For many, the jump season traditionally ends at Sandown. But for me, Punchestown is always a worthy end to the National Hunt season as we always see some spectacular races and performances throughout the festival. Cheltenham form doesn’t usually count for much at this meeting, so with all things considered, it’s time to look at Day 2 fancies for both Grade 1s
IRISH DAILY MIRROR NOVICE HURDLE
3mile Novice Hurdles are always difficult races to assess and certainly difficult races to have optimum confidence in, with regards to one selection! Minella Indo was very impressive at Cheltenham and won with lots in hand, but Albert Bartlett winners have patchy records after winning and with Cheltenham form not always the best angle I’m going to overlook this worthy favourite.
Allaho looks a very bright prospect but has work to do to reverse form with the favourite and still remains lightly raced. His optimum conditions and trip are also hard to determine at this stage so I’ll give him a swerve.
A tentative veer towards CAREFULLY SELECTED and hopefully, he lives up to my tentative vote here. A horse who hasn’t been seen much in the past but he’s got mountains of ability. He’s quite a stunner visually and won his only race over hurdles this year. He’s difficult to get right obviously but if connections run him then he interests me the most. He had won both his bumper starts (form of which has been fairly franked) and then was beaten a neck into 2nd in last years’ Champion Bumper at Cheltenham with a very gutsy performance. He was also a close-up 3rd from the front on this card last year in the Bumper and with his lightly-raced profile, he could still prove the best of these and with conditions to suit and with this a likely target, he’ll do for me!
PUNCHESTOWN GOLD CUP
A pretty good renewal and the winner is long odds-on to hail from the Willie Mullins camp. Bellshill won this narrowly last year and is very much a horse for a course! He’s 3/3 here and never runs his race at left-handed tracks seemingly. He won’t lose his unbeaten tag lightly and if all 8 run then he’s a cracking each-way bet with his record in this race and at this track.
Kemboy looks a huge danger and has made leaps of improvement in his jumping and overall chasing this term. With a huge engine and a pretty sweet traveller, this 7 year-old has been long since touted and is really starting to deliver and remains Ruby Walsh’s selection and must be given utmost respect.
But sometimes sport throws up synchronicities and ironies and therefore AL BOUM PHOTO is taken to land a Gold Cup double. With the episode of him running out at last years’ festival still fresh in my mind from my close-up view, I think it would be fitting for him to return to the scene of that much-debated incident last year and prove all doubters wrong. He is improving at a fast rate of knots and didn’t have too hard a race at the Gold Cup (early pace not prevalent + fences omitted) and he should still be fresh enough to land this. He’s marginally preferred of the Mullins trio due to his consistency and for my money, he jumps the best.
None of the others are fully discounted in an interesting renewal, but outside of the Mullins trio, Definitly Red could be a lively outsider on some of his best Chase form and if handling this track.