Due to enforced absences and otherwise, this afternoon’s featured Bibby Financial Services Punchestown Gold Cup may not be the end-of-season clash we craved, but the presence of King George winner Cue Card and Gold Cup second and third Djakadam and Don Poli ensures it is a race to savour.
British challenger Cue Card has got to be the choice, after a season which has seen him surpass his previous best efforts, despite being a ten-year-old. The only concern for Colin Tizzard’s gelding is that he has had a tough season, racing at the highest level. However, he was given a break prior to Cheltenham, where he was in front and still going well when falling at the third-last in the Gold Cup.
He showed no ill-effects when beating Don Poli and Djakadam at Aintree, and that mid-season break should reap its reward by allowing him produce his best for the third time in less than six weeks.
He has been a true star of a vintage National Hunt season, and can round off his campaign with a fifth victory.
Neither Don Poli nor Djakadam seemed to run right up to their best form at Aintree but, nevertheless, it’s hard to make a case for either reversing that form with Cue Card. The latter is marginally preferred as the greatest danger to the selection.
The Louis Fitzgerald Hotel Hurdle looks a tight affair but if Supasundae can stretch his stamina out to two and a half miles, he will take beating on ground which should bring out the best in him.
Henry De Bromhead’s horse was a classy performer in bumpers, and has developed into a high-class sort over hurdles. He ran a fine race to finish seventh behind Altior in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, and remains open to improvement.
He is preferred to Woodland Opera, who is better than his recent form suggests and, with the Jessica Harrington stable in such good form, could bounce back and begin to realise his potential.
The three-mile Grade One Novice Hurdle doesn’t look the strongest of races, and it could go for export via the Harry Whittington-trained Emerging Force.
The six-year-old was placed in a couple of point to points in Ireland, and has progressed with hurdling experience for his new yard.
Last time out, carrying top weight in a handicap hurdle, he was in front and in control until unshipping his rider at the last flight.
While that race hasn’t worked out particularly well thus far, he has reached a high level very quickly and can be expected to continue that progress. He is preferred to Bellshill on grounds of value.
The latter bounced back to form when just touched off at Aintree on what was his first try over three miles. The quick conditions should suit and he looks sure to be heavily involved.
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