Good evening from the Major who writes from a cooling clear clean Worcestershire night, the sort that you can sleep deeply in and be lost in the deep caverns of the night.
Forgive the lack of an opening day Punchestown post, I don’t have a decent excuse and I do not intend it as an insult to what is the real end of the National Hunt season for me. I seek your understanding in a busy life.
What would I have tipped? Well. I would have ducked Don Poli, I tweeted last night that I felt that the spring was not his time, those attritional stayers need the cold mud to be seen to best effect, to be relentlessly motoring on when others cry for the towel. I may have backed the winner but I may also have backed Apache Stronghold.
Felix Yonger would have been in my selections. Now I know by now you are thinking, Major! What Rot!! What demeaning after timing!!! All I can say is that I am committed to the truth and I would have backed that one. Twilight is an appalling excuse for a Grade 2 winner already, Champagne Fever either has been fully exposed or has lost the will trace or some combination of the two. Felix looked progressive.
Douvan was easy. I would have had the wrong bumper horses which looked easy after the event.
So a pretty good post that I never wrote.
Revisiting Douvan, surely he is Arkle bound. I can only imagine two scenarios and one is that Faugheen stays put and Douvan goes steeplechasing. T’other is that Faugheen steps up to three miles and a World Hurdle, which may well suit. I am invested in a Douvan Arkle at 4/1 and so am hoping for the latter. The glorious fluency with which he takes his hurdles does not necessarily guarantee a Masterminded-like slickness over the bigger obstacles but if it does, he will be unstoppable in next years top novice chases.
I am tempering my enthusiasm for the ‘Douvan Arkle Certainty’ though because it might just occur to Willie, as it has to me, that a rather delicious first could be available with Douvan in the Champion Hurdle, Un de Sceaux a steering job in the Champion Chase, Faugheen a classy World Hurdle player and three powerful Gold Cup shots in Don Poli, Vroum Vroum Mag and of course, the rock star, Vautour. Could he be the first trainer to win all four championship races at the festival in one season? That might persuade you to step Faugheen up.
Anyway, these things are 45 weeks away and so we shall still those busy thoughts, rise our lances until the points glint in the morning bursts of light and cry Shabash! To Wednesday, Punchestown and the mothership.
Punchestown Wednesday Tips
The opening handicap hurdle is wide open at 10/1 the field and Nickname Exit looks interesting as he definitely looks like a sort where ‘the further the better’ applies. I cannot back it on the evidence so far mind. I would consider Riviera Sun at 12/1. The hurdle he won last time was on heavy but there is not much to suggest this son of Milan would not be at least OK on the better ground.
However the selection is one from the more generous priced aisles of the supermarket. Phantom Prince would not leap of the page but actually has a surprising amount going for it. It is in the hands of one of the better trainers, it prefers top of the ground and has been racing knee-deep through an Irish winter and his handicap mark has been tumbling not unduly but perhaps suspiciously quickly. 33/1 is freely available, I’d hold out for forty and then strike like the cobra you are with the reckless confidence of a wanton drunk.
Identity Thief is an easy pick in the second, stepping up and in an easier race than last time, he sets the standard. Sadlers Risk is the danger and the market has it correct, I expect the two of them to be fighting it out and my selection to prove more progressive.
No More Heroes has been one of my absolute horses of the season. I was backing the beast early and hard for the Albert Bartlett after picking up the not very subtle hints from Gordon Elliot early on. The horse races a little bit wobbly. Unusual description I know, he reminds me of one part Long Run (gangly), one part Don Poli (lazy) and one part Bog Warrior (just relentless). As such, I cannot have him at 3/1 for tomorrow.
That would leave Shaneshill unopposed perhaps? Maybe. I do think No More Heroes might prove a better horse in the long run if kept to the right conditions but maybe it is for Shaneshill tomorrow.
Punchestown is an odd festival. In all racing, you are not looking for the best horse but the most appropriate horse on the day. This is never more true than at Punchestown where over the top class acts like the Don (I’m banging on about it now) meet unsuitable spring ground after giving their all at Cheltenham and winning well; which often deceives you to thinking they are not as ‘well used’.
So, I am diving in on a long shot. Rebecca Curtis is not exactly a regular raider on Ireland from her Welsh base but she brings over Binge Drinker at 16/1 and for some unknown, perhaps Freudian sense, I feel I should back it. The horse, unusually for the yard, seems to prefer good ground, relishes conditions and although lacks the class of the top two in the market, I am happy to take 20/1 each way on it when the top two in the market look less than certain to produce the goods.
Fast forward to the race…. ‘and over the last No More Heroes and Shaneshill settle down to fight this out, a mile clear….’
The Punchestown Gold Cup Tip
Some good horses have won this race but the best often don’t. This is a classic Punchestown race where horses that were racing up the Cheltenham hill having been prepped for it all season, are asked to go again and fail to produce. I like Road to Riches, I backed it at Cheltenham. Djakadam is one I would never back but I have clearly underestimated him. Both are ruled out on exertions to date.
I am torn between two.
Don Cossack and Ballynagour. Now I know that both had tough races, even more recently at Aintree and I get that this makes it harder to exert my prejudice, especially as I still believe it stands. Yet I think they are the ones to concentrate on. Ballynagour travelled like a dream into the Bettered Bowl and I though he was the winner turning for home, yet he was outstayed by the classiest of prove ‘flat track bullies’ Silvi. His Byrne Group Plate win signalled his form turn in advance. I am not sure Ballynagour will ever win with my money down and I skip him tomorrow on account of his schedule.
I dare to go to Don Cossack when others seem to avoid. Gordon has his string well and fit for the festival and Don Cossack is a fine specimen of a horse. I think he will relish this staying trip. I know the Gold Cup form is being trumpeted as good, I disagree (with the exception of the unexposed winner). I make a prediction. Neither Silvi, Road to Riches or Djakadam will place next year. Djakadam might prove a thorn in my side, after all he is only 6. Anyway 10/3 is available in a single place, Bettered (no affiliations, the Major remains free and unhinged for your punting delectation). Need more reason?
What really persuaded me is the jockey, Jamie Spencer might be the flat fans ‘hold up jock’ pin up boy. In proper racing, that role belongs to Carberry. He has the patience of rock. He employs tactics that send horses to sleep and he is so good at it. Sometimes he leaves it late, it is an occupational risk and I confess to being critical occasionally, yet generally, he gets it right. In a race where they might start to seek honours early, I want a man with ice in his veins, prepared to win it on the last jump. 10/3? Lunacy.
I am happy to have a big bet on Disko in the 6.05 bumper at 4/1 for the yard that targets the race and with he ‘go to’ Irish bumper jockey booked. Go Nina.
I can’t be arsed with the 6.40 or 7.15. I stared at them for hours and got myself a headache.
Courage, roll the dice.