Good evening from the Major who writes from his bed again after a weary day of battle. Forgive me for a more concise post but sleep is calling me with her sweet siren song, irresistible urging me downwards… one limb becoming heavy and almost impossible to lift, a drifting sensation and peaceful slumber.
I value the commodity of sleep far more than when a young man. In life most of the fun things happen in the small hours, where normality slithers between the cracks. Now, as a father, the noise of two children and constant demand of your attention, well it drains you. I still gather sleep in small harvests, a useful habit but now the motivation is not preparation for more moonlit mischief, rather the sagging necessities of everyday existence.
In the dark hours, I lie awake thinking. Not fervently you understand, more aimlessly, my mind wandering through memories and daydreams that I have collected and deposited in a vast library with no Dewey codes. A great palace of thoughts in small rooms with unlabeled doors, unsure of where the next one takes you, closing your eyes and seeing shapes move, colours morphing and light blurring at the edges. Cogito ergo sum.
To Punchestown. I hope we fare better than day one. Tasiocht and Western Boy both returned one place out of the money, Moyle Park and Sprinter Sacre did their jobs, the former scraping in, the latter doing enough. The champagne went flat. Tuesday I score as a moderate defeat, wounded but merely superficially, we return.
Wednesday Punchestown Tips
The opener is as open a race as you will find. 8/1 the field and no amount of research is really going to make me feel better about it, this is wrestling an octopus. Instead of pretending, I shall inform you that my eye was drawn to Chavoy who is priced up at 14/1 with Boylesports – He is a Ferdy Murphy runner and that has not happened at Punchestown for years. He has won a couple of races already, thought nothing anywhere near this testing and he looks as likely as the next.
The 4.20 is an intriguing race as the market is dominated by two Mullins horses. Call Me Bubbles seemed to step up at Navan and has a race fitness advantage over the exciting French import Viconte Du Noyer. The race won at Auteuil looks decent with Blood Cotil, a decent yardstick back in 4th and two other french horses holding up the form. It is a bit of a concern that the horse has been missing for a year and this is a hot introduction back to the track.
I am going to take a risk on Gassin Golf at 6/1. He is out of Montjeu and made a mark of 99 on the flat. It is early days on his hurdling career and he pulled ridiculously hard before being pulled up in the Triumph – Throw in that he is another clearly targeted at the Punchestown festival and we have a decent bet prospect.
Ballycasey is a hot favourite for the novice hurdle at 4.55pm, I am a little concerned that this is a big step up in class but the talk has been hot about him and evens quotes might be hard to come by at the off. He missed the Albert Bartlett in which Inish Island chased At Fishers Cross up the hill finishing five lengths down at the line, that is solid form and this is a classic balance of proven ability versus potential.
Instead of the pair of them I am going to chance Road to Riches at 10/1. Soft ground is preferred and so drying conditions are a concern but I am willing to give him a chance. His Aintree run was too bad to be true and earlier form reads well.
5.30pm and the race we will be waiting for – The Punchestown Gold Cup. I have a real issue in this race because I am torn between a desire to see Long Run prove me right and the fact that my logic is appealing to me to abandon him. Say what you will, he keeps getting placed at the top level. I do think though that three miles and a furlong around Punchestown is not far enough these days and given his penchant for throwing himself into the odd fence, the extra pace around here may not help either.
The quality of this years renewal is stunning. Last year, China Rock managed a win at 20/1 after running just a few days before! That horse won and was rated 162 at the time, five of the eight runners in this years contest are rated above that mark, make no mistake, this is a superb race. Be warned though, prior to the China Rock 20/1 turn up, winners have come in at 20/1 and 14/1 so the principals are no shoe in.
In short, First Lieutenant is very interesting, especially if the ground dries more. He looked like he needed further in the Ryanair and being second to Cue Card is no disgrace anyway. Sir Des Champs surprised me, I was the first to think his form was not as strong as popular opinion.
What the hell – I am sticking with old faithful Long Run – Mainly because I could not bare him to win and me not to be on… do with that as you may.
The Cheltenham bumper winner Briar Hill is attempting the double taking on this Grade 1 Punchestown event. There has not been a major turn up in the bumper for some time but one I like at a humongous price is Noel Meades Apache Stronghold at 28/1. The yard have a terrific record in the bumper. All said and done though, Briar Hill has an excellent chance here and 6/4 is a fair price.
The 6.40pm is the handicap chase. Nadiya de la Vega is not my sort – The mare is likeable but might just be found out. Instead I am opting for 10/1 shot Mr Cracker who I suspect has had this as the target for some time and whose second in a grade 2 last time looks OK.
In the lucky last, I am dodging the two at the head of the market and opting for Fairy Island who might be much better than we have yet seen.