Day three of the Punchestown festival, and it has to be said that the conditions at the track over the first couple of days were a credit to the staff at the course. There was a great covering of grass, and it was like a carpet for both days’ racing - it was in unbelievable condition.
It was great to get back in the winner’s enclosure with Bellshill yesterday. They went a good gallop, and I took my time, but that was my intention. He was very tough and will make some chaser next season.
Djakadam ran very well to finish second in the Gold Cup, but the winner, Carlingford Lough, seems to win a lot of Grade Ones. My horse ran an awful lot better than he did in Aintree, and it was good to see him back in that form, but the ground was far from ideal. Maybe it will be third time lucky in a Cheltenham Gold Cup next year.
I have two rides again this afternoon, and have obvious claims with Douvan in the Ryanair Novice Chase.
He won well at Cheltenham and was probably more impressive at Aintree, and has really done nothing wrong this year. I know it’s his third festival appearance on the bounce, and we’ve already seen how difficult a task that can be, but I hope he has been winning with enough authority to have something left to continue his winning run.
I’m also on Shaneshill in the Champion Stayers’ Hurdle, in which Alpha Des Obeaux is obviously the one to beat. But our horse ran really well behind Blaklion in the RSA Chase at Cheltenham, and also when filling the same place behind Thistlecrack in the Livepool Stayers’ Hurdle at Aintree.
Again, we don’t know how much is left in the tank after his visits to both of those festivals, but he does seem in good form at home. He also ran well at this meeting when third behind Killultagh Vic and Thistlecrack last year, and has a very good each-way chance today.
Thousand Stars also runs in the race, but it’s his first outing since winning a grade one in France in November, and he is likely to improve for it. He is a cracking old horse, but has a better record in France than in Ireland and I’d imagine Willie has one eye on a return there in June and July.
Uncle Junior runs in the La Touche Cup, and what a servant he has been to the stable. He’s fifteen years old now and this will be his last race, but he loves the place and I hope he runs well and then enjoys his well-earned retirement. He will be hard to replace.
Of Willie’s four in the three-mile handicap hurdle, I think Vedettariat could be the best value. He returns to hurdles after a disappointing effort in the Ryanair Gold Cup at Fairyhouse, and this could be a positive move as I’m not overly sure fences suit him. He could be a lively outsider.
Childrens List was very disappointing on his last two runs, but the drying ground should suit, while Burgas must leave behind his run at Fairyhouse. Haymount will get his ground, though we have had plenty of debate in the yard as to what is his ideal trip. After his run at Fairyhouse, over two and a half, Paul said he would appreciate this longer trip. He is potentially well treated, but, of ours, I think Vedettariat could run really well at a big price.
Willie has three in the mares’ novice hurdle, and we’re shooting in the dark somewhat with Ria D’Etel. She won a hurdle at Auteuil on her only start over hurdles, in September. The problem is that when they run at that time of the season, you don’t know if you’re getting a fully fit horse coming to the end of their season, or one which is just coming to form. She goes well at home, but we’re not sure how good she is.
The ground and track will really suit Monbeg Rose, as she’s a front-runner, while Myska disappointed last time – she ran terrible with me at Fairyhouse - but on ratings she’s the best of ours. She needs to bounce back to form.
In the bumper, Augustin is probably the outsider of our three. He needs further, but should win a lot of staying hurdles in time. Invitation Only was very good when winning on debut at Navan, and I know Patrick really likes him. He should go very close, while Turcagua ran well in the Champion Bumper on what was his first run for a long time, and I think he could run a really good race. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he finished in the frame.
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