Andy Holding has three tips for today's racing including a NAP at Punchestown.
DINOBLUE (NAP) (best price 2-1) ran a good deal better than she did at Cheltenham last time out at Fairyhouse and today’s race, not the strongest by any means in terms of quality, looks well within her threshold based on her pure ability.
Extremely impressive both on the eye and on the clock when making a winning racecourse debut at Clonmel in January, connections clearly felt they’d seen enough in order to send her to Cheltenham without any further experience, but as it turned out, her lack of knowledge proved costly and she ended up running well below expectations. The main aspect of that poor performance that day derives from how she was ridden, ultimately far too keen towards the head of affairs, so it came as little surprise to see her given more of a chance to see out her race better at the Co Meath venue nine days ago. Settling much better towards the rear of the field, the daughter of Doctor Dino came through quite strongly in the final half a mile and although she didn’t manage to offer any real threat to the main players, a staying-on fourth would have no doubt delighted all concerned. Moreover, that display easily represents the best Grade 1 form line coming into today’s contest and hailing from a stable that has landed this prize five times in the last eight years, Willie Mullins’ mare is fancied to maintain the tradition.
ARDLA (best price 5-1) hasn’t run since finishing an honourable third behind subsequent Martin Pipe hero Banbridge at Navan, but the fact that he arrives here fresher than most after a break might turn out to be a blessing in disguise and Michael Halford’s gelding is fancied to provide his better-known Flat trainer with a rare winner at this fixture.
A winner of a bumper on debut at today’s track back in September 2020, the son of Delegator wasn’t quite up to the standard of Grade 1 company on his return visit at this meeting last year, but his exploits over hurdles subsequently suggest he’s ready to put up a better show twelve months on. A game runner-up to subsequent Lawlor’s Of Naas runner-up, Grand Jury, over today’s C&D in the early part of the season, the seven-year-old went on to deservedly shed his maiden tag at the next time of asking at Navan. Returning to the Co Meath venue a month later, he was very strong in the market to get the better of several improving sorts and although he came up a little short of the day, the time figure of the race and subsequent exploits of those involved suggested he produced a better performance than it appeared at the time. Indeed, considering he was only beaten two lengths by the 143-rated Banbridge, he looks to have done well with an opening mark of 125 and, with today’s ground on a track he clearly likes two another major positives in his direction, it would come as something of a disappointment if he didn’t have a huge say in the final argument.
SMILING SUNFLOWER (best price 9-4) has switched stable since she received a diabolical passage through at Chelmsford back in November and she rates more than an interesting contender in this concluding sprint handicap.
Promising on her first four starts for John Best and Karen Jewell, the daughter of Fulbright was nicely backed in her bid to finally get off the mark at the Essex track on her final outing of the campaign and although the record books point out she only beat four horses home, the full story is only half-told. Noted going extremely easily turning for home, the three-year-old filly proceeded to run into a wall of horses all the way down the straight and with her jockey then finally accepting his winning chance had gone, he eased his mount right down in the closing stages. Where she would have finished with a clear run can be debated long into the night, but it’s fair to say she’s clearly a good bit better than the bare form indicates. Since then she has joined a new yard seemingly going places based on the early skirmishes on the season and with connections seeing fit to drop her down to the minimum trip, the hint they believe her to be an out-an-out sprinter should be heeded.