Matt Tombs / Wednesday 30th April 2014 / 09:30
It wasn’t a great opening days punting, but it was a fantastic days racing, with Sizing Europe bringing the house down and Faugheen looking ever more the monster. The ground looked to be riding genuinely good, (there were a few, like Djakadam, taken out because it was deemed too quick.)
The big race on the second day is the Punchestown Gold Cup (3m1f). Much is made of the bad record of horses who run again that season after a hard race in the Gold Cup, but Sir Des Champs won this last year after walking over the line in the Gold Cup, and Silviniaco Conti won the Bowl at Aintree this year – so it can be done.
On His Own (7/2) was an unlucky 2nd in a bizarre finish to the Gold Cup and in theory that sets the standard here. However, if he’d split Lord Windermere and The Giant Bolster in a close finish anywhere else, it would be regarded as well below Grade 1 form. There are bad Gold Cups and time my show this was one. Given that and the fact he needs to bounce back from a hard race, I’m keen to oppose him with Ruby having passed him over.
Boston Bob (3/1) is a horse I’ve always liked and he was very much one that got away in the Melling Chase. He’s stepped up here to the trip that the perceived wisdom says will suit ideally. He’s fresh after a light campaign and I think he’s the right favourite. However, he isn’t much shorter in my book and so whilst I wouldn’t put anyone off, I’m not keen to pile into him at a short price.
Long Run (9/1) would have lapped these in his pomp but he’s looked on the downgrade this season and there’s a big question mark over whether he’ll have the toe on good ground to go with them now. He would come into it if there was a lot of rain.
The two I like at the prices are Lyreen Legend and Argocat. Argocat (10/1) ran a blinder behind Silviniaco Conti and Dynaste at Aintree, (beaten 3l) and I don’t think that was a fluke. Quite how he’s 10/1 and First Lieutenant (¾l behind him at Aintree, now 1/13 in Grade 1 chases and a doubtful stayer) is 6/1 is a mystery. Argocat is a progressive 6 year old who likes a sound surface and for whom Tom Taaffe was talking of the King George before he got injured at Down Royal in the autumn. That said, horses off the flat have a terrible record in open Grade 1 chases, especially over 3m+, (Kempes is the only one that springs to mind in recent years.)
The selection is therefore Lyreen Legend (6/1) who took a while to come to hand this season, reportedly well short of peak fitness in the Lexus and again needing the run in the Irish Hennessy. He travelled really well into the straight in the Gold Cup and, with several of the others going sideways close home, its been overlooked that he belted 2 out, losing all momentum, but was only beaten 6¾l.
It might be stamina was an issue and, if so, he’s got 1½f less far to travel here - but I suspect he would have been in the mix had he jumped 2 out cleanly. He wouldn’t have had as a hard a race as On His Own there, but he does have that post Gold Cup question mark. However, having had only 2 runs before then, he should be fresher than most and I think should be challenging for favouritism.
Those that like a big price on these sorts of end of season races, (3 of the last 4 winners of this have gone off at 20/1, 20/1 & 14/1), could do worse than Foildubh (40/1). He’s miles better on good ground, (gave 10lb to Rubi Ball and beat him over hurdles in November on good,) and shapes as if he wants a real trip nowadays. He’s not the no-hoper his odds imply.
1pt Lyreen Legend to win the Punchestown Gold Cup (5.30) @ 6/1
The 3m Grade 1 novice hurdle has been a minefield recently for punters with the last 3 winners going in at 14/1, 12/1 and 33/1. It’s hard in all divisions to work out which horses are over the top at this stage of the season, but particularly so in novice hurdles. Finding a horse that’s been laid out for this is as much a part of finding the winner as evaluating the form.
Very Wood (9/2) sprang a surprise when a 33/1 winner of the Albert Bartlett. He clearly improved hugely for the step up in trip to 3m and the application of cheekpieces, and was a decisive winner in the end. Stamina looks very much his forte and he’ll be jumping fences in the autumn but he’s a surprisingly big price for a Festival winner, and 9/2 is tempting. Apache Jack (10/1) was 4½l 3rd in the Albert Bartlett, (he was also having his first try at 3m), and there doesn’t look an obvious reason why he should turn the tables.
Beat That (2/1) beat Albert Bartlett 4th Champagne West 10l, (closely matched with Very Wood if that’s taken literally,) in a 2½m maiden at Ascot over 2m4f in November, before throwing away a Grade 2 at Sandown with a bad mistake at the last. He was visually impressive in the Sefton, and the front two pulled miles clear of good horses, (155 rated Seeyouatmidnight beaten 29l in 3rd.) He’s also seen as a chaser for next season and how hard trained he’ll be for this, having had a tough race at Aintree, is open to question. He looks a cracking long term prospect but I couldn’t recommend backing him at 2/1 here.
Don Poli (9/4) won the conditionals race at the Festival off 143. He was apparently run off his feet there early on, (over an extended 2m4f), before his stamina kicked in and he won going away. This longer trip obviously looks likely to suit and he has fair claims. However, it was just a handicap, (with an effective weight range of only 16lb,) that he won at the Festival - and he’s taking on the two Grade 1 winners from Cheltenham and Aintree, so whether he should be as short as he is, is debatable.
Lots Of Memories (12/1) looked a decent prospect in the autumn – winning a Grade 3 at Cork over 3m easily. He disappointed after that, (often on bad ground that doesn’t suit,) before bouncing back after a near 4 month break when hosing up in a valuable 3m handicap at Fairyhouse off 129 recently. That obviously gives him plenty more to find but he comes here in good form and has each-way claims.
Given the propensity for shocks in this, Shanahan’s Turn (33/1) is interesting. He chased home useful types Mr Fiftyone and Gilt Shadow over 2m on his first two runs under rules. Stepped up to 2½m, he won well at Leopardstown at Christmas. He didn’t run again until the Neptune where he travelled really well but looked to get done for toe, (didn’t get a clear run,) in the straight.
His only run over 3m was in a point where he was an impressive winner by a distance, (from a subsequent winner.) His breeding suggests he may want a trip and whilst he’ll come into his own as a chaser next season, he looks just the type to spring an end of season surprise in a race like this. If he settles he might just continue a fairytale week for Sizing Europe’s connections. He’s a huge price and great each-way value.
1pt Shanahan’s Turn each-way in the Irish Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle (4.55) @ 33/1