By Tommy Lyons
An open-looking renewal of the Coral Punchestown Gold Cup is the feature on day two of the Punchestown festival, but the nap comes in the Louis Fitzgerald Hotel Hurdle in which Sire Du Berlais makes considerable appeal.
The Gordon Elliott-trained six-year-old made a bright start to the new season when second behind Out Of The Loop at Fairyhouse and followed up that fine effort by finishing fourth behind stable-companion Blow By Blow in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. On the latter occasion, he was never able to get close enough to land a meaningful blow but was noted staying on well to be beaten less than eight lengths.
This race is nothing like as competitive and, as it is a conditions race, he comes out best at the weights. With just the two runs under his belt this season, he should be at his peak for today’s race, and will take a great deal of beating.
In keeping with the theme of the week, Willie Mullins looks to provide the main threat to the Elliott runner, with his two mares, Pravalaguna and Good Thyne Tara. It is hard to separate the two, but the former is marginally less exposed, comes here on the back of a recent and decent run, and can push Sire Du Berlais closest.
The Coral Punchestown Gold Cup looks wickedly difficult for punters. Favourite Road To Respect should run his race, but there isn’t much between several of the runners. On the basis he has had a light campaign and is still somewhat unexposed, marginal preference is for Bellshill.
There must be some concern that his exploits in the Irish Grand National, in which he led until running down and making a mistake at the final fence, may have left a mark for this season, but for three and a half miles of that three-mile-five race it was an awesome display under top weight. If he turns up in the same form, he will have a major say in the finish to this race.
Stable-companion Djakadam was behind Road To Respect in the Cheltenham Gold Cup but it wouldn’t be the biggest surprise were he to reverse that form. A close second in this race last year, he hasn’t been in the same form this term, but this is not as strong a renewal, and he should be involved at the business end.
While the Guinness Handicap Chase is an 18-runner race, it is very difficult to make a case for most of the runners, and Blast Of Koeman and Patricks Park look the two to concentrate on, with marginal preference for the former.
The selection was just touched off in a handicap hurdle at this meeting in 2017 and returns to the track after a promising first season over fences.
Last time out, he ran in to plenty of traffic problems from the turn for home and when in the clear he hung right before finishing third behind Spider Web and Uncle Danny.
The return to a right-handed track is a positive and, while he may prefer decent ground, he has winning form in soft conditions. He is likely to have this race in mind for some time, gets in off bottom weight, albeit a pound out of the handicap, and a big run looks assured.
Patricks Park was very impressive at the Dublin Racing Festival and ran much better than his placing suggests when fifth behind Bel Ami De Sivola on his next start. On the latter occasion, he seemed to be crowded at numerous points through the race and, as a result, didn’t jump with great fluency, but showed a good attitude to run on into fifth place.
Today’s longer trip will aid his cause, and he will be very hard to keep out of the frame.
Tommy Lyons' tips (next best in brackets):
3.40 Water Sprite (Caro Des Flos)
4.20 Sire Du Berlais NAP (Pravalaguna)
4.55 Next Destination (Jetz)
5.30 Bellshill (Djakadam)
6.05 Felix Desjy (Blackbow)
6.40 Blast Of Koeman NB (Patricks Park)
7.15 Colreevy (Black Tears)
This story first appeared in the Irish Examiner.