Punchestown Day 4 Review

Punchestown Day 4 Review

The highlight was the 4th clash between Hurricane Fly and Jezki. Hurricane Fly had won two steadily run races in testing ground over the winter, but Jezki had beaten him easily when taking the Champion Hurdle on fast ground, in a strongly run race.

The ground was slightly slower than Cheltenham but still looked to be in Jezki’s favour. However the presence of only 3 runners, (the other a confirmed hold up horse,) didn’t. It was far from ideal for Jezki to do his own donkey work up front here and he tended to jump left out on his own. However he made all, gradually winding it up and kicking again entering the straight for a decisive 3¼l victory, looking to win with something in hand, (2m).

Whilst a sound surface and the fitting of a hood has clearly helped, he looks to be on a strong upward curve and may now be good enough to win the small field Grade 1s during the season even when conditions don’t suit. Whilst I wouldn’t take post-Cheltenham form too literally, both My Tent Or Yours and The New One have been a bit disappointing in their subsequent run.

Quite how The New One is favourite for the Champion Hurdle (11/2) is a mystery and it’ll surprise nobody to hear I much prefer Jezki (6/1) of the 3 as a betting proposition, (My Tent Or Yours is 8/1). If it wasn’t for the looming threats of one (or maybe more) of the Willie Mullins batallions of Un De Sceaux, Vautour and Faugheen, I’d be putting Jezki up again.

Hurricane Fly has been a true great but it’s clear he no longer has the toe on good ground to go with a vintage crop of 2m hurdlers. It’ll be interesting to see if he’s retired now. One option would be to train him for just the Irish Grade 1s next winter, (Morgiana, Ryanair and Irish Champion). Given the likelihood of testing ground, and with the advantage of being hard trained for those days not Cheltenham like the opposition, he might add to his tally of 19 Grade 1s. Either way, he’s been the best since the mighty Istabraq, and Jezki and co will have their work cut out to match him.

One of Jezki’s potential main rivals, Supreme winner Vautour, was upped to 2m4f here. He’d looked to stay well when winning the Deloitte over 2m2f but was only workmanlike here, beating Apache Stronghold by 3½l. It may have been that the slight hold up earlier in the week affected him, it may just be an ordinary end of season effort. Equally, by far his least impressive win since joining Willie Mullins came here when just edging out Western Boy so the course might not suit, (only occasions he’s raced right handed.) I’d prefer to judge him on his dazzling Supreme run at this stage.

Runner up Apache Stronghold is well regarded by Noel Meade and after getting injured when impressively winning what’s turned out to be a weak Grade 2 in November, this was just his 2nd run back. We don’t know how good he is yet and he looks a contender for the top novice chases next season. He’s not yet quoted for the RSA.

Whether Apache Stronghold will handle winter ground is open to question but it may well bring the best out of 3rd home Lieutenant Colonel (beaten 9½l). He’d been impressive when thumping Le Vent D’Antan on soft ground at Fairyhouse and, whilst it remains to be seen where he’ll fit in Gigginstown’s novice chasing pecking order next season, the 3m Grade 1 at Leopardstown at Christmas looks an ideal target. He’d need to prove his effectiveness on a sound surface to be backable for the RSA, (not quoted.) Lac Fontana had had hard races at Cheltenham and Aintree and looked over the top here. He remains of interest if stepped up to 3m, (not quoted for the World Hurdle).

Willie Mullins might have yet another bullet to fire at the Champion Hurdle in the shape of Arctic Fire. He was unlucky not to win the Royal Bond and his close 2nd in the County Hurdle off 141 looks good now. Ruby rode him for the first time since his maiden win, in the winners of one novice hurdle (2m,) and he predictably outclassed these, showing lots of toe. He does seem very ground dependent but looks the type to keep improving, especially if learning to settle better.

He ought not to go up from 147 for this and it was no surprise to hear the Galway Hurdle mentioned as the target. Overturn and Rebel Fitz have won that off 145 in recent years and Mullins has the firepower to run something off a high mark to compress the weights in Arctic Fire’s favour. He’s not quoted for the Champion Hurdle but if we get fast ground like this year again, he might progress into a real contender.

So how will Mullins shuffle his pack next season?

It’s a shame that Un De Sceaux was again diverted to a race in France, (over the French mini-fence style hurdles), preventing him being tested against the top domestic 2m hurdlers. At Cheltenham, Un De Sceaux’s absence could have been interpreted as easing the path for Hurricane Fly. With Jezki beating Hurricane Fly easily there, if Un De Sceaux were to have beaten both here, Willie Mullins could have been criticised for poor judgment in not running Un De Sceaux at Cheltenham.

Listening to the recent Closutton vibes, it might be that Mullins’ judgment won’t get tested next season either. Mullins said he plans to keep one of his big 4 hurdlers, (ignoring the ageing Hurricane Fly,) for a Champion Hurdle campaign next season. With the other 3, Faugheen, Vautour and Annie Power all owned by the Riccis, it’s highly likely it’ll be one of those.

Running Faugheen over 2m here can only have been to test his Champion Hurdle credentials. Whilst its dangerous to compare form here to Cheltenham form, where virtually every horse is peaking, Faugheen was so impressive here that he might now be the one to go for the Champion. Rich Ricci certainly seemed to be suggesting that he saw Vautour, (11/2 for the Arkle and 7/1 for the Champion Hurdle,) as a chaser for next season, (and interestingly he seemed keen to avoid Un De Sceaux, who he said had been working brilliantly, with all his horses.)

The reality is that Willie Mullins tends to make the decisions and he won’t finalise his view until the horses are back in training at the end of the summer, so I’m just about resisting the temptation to dip my toe in the water now. If I were to guess now I’d go with Faugheen (Champion Hurdle), Un De Sceaux (Arkle) and Vautour (JLT.) Given the strong probability that they’ll be kept apart, accumulators may provide the best value and the Faugheen (Champion Hurdle) / Un De Sceaux (Arkle) double is 76/1 (Bet 365 & Betfred).

If I were going to back any of them in a single now it would be Un De Sceaux in the Arkle, (10/1). He’s run only on testing ground for Mullins but ran in a bumper in France on good to soft and his breeding suggests he might improve for a better surface. 10/1 would be great value if he were confirmed as being aimed at the Arkle. Given his profile of easy wins it’s hard to tell what his best trip is but he looks a 2 miler and his aggressive style would make him a difficult opponent over fences.

The champion hunter chase (3m1f) is usually a predominantly a domestic affair, (2009 winner Baby Run is the only British horse to make the frame in the last decade). However, given the comparative strength of the Irish hunter chasers, (the last 4 Foxhunters at Cheltenham have gone to Irish trained horses,) it's one of the top races in the division, (Salsify followed up his Cheltenham win last year.)

There was no Tammy's Hill but Cheltenham 3rd On The Fringe and Aintree winner Warne dominated the market. Stamina was the key, as Warne is best at intermediate trips, (beating Tammy's Hill twice at an extended 2m5f as well as winning the Aintree Fox Hunters’ at that distance.) He's not looked to see out 3m when tackling the top Irish hunters and the 3m1f trip here was against him. Sam Waley-Cohen tried to repeat the tactics that worked so well at Aintree, making most and getting a breather in before kicking for home. The petrol gauge was on empty in the straight though and he faded to finish a well beaten 3rd. He will continue to take all the beating in hunters at around 2m5f but will be opposable over 3m+.

By contrast On The Fringe was perfectly suited by the 3m1f trip and recorded his 3rd win in the race after victories in 2010 and 2012. He hadn't looked to quite get home at Cheltenham and dropping back 1½f in distance was ideal. Although this race had questionable depth, this was a visually impressive performance and it's should be remembered that this was his first season back after injury.

Whilst the hill looked to find him out at Cheltenham, he's only 9 and Baby Run looked a blatant non-stayer the year before his victory. On The Fringe is a really classy hunter and, if he gets a clear run, should be in the mix at Cheltenham again next season, (no market on the Foxhunters yet.)

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Cheltenham Countdown

Welcome to our exclusive betting blog focusing on the 2014 Cheltenham Festival.

For the third year running, we welcomed National Hunt expert Matt Tombs to blog all things Cheltenham through the winter. The highlight was Jezki's Champion Hurdle win, which was a vindication of a long-term plot and went some way to ensuring another Festival in profit. Click through to view the archive of 2012 and 2013.

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2014 Results:

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Western Boy - Supreme Novices - 1pt 20/1 - U/P

Zamdy Man - Supreme Novices - 1pt 33/1 - N/R

Ted Veale - Arkle - 1pt e/w 25/1 NRNB - U/P

Felix Yonger - Arkle - 1pt 16/1 - N/R

Jezki - Champion Hurdle - 1pt 12/1 - WON

Cockney Sparrow - Mares Hurdle - 1pt 10/1 - U/P

Foxrock - National Hunt Chase - 1pt 9/2 - U/P

Gullinbursti - National Hunt Chase - 1pt 33/1 NRNB - N/R

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Rathvinden - Neptune Novices - 1pt e/w 16/1 - 3rd

Corrin Wood - RSA Chase - 1pt 14/1 - U/P

Ifandbutwhynot - Coral Cup - 1pt 28/1 - U/P

Arvika Ligeonniere - Champion Chase - 1pt 16/1 - U/P

Balthazar King - Cross Country - 1pt 33/1 - WON

Modus - Champion Bumper - 1pt 10/1 - U/P

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Mozoltov - JLT Novices Chase - 1pt 25/1 - U/P

Champagne Fever - JLT Novices Chase - 1pt 7/1 - N/R

Benefficient - Ryanair Chase - 1pt 9/2 - U/P

Baily Green - Ryanair Chase - 1pt e/w 20/1 NRNB - N/R

Salubrious - World Hurdle - 1pt e/w 25/1 - U/P

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Captain Cutter - Albert Bartlett - 1pt 10/1 - U/P

Arctic Fire - County Hurdle - 1pt 16/1 - 2nd

The Giant Bolster - Gold Cup - 1pt 16/1 - 3rd

Dynaste - Gold Cup - 1pt 25/1 NRNB - N/R

Certain Flight - Foxhunter Chase - 1pt 20/1 NRNB - U/P

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Gigginstown - Top Owner - 1pt 7/1 - WON

Good Ground - Official Going - 1pt 10/1 - LOST

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Advised Bets:

Sizing Gold - Aon Novice Handicap Chase - 1pt 7/1 - U/P

On The Fringe - Champion Hunters Chase - 1pt 7/4 - WON

At Fishers Cross - World Series Hurdle - 1pt 5/1 - 3rd

Balder Succes - Ryanair Novice Chase - 1pt 11/4 - 3rd

Art Of Logistics - Three.ie Handicap Chase - 1pt 12/1 - 2nd

Lyreen Legend - Punchestown Gold Cup - 1pt 6/1 - U/P

Shanahan's Turn - Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle - 1pt e/w 33/1 - U/P

Mozoltov - Boylesports.com Champion Chase - 1pt 9/1 - U/P

Western Boy - Champion Novice Hurdle - 1pt e/w 10/1 - U/P

Mullaghanoe River - Irish National - 1pt 18/1 - U/P

Mozoltov - Powers Gold Cup - 1pt 11/2 - U/P

Quito De La Roque - Grand National - 1pt 40/1 - U/P

Salubrious - Liverpool Hurdle - 1pt 16/1 - U/P

Ted Veale - Maghull Chase - 1pt 16/1 - U/P

Saint Are - Aintree Handicap Chase - 1pt 10/1 - U/P

Ballynagour - Melling Chase - 1pt 7/1 - 3rd

King Of The Picts - Top Novices Hurdle - 1pt 33/1 - 3rd

Themanfrom Minella - Sefton Novices Hurdle - 1pt 50/1 - U/P

Giorgio Quercus - Topham Chase - 1pt 25/1 - U/P

Dynaste - Betfred Bowl - 1pt 15/8 - 2nd

Turn Over Sivola - Red Rum Chase - 1pt 8/1 - 2nd

Uxizandre - Manifesto Novices Chase - 1pt 9/2 - WON

Mossey Joe - Aintree Fox Hunters - 1pt 13/8 - 3rd

Baby Shine - Reynoldstown Chase - 1pt 7/1 - U/P

Grumeti - Kingwell Hurdle - 1pt 5/1 - U/P

Bog Warrior - Red Mills Chase - 1pt 9/4 - U/P

Lord Windermere - Irish Hennessy - 1pt 12/1 - U/P

Vautour - Deloitte Novice - 1pt 2/1 - WON

Tammys Hill - Hunters Chase - 1pt e/w 5/1 - WON

Vendor - Betfair Hurdle - 1pt 12/1 - U/P

Boston Bob - Cleeve Hurdle - 1pt 5/1 - U/P

The Giant Bolster - Argento Chase - 1pt 7/1 - WON

Unioniste - Sky Bet Chase - 1pt 9/2 - 3rd

Hidden Cyclone - Clarence House Chase - 1pt 7/2 - 2nd

Captain Chris - WH Chase - 1pt 2/1 - WON

The Liquidator - Tolworth Hurdle - 1pt 5/2 - U/P

Lord Windermere - Lexus Chase - 1pt 12/1 - U/P

Hey Big Spender - Welsh National - 1pt 25/1 - U/P

Shantou Magic - Challow Hurdle - 1pt 6/1 - U/P

Morning Assembly - Topaz Novice Chase - 1pt 9/4 - 2nd

Cue Card - King George - 1pt 7/2 - 2nd

My Tent Or Yours - Christmas Hurdle - 1pt 5/4 - WON

Defy Logic - Racing Post Novice Chase - 1pt 6/1 - WON

Salubrious - Long Walk Hurdle - 1pt 9/1 - 2nd

Totalize - The Ladbroke - 1pt 9/1 - U/P

Ma Filleule - December Gold Cup - 1pt 20/1 - U/P

Prince De Beauchene - Hennessy Gold Cup - 1pt 16/1 - U/P

Grumeti - Fighting Fifth - 1pt e/w 10/1 - 3rd @ 9/1

Sizing Rio - Drinmore - 1pt 5/2 - U/P @ 3/1

Jezki - Hatton's Grace - 1pt Evens - WON

Roi Du Mee - Betfair Chase - 1pt e/w 20/1 - U/P

Ballynagour - Paddy Power Gold Cup - 1pt 8/1 - U/P

Gift Of Dgab - Paddy Power Gold Cup - 1pt 25/1 - U/P

Cash And Go - Greatwood Hurdle - 1pt 13/2 - U/P

Cotton Mill - Elite Hurdle - 1pt 6/1 - U/P

Cue Card - Haldon Gold Cup - 2pts 11/8 - U/P

Benefficient - Charlie Hall Chase - 1pt 9/1 - U/P

Sizing Europe - JNwine Champion Chase - 1pt 3/1 - 2nd