The opening day of the Punchestown Festival is Tuesday’s highlight with three Grade 1’s as part of a magnificent card. The ground was given as a mix of good and good to yielding on Monday morning with daily watering expected throughout the week with no rain forecast.
In the listed mares’ novice hurdle I hope to see PARTY CENTRAL reverse Cheltenham form with Grangee on this better ground. The mares’ novice at the Festival was run on ground officially described as soft but was more good to soft but Gordon Elliot’s mare travelled as well as anything going to two out before finishing weakly.
The selection’s market rivals Dinoblue and Grangee have run since Cheltenham having hard races on soft ground – not yielding as per official description – only nine days ago at Fairyhouse over Easter. The selection is a listed Bumper winner on good ground and underfoot conditions lead me towards the Elliot trained six-year-old. The Mullins’ trained juvenile Instit is the dark horse of the race, and a market move would be noteworthy.
Recommendation: Party Central 3.40 Punchestown at 7/2 with Paddy Power
Sir Gerhard v Dysart Dynamo is a fascinating clash in the first Grade 1 of the meeting but of more interest from a betting perspective is the following extended 2m handicap hurdle.
My two against the field are Glan and ARDLA (4.50) with marginal preference for the latter who gets the each way vote for Mick Halford returning from a three-month break.
Glan is 7lbs higher than when landing a valuable handicap at Fairyhouse over Easter when she showed an excellent turn of foot on good ground. The mare clearly loves good ground, and it would be no surprise if she were still ahead of the handicapper.
The each way vote, however, goes to Ardla who was last see finishing third to Banbridge on ground softer than ideal at Navan back in January. That form was franked when the winner went on to land the Martin Pipe at Cheltenham.
That suggests Ardla is well handicapped from a mark of 125 and there are few – if any – confirmed front-runners in the 18-runner field. The hope is that Luke Dempsey can dictate his own fractions on the lead and kick for home when he wants to.
Recommendation: Ardla EW 4.50 Punchestown at 6/1 – 5 places with William Hill
Energumene was left with nothing to beat in the Champion Chase after Shishkin’s no show and the unseat of Patrick Mullins aboard CHACUN POUR SOI but I do feel there is little between the pair at their very best – both rated mid 170s – and with that in mind Chacun Pour Soi must get the vote at the current odds in what promises to be a mouth-watering Champion Chase.
Chacun Pour Soi is unbeaten in two starts at Punchestown and his win in the corresponding race 12 months ago was, arguably, a personal best as he beat his brilliant stablemate Allaho by over five lengths. Yes, two miles is a trip too sharp for Allaho, but Energumene is, arguably, better on softer ground and he has had two hard races since the turn of the year.
That said I have always felt Energumene was a better horse going right-handed and this promises to be one of the races of the season. The Clarence House Chase was one for the ages while for the second year on the spin the Champion Chase was easily forgotten. Let’s hope these two magnificent Mullins’ trained chasers give their running and let the best horse win.
Recommendation: Chacun Pour Soi 5.25 Punchestown at 7/4 with bet365
Bob Olinger was a fortunate winner of the Turners Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham when he would have been beaten a minute had my horse of the season Galopin Des Champs not crumpled on landing after the last.
Henry De Bromhead fits his 7-y-old with a tongue-tie for the first time and steps him up in distance to three miles for the first time. It sounds silly to say that an unbeaten chaser is on something of a retrieval mission, but he was well below his brilliant best at Cheltenham although that was at a time when the yard were largely out of sorts – despite the Champion Hurdle/Gold Cup double for a second successive year!
He won his sole point over three miles and, if at his brilliant best, he would pick this lot up. The stable have saddled three winners from their last five runners and 6/4 could look very big come seven o’clock tonight.
I will be supporting FURY ROAD in the market without Bob Olinger. The selection finished runner up to Ahoy Senor at Aintree earlier in the month having been taken out of the 3m Novice at Cheltenham when the rains arrived. I was impressed with his win at Leopardstown in Grade 1 company earlier in the year on similar ground and he can reverse earlier Drinmore form with Beacon Edge.
Recommendation: Fury Road 6.35 at Punchestown at 4/1 in market without Bob Olinger
There is a terrific mile maiden at Yarmouth and there are likely to be a number of winners come out of the race. AKHU NAJLA was beaten a neck at Leicester on debut when he had the fast-finishing Knight Of Honour a short head back in third.
The selection, who is a half-brother to the Guineas winner Galileo Gold, cost 2.7m gns as a yearling and looks sure to improve for the step up to a mile although he will need to settle better than was the case at Oadby. The selection holds an entry in the Dante at York next month over 10f but also the Irish Guineas at the Curragh next month.
Knight Of Honour also holds an entry in the Dante but is also still engaged in the Derby. Frankie Dettori takes over in the saddle for the Gosdens’ in what looks a virtual match, but it is the Varian runner for me.
Recommendation: Akhu Najla 2.10 Yarmouth at 2/1 with bet365*
* Betting odds correct at the time of writing. All odds are subject to changes.