Punchestown Thursday Preview

Punchestown Thursday Preview

The Punchestown manager, Richie Galway, originally stated that the pre Festival watering would be sufficient – but it now appears as if watering will occur after each days racing. This followed comments from Willie Mullins on Tuesday which suggested he might withdraw some of his high profile runners later in the week if the ground got any quicker. Conditions looked pretty similar on the first two days but the real relevance is for Thursday’s racing. There’s rain forecast and if a material amount falls on watered ground, the going could be a lot slower than for the first two days.

The big race on the Thursday of the Punchestown Festival is the World Series Hurdle over 3m, which just edges out the equivalent race at Cheltenham for this season’s silliest title of a Grade 1 award.

It features the 2nd leg of what’s become the Quevega (11/10) spring double. For the last 4 years, she’s followed up her win in the calmer waters of the mares’ race at the Festival, by beating the Grade 1 geldings in this. This looks much more her trip nowadays and whilst I think she handles testing ground well, (heavy for her last two wins here), Willie Mullins has often said she wants a decent surface. The cotton wool tactics mean she always comes here a fresh horse and she’ll be tough to beat again.

At Fishers Cross (5/1) was strongly fancied by many for the World Hurdle at the start of the season. He was disappointing earlier in the season, plagued by jumping errors and back problems, but recovered his form to be a solid 6½l 3rd to More Of That in a strong World Hurdle and 1l 2nd to Whisper at Aintree.

He lost a shoe at Aintree early on and started jumping right, which wouldn’t have helped. Equally, he finished nearly 7l further in front of Zarkandar at Aintree than he did at Cheltenham, so it might be Whisper is just better than he’s been given credit for. Whilst it turned out to be the wrong decision to pass More Of That over for At Fishers Cross at Cheltenham, it’s indicative of how good Tony McCoy thinks At Fishers Cross is - and he’s been bullish about his chances here.

Fingal Bay (8/1) was described two seasons ago by Philip Hobbs as potentially the best he’s trained and he was well fancied for the Neptune before injury intervened. His novice chasing campaign the following season was also cut short by injury but he’s returned over hurdles this year to win both starts, the latter in the Pertemps Final off top weight, (148.) That form has been franked, (albeit mainly over fences,) and he’d have won more clearly but for flattening the last. He’s relatively fresh and is a class act so shouldn’t be underestimated here.

The rain hasn’t yet come for Bog Warrior (12/1) and whilst I think this fragile type just finds jumping hurdles easier than fences, I’d be surprised if he runs unless there is plenty of rain. If he does, it’s hard to know how much of his ability he retains after breaking down when clear and looking in command in last season’s World Hurdle. He did look good though when beating Baily Green over fences last time, (on his favoured heavy ground). If a lot of rain falls by post time, this may be one last chance for him to show how good he is.

The reality is that given Quevega has only run in a weak race so far this season, we just don’t know how much ability she retains. On lines of form with More Of That and Glen’s Melody from this season she has a lot to find with At Fishers Cross - but that was the case last season and she hosed up. She’s just been covered by Beat Hollow so this may be her last race and it would be great if she could go out on a high.

However, I don’t want to take 11/10 about a 10 year old mare, who scrambled home in a moderate event on her only run this season. At the prices it’s not easy to pick between At Fishers Cross and Fingal Bay. Fingal Bay is fresher which can count for a lot at this stage, but At Fishers Cross has come back to form this spring and is a clear pick on this season’s form.

1pt At Fishers Cross to win the World Series Hurdle (5.30) at 5/1

The Grade 1 novice chase over 2m brings together various formlines of the top novices. Balder Succes (11/4) missed Cheltenham and was fresh for Aintree where he was a good winner of the Grade 1 Maghull, (Trifolium 4½l behind in 3rd.) He jumped well there and showed lots of speed, having previously proved his stamina by winning the Pendil over 2½m at Kempton.

As Alan King says, fences look to have made a man of him, and the only real blemish on his record was at Sandown in December when the yard was about to shut down. Whilst he’s done particularly well on flat tracks, he’s looked to handle the undulations at Cheltenham and Ascot in the past and I’m not particularly worried about the course. He really looks to be on an upward curve and has strong claims here.

The Arkle form is represented by 2nd Champagne Fever (6/4) and 3rd Trifolium (7/1). With Trifolium just over 4l behind Champagne Fever at Cheltenham and Balder Succes at Aintree, you’d imagine his 2 conquerors ought to end up close together. However, I’m sweeter on Balder Succes who looked to win with a bit in hand at Aintree, whereas Champagne Fever was obviously all out when chinned in the Arkle. It’s hard to understand why Champagne Fever is favourite, let alone a short priced, clear favourite. That’s especially the case as he disappointed at this meeting last season when thrashed by Jezki.

Given that he stays well at the trip, I think Balder Succes is more likely to improve for the switch here from Aintree than Champagne Fever is for the switch from Cheltenham. I think the market has them the wrong way round.

The problem is that Willie Mullins has given Felix Yonger (8/1) the opportunity to show what he can do against the top 2m novices on what’s potentially good ground. I got stuck into him for the Arkle in the autumn after he beat subsequent Grade 1 winner Defy Logic at Punchestown and thrashed Arkle 3rd Trifolium at Navan. He got stuck in the mud on his next two runs and then didn’t look to get the trip in the JLT. It may be that he’s just not as good as I thought, but 2m on a sound surface looks ideal and he looks to have been underestimated.

Having put up Ted Veale (22/1) at both Cheltenham and Aintree only for his jumping to let him down, I can’t back him at the moment. He has the inherent class for this though and if he puts in a clear round he could belie those odds.

This race presents a difficult choice – between the horse I followed for 2m good ground novice chases all season (Felix Yonger) and the horse who has looked the real 2m novice star this spring (Balder Succes.) The ground is the key here and with more watering occurring and the possibility of rain, it could easily go against Felix Yonger, so Balder Succes gets the vote.

1pt Balder Succes to win the Ryanair Novice Chase (6.40) @ 11/4

As well as the Grade 1 novice chase over 2m, lovers of watching horses jump fences at speed can also enjoy the 2m handicap chase. This is a typically competitive event but I’ve been waiting to see Art Of Logistics (12/1) in a 2m handicap on decent ground.

I was surprised he ran in the 2½m novices handicap at the Festival (off 139) rather than the Grand Annual. He was backed into joint favouritism there but didn’t jump well enough and was never a factor. He’s been dropped 3lb to 136 and, back over 2m, if his jumping is back to what it was when winning here in the autumn, (admittedly in the calmer waters of a 5 runner novice), then he could be lobbed in off 136.

1pt Art Of Logistics to win the Three.ie Handicap Chase (4.15) @ 12/1

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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