a significant boost when scoring in the same grade at Aintree last month.
Martin Brassil’s exciting six-year-old is yet to taste defeat on the track (Disqualified at Galway in August) and the manner of his success at Cheltenham makes his a hugely exciting prospect. He hasn’t endured a tough campaign and should therefore be fit and ready for this Grade 1 contest.
Sam’s Profile and Easy Game placed fifth and eighth respectively behind City Island at Cheltenham. While Battleoverdoyen, who was sent off a well fancied 9/2 chance, was pulled-up before the final flight of hurdles.
The former placed second behind the latter on the Grade 1 Lawlors Of Naas Novice Hurdle in January and may have given the Gigginstown House Stud owned image more to think about had he not made two momentum stopping mistakes during the race. While the latter, who is every inch a chaser in the making, landed his bumper at this venue in November and could easily bounce back to form.
The middle-named runner was the subject of a big gamble on the day that saw his price tumble from 20/1 early in the morning to 7/1 by the off. However, he could never land a blow and looks a shade below this class.
Dommage Pour Toi got the better of Easy Game at Fairyhouse 4 weeks ago, albeit in receipt of 5lbs, and the runner-up, Zero Ten, gave that form a sizeable form boost when comfortably scoring at this meeting on Wednesday.
Henry De Bromhead’s six-year-old has plenty of scope for progression after just three starts under rules and could easily outrun his price.
Reserve Tank took his form to a whole new level when causing a 20/1 surprise in the Grade 1 Mersey Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree, and he should not be underestimated at a festival where his trainer has sent many of his better horses in recent years.
That said, this does appear to be a stronger race on paper and he will need to continue on his upward curve in order to prevail.
Willie Mullins, who trains the aforementioned Easy Game, will also saddle Tonado Flyer, who hasn’t been seen since pulling-up behind Battleoverdoyen in January, Royal Rendezvous, who ran out 16 lengths winner of a Galway maiden hurdle when last sighted in October, Eglantine Du Seuil, who landed the Grade 2 Dawn Run Mares Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham in March, and Come To Me, who has found Grade 1 company far too hot to handle on his last two visits to the racetrack.
The former lacks experience, however, he won his maiden hurdle over this course and distance and the form of that race has worked out well. While the second named remains an unknown quantity, but did land two bumpers prior to his maiden hurdle success.
Eglantine Du Seuil is hard to access but warrants respect given her Cheltenham Festival success and handy 7lbs mares allowance. While the last named was a good winner of his maiden hurdle at Cork but will need to find significant improvement based on his last two outings.
Gallant John Joe and All For Joy, who will both represent trainer Oliver McKiernan and owners Keep The Faith syndicate, complete the field.
The former placed third behind Commander Of Fleet and Rhinestone in Grade 1 company at the Dublin Racing Festival in February and could therefore outrun his huge double figure price. While the latter found Grade 2 company a step too far last time out but won his maiden hurdle in fine style on his penultimate outing.
Tornado Flyer is an intriguing contender, however, his lack of experience is a concern in this company. While Battleoverdoyen and Sams Profile will look to bounce back from slightly disappointing efforts in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle. Dommage Pour Toi has decent form in the book and could easily outrun his price. While Gallant John Joe, who could only finish seventh behind Henry De Bromhead’s representative in Grade 2 company last month, could also outrun his price of replicating the form of his third placed effort in Grade 1 company at the Dublin Racing Festival. However, CITY ISLAND ran out an impressive winner of the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle in March and will be tough to beat if in the same kind of form tomorrow. Runner-up Champ gave that form a significant boost when scoring in Grade 1 company at Aintree and Martin Brassil’s six-year-old can reap the rewards of a light campaign.
BEST OF THE REST:
4.55 – Irish Concrete EBF Glencarraig Lady Francis Flood Mares Handicap Chase (Grade B) 2m5f
This competitive mares handicap can go the way of Barra, who lacks experience over fences but displayed plenty of promise when placing third behind Camelia De Cotte and Pravalaguna in Grade 3 company at Fairyhouse 10 days ago.
The Gigginstown House Stud owned mare made an impressive debut in this sphere when comfortably getting the better of vastly more experienced rivals at Kilbeggan last June, and her outing at Fairyhouse will have blown away the cobwebs and put her spot on for this valuable prize.
Gordon Elliott’s charge placed third in the 2018 Coral Cup off the very same mark that she will carry into battle tomorrow, and the chief of Cullentra Stables has further enhanced her prospects by making use of 7lbs claimer Mr R James. Therefore all looks set for a very big run.
SELECTION: Barra 8/1 – 1.5pts each way (Betfair, BetVictor, Coral – All 4 Places)
6.35 – Star Best For Racing Coverage Champion Hunters Chase 3m120y
Enda Bolger hasn’t won this race since 2016 when the much loved On The Fringe justified favouritism in the hands of Nina Carberry. This year the cross country king will saddle Stand Up And Fight, who failed to land a blow at Cheltenham but could go much closer tomorrow.
The JP McManus owned seven-year-old didn’t jump with his usual zest that day and does lack the experience of many of his rivals. However, there’s a good chance that he has been brought along slowly with this race in mind and he could have no better pilot that Derek O’Connor, who knows the son of Flemensfirth well.
He will arrive at Punchestown fresher than of his main market rivals have and it would be no surprise to see him truly announce arrival on this stage.
SELECTION: Stand Up And Fight 7/2 – 2pt win (Bet365)
7.10 – SalesSense International Novice Hurdle 2m
Dunvegan created a good impression when making a successful hurdling debut at Fairyhouse in December, however, he has disappointed in two subsequent starts in Grade 1 company and now drops in class to contest this competitive looking novice hurdle.
The grey son of Le Harve also takes a drop in trip tomorrow and already boasts form at this meeting having landed a bumper 12 months ago, where he beat solid yardsticks such as Voix Des Tiep, Getareason and Gallant Joe Joe by upwards of one-and-three-quarter-lengths.
The flashy six-year-old will have to guidance of Davy Russell here, which is obviously a bonus. And, despite the presence of some lightly raced rivals who also possess potential, he could easily get his promising career back on track.
SELECTION: Dunvegan 8/1 – 1pt each way (Generally)
7.45 – GVA Donal O’Buachalla Property Advisors INH Flat Race 2m2f
Jessica Harrington runs many of her promising young horses in these end of season bumpers and Gold Des Bois looked like a smart prospect when scoring between the flags at Kirkistown in February.
Gold Des Bois travelled prominently in the hands of Jamie Codd and stalked the leader approaching two from home. After which, he eased to the front and saw his race out in fine style.
Finian Maguire (3) will take over in the saddle tomorrow and his mount will come up against many talented rivals who have also excelled between the flags. However, he is definitely a solid each way proposition at a fair price of 7/1.
SELECTION: Gold Des Bois 7/1 – 1pt each way (Ladbrokes, Coral)
4.55 – Barra 8/1 – 1.5pts each way (Betfair, BetVictor, Coral – All 4 Places)
5.30 – Apple’s Jade 9/4 – 2pt win (Marathon)
6.05 – City Island 5/4 – 4pt win (Generally)
6.35 – Stand Up And Fight 7/2 – 2pt win (Bet365)
7.10 – Dunvegan 8/1 – 1pt each way (Generally)
7.45 – Gold Des Bois 7/1 – 1pt each way (Ladbrokes, Coral)
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