The opening day proved tough for us, finding just the single winner, so let’s hope the rest of the week proves a little more successful.
For the sake of brevity we’ll jump straight into looking at the action on day three of the Punchestown Festival.
3:40 2m½f (2m70y) JLT Handicap Hurdle
Another 25 runner handicap to open the card on day three; great racing but a bugger for finding winners. I don’t have any real angle on this race and will probably leave it alone. A few caught my eye at first glance, most notably Stamp Your Feet who won well last time out and the fact Tom George has sent him over must be a positive, Old Castletown with Ruby Walsh riding for his Dad, Sweet Company right down the bottom for Tony Martin and Soir De Chantenay. If I was pushed to back anything I’d probably go for SWEET COMPANY.
4:15 2m (Inner) pigsback.com Nick Coen Memorial Handicap Chase (Grade B)
A competitive two mile handicap chase continues proceedings for day two and having tipped him for Cheltenham I really have to stick with TULLY EAST. He was a very impressive winner at Cheltenham and with a 6lb rise could still have room to improve after just four chase starts. I don’t expect the step back in trip to inconvenience him too much, but there are a couple of big threats to him here in the way of Don’t Touch It and Potters Point.
4:50 4m1f (Bank) Friends First Cross Country Chase for the La Touche Cup
The monopoly Enda Bolger holds over Cross Country chases is perhaps a little overstated given his lack of success in the big one at Cheltenham, but he does still have an exceptional record in this sphere, often sweeping up the prizes through the year, and I expect that record to continue here. CANTLOW finished third when favourite at Cheltenham, however, he was beaten by a very good horse in Cause Of Causes and he faces nothing like that level of competition here. He should win comfortably.
5:30 3m (Inner) Ladbrokes Champion Stayers Hurdle (Grade 1)
The Stayers’ Hurdle sees many of the main protagonists from Cheltenham renew rivalry and it will be interesting to see if the form is held here. The 1-2-3 from HQ line-up here and I’d expect the form to be held, with Nichols Canyon perhaps just proving to be a cut above Unowhatimeanharry, especially on the likely ground. If the race was run on soft I could see that form being reversed but on the better going I think Nichols Canyon should prove able to maintain advantage.
For our selection, however, I am looking outside of the Cheltenham form and going for SUTTON PLACE. He has an almost immaculate record, albeit not quite at this level, and I don’t think we’ve seen the best of him yet and there’s potentially masses of improvement still to come. He’ll obviously need to improve to win but that’s very much possible.
6:05 3m (Inner) Shamrock Enterprises Handicap Hurdle (Grade B)
Another tricky 25 runner handicap hurdle increases the difficulty on Thursday and this is another I’d have little confidence in. No Comment is an interesting contender for Phillip Hobbs, Minella Awards for Harry Fry has to be respected and Gurteen for the seemingly in-form Robert Tyner is of potential interest. I’m going to plump for the Tony Martin/Davy Russell combination of OKOTOKS though. He’s had just the one run this year and steps up from two to three miles, just leaving a feeling it could be a classic Martin plot and with Davy Russell on top I’m hoping he’ll cope with the step-up in trip.
6:40 2m (Inner) Ryanair Novice Chase (Grade 1)
The two mile chase for novices doesn’t have the big name contender we’ve maybe had in previous years or the big name of this year Altior. However, I expect GREAT FIELD to be an impressive winner all the same. Despite the occasional hairy moment he has looked very exciting this year and will be great to watch here. For each way or forecast purposes, the JP second string Ballyoisin is probably best of the rest should he manage to avoid another mistake, having fell on two of his three starts
7:15 2m½f (2m70y) Alanna Homes Mares Novice Hurdle
The Mares Novice Hurdle doesn’t have a great deal of depth and I expect this to be a two horse race between two representing the trainers involved in the great dual for the trainers’ championship. Barra has been pretty consistent this season and finished a good second behind Lets Dance in the Mares Novice at Cheltenham. However, I expect to see a slight reverse of that form and am going for ASTHURIA to improve on her fifth place position in the same race. She’s been a little unlucky this year and would have had much more success if not for falling on two of her outings; I expect to see some improvement and think she can take advantage of being fresher than her main rival Barra.
7:45 2m Kildare Post (C & G) Flat Race
A bumper without any real significance closes the card and, like most, I don’t have any real interest in this. Next Destination has the best form by a long way having finished fourth in the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham and should be a short priced favourite, but perhaps a bit of value could be found elsewhere with impressive winner Rathcannon or the new French recruit for Gordon Elliott, Sir Carno. I have no preference so will probably look for a bit of value or any eyecatching movements with the market.