Our horse racing expert Andy Holding has four tips for day two of the Punchestown Festival.
ISOTOPE (best price 22-1) shaped like a horse who wanted a trip beyond the minimum at Fairyhouse last time out and at the morning odds, he’s worth a small interest to see whether he can back up that theory.
Sixth in the Irish Cesarewitch, it’s been a surprise in many respect that Joseph O’Brien’s gelding has been able to be competitive over two miles over hurdles, but by and large that has been the case. A winner over the minimum trip around Wexford’s tight track back in September, the son of Footstepsinthesand hasn’t managed to add to that tally in four subsequent starts but his performance at the Co Meath venue suggested he isn’t too far reversing that trend. A long way off the pace with half a mile to run 23 days ago, the five-year-old stayed on best of all to finish fourth in an ultra-competitive handicap and with the time figure of the race very good for the grade, his effort has to go down as one of his best yet. Clearly suited to the better ground that day and from a yard in excellent form, he has bright prospects of outrunning his odds.
DECIMATION (best price 9-4) rates a clear standout based on all his performances this season, including most notably in a Grade 2 at Fairyhouse last time out, and a repeat of a similar level of form should easily be good enough for Henry De Bromhead’s gelding to gain due reward for his consistency.
Runner-up to the likes of Irascible and Wide Receiver in a couple of hot maiden hurdles earlier this season, Henry De Bromhead’s gelding finally got off the mark in much calmer waters at Down Royal two starts ago and that performance prompted connections to make the plunge into Graded company last time out. Although he went into that contest with a rating of just 128, the son of Milan covered himself with glory by making Ashdale Bob pull out all the stops in the final half a mile and with previous Grade 1 runner-up, Gentlemansgame, way back in third, the form looks very solid. Obviously, there’s always a chance that a hard race such as that may have left some sort of mark, but being as it was only his second race since the turn of the year, hopefully he will be capable of running to something close to his best.
CROSSHILL (best price 14-1) may have a bit to find based on official ratings, but he does have a victory over Vanillier next to his name from earlier in the season and having also run right up to his best form on his latest outing at Fairyhouse, Jessica Harrington’s gelding makes plenty of each-way appeal.
Beaten when falling at the last on his only other previous foray in Grade 1 company, the son of Sholokhov has improved immeasurably since and his latest performance at the Co Meath suggests three miles is where he belongs. Although it was only a handicap, the final of the EBF series rates a serious test of a horse’s stamina and having come through the examination under top weight, he thoroughly deserves his place back at the very top table. Whether he can confirm previous form with Vanillier, who has clearly improved since, or prove good enough to beat other Cheltenham winner, Galopin Des Champs is open to question, but either way, with the dead eight runners going to post, he’s worth a small each-way interest at the morning odds to find out.
Grandee, having finished sixth in the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham against the boys understandably a warm order back against her own sex, but whether she’s an odds-on shot remains to be seen and there may be better value to found elsewhere in the shape of MANISANDA (best price 9-1).
Although Lorna Fowler’s mare lacks the experience of many of her rivals, in chasing home one of the best bumper horse in Ireland in the shape of Letsbeclearaboutit (form ties in with Sir Gerhard and Kilcruit), it’s easy to make the case for her having one of the best pieces of form coming into this contest. Settled towards the rear at the Co Meath track, the daughter of Presenting had little trouble going the strong pace set by the short-priced favourite and she managed to maintain tabs on the big two in the market all the way to the line despite the unrelenting gallop. Posting a significantly high speed figure on her debut, she shouldn’t have too much to fear now stepping into Graded company, and hailing from a yard who produced Colonel Mustard to run way above his station here yesterday, confidence is high this well-built mare can go equally as well for her Summerhill handler.