Not the return I had hoped for, yesterday at Punchestown, but we can look forward to this afternoon and hope for better luck.
Vautour found the two miles too sharp in the Champion Chase. I was going as fast as I wanted to, I couldn’t go any quicker, but he was staying on well. Yorkhill had been to Aintree and Cheltenham and it was just a case of this being one race too many.
The feature of today’s action is the Punchestown Gold Cup, and my mount, Djakadam, has a bit to find with Cue Card and Don Poli on Aintree form.
He was disappointing there, but it may have come too soon after Cheltenham. He didn’t jump or travel like he can, but he has been in good form since, we have freshened him up at home, and we’re just hoping for the best.
Cue Card was very good at Aintree, and was travelling well until falling at Cheltenham. He would appear to hold all the aces, and will take beating. Don Poli is like Djakadam, insofar as he has something to find. He was also below his best at this festival in the last two seasons, so has a little more to prove.
I have just one other ride this afternoon, and Bellshill, who runs in the three-mile novice hurdle, is probably my best chance of a winner. He comes here with a similar profile to last season, insofar as he disappointed at Cheltenham, and then bounced back to form to finish second at Aintree. However, he finished runner-up at this meeting last year, so I’m hoping he can go one better this time. Last time out he missed the second-last hurdle at Aintree, and that was probably the difference between winning and losing. It was a great first effort over today’s trip, and this is where his future lies. He looked slow against two-mile horses but he’s not slow against three-milers and I have no doubt he stays.
Bryan Cooper has gone for General Principle over Willie’s three Gigginstown-owned runners, so that decision must be respected. Arkwrisht has something to find, while Gangster must bounce back from a disappointing run at Aintree, while Stone Hard has some good form, though the ground may not be ideal. They all have chances of sorts, but I like Bellshill, and think he will take beating.
Willie runs Balko Des Flos in the two-and-a-half-mile hurdle, and he should go very well. Strictly on official ratings he has seven pounds to find with Supasundae, but I think he could be better than his last couple of runs suggest.
He finished fifth in the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham and fourth behind Ballyoptic at Aintree, but both of those races were over three miles, and he may not have fully seen out the trip. He won his maiden over two and a half miles at this track, and I think he can run a big race, even if Supasundae is the one to beat.
Willie has six in the Grade One bumper and Bacardys and Battleford set the standard on this season’s form. They finished first and second at Aintree, and third and second at Cheltenham respectively. Clearly, there isn’t a lot between them, but Patrick has decided to stick with Bacardys, which he rode to victory at Aintree.
Castello Sforza wasn’t far behind the two at Cheltenham and, as that was his first run for a year, is entitled to improve for it. It’s a similar story with Very Much So, who wasn’t much further behind on what was his first start for two years, while Blow By Blow is improving all the time and shouldn’t be dismissed lightly. Avenir D’Une Vie would prefer some cut in the ground, however. David Pipe’s Moon Racer probably shades it on overall form, as he won last year’s Champion Bumper at Cheltenham, and that form has worked out well. But he hasn’t been seen since, and so I’m hoping one of Willie’s will win. They’re a nice bunch of novice hurdlers in the making, but separating them now is difficult.
Turban runs in the two-and-a-half-mile handicap chase, but he has to bounce back from a disappointing effort in the Topham Chase, in which he failed to get involved. He has claims on his third-place finish in the Bobbyjo Chase on his previous start, but would like some rain to fall. Augusta Kate’s form is rock-solid and she sets the standard in the mares’ bumper. She was just denied in Aintree, and should be heavily involved again. Willie also runs newcomer Glens Harmony. She doesn’t show an awful lot at home, but neither did her sister, Glens Melody, and look how she turned out.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved