Three tips from Andy Holding including a 2pt NAP at Punchestown.
A PLUS TARD (NAP) (best price 11-8) isn’t your archetypal Henry De Bromhead novice chaser in terms of physique, but he appears to have as much ability as several of his previous stars in this category and following a smooth success over a useful field at Naas last time out, the youngster is strongly fancied to take the step up in grade in his stride.
Brought over from the French provinces, the son of Kapgarde made a pleasing start to his career from his new surroundings when runner-up to the useful Dr Mikey at Gowran and given that was off the back of a 233-day break, huge improvement was expected on his latest outing.
In a well-run affair at the Co Kildare venue, the five-year-old jumped immaculately before going on outstay the well-backed Duc De Geneivres, and with the form of that race boosted by the likes of Ministerofsport and Midnight stroll since, it would be a shade disappointing if he couldn’t build on that excellent performance 26 days and perhaps allow connections to start thinking about dusting down their tweed suits for Cheltenham.
VIVERNUS (best price 2-1) and Azari are closely matched based on their recent overall speed figures, but the former gains the vote on account on his slightly faster circuit time he achieved when scoring here last time out. On just his second start on the fibresand surface, Adrian Nicholls’ gelding impressed by the manner of how easily he travelled off the back of a strong pace set by front-running Saryshagann and once sent to the front rounding the home turn, he sprinted clear down the straight to record a facile and wide-margin success.
Sometimes there’s a degree of suspicion attached to performances of that nature, but the fact that the well-fancied and previous easy winner Country ‘N’ Western simply couldn’t go the pace and was ultimately well beaten suggested there was no fluke about the result.
Clearly well suited by a sound gallop, the son of Street Cry should get what he requires to be at his best with main market rivals Azari and Mixboy both likely to go off quite hard and providing he can slipstream the pair around the inner and save a bit of energy, he can come home strongest of all in the latter stages.
Willie Mullins has dominated this Grade 2 prize for the past decade and of the two strong contenders the Co Carlow handler sends to post BUILDMEUPBUTTERCUP (best price 5-2) is given the vote to make it eight wins from the last ten years. Formerly with Mick Channon on the Flat, the daughter of Sixties Icon made a pleasing start to life in her new surroundings when landing a maiden hurdle at Navan back in December and although the winning margin of half-a-length suggested it was a close call, she left the impression she was a good deal more superior.
The way she travelled off the strong pace before quickening into an unassailable lead approaching the last said a lot about her natural ability and with the form well-advertised by the likes of Éclair De Beaufeu, Young Ted and Envious Editor since, the lightly-raced five-year-old can at least open up the possibilities of a Cheltenham Festival raid in what on paper looks a below-par renewal.