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 4 fancies.
This looks hugely competitive. Hardline went off favourite for the Arkle but can race lazily and can’t afford that off top weight in this competitive handicap. Real Steel will have to prove very good off his mark but a right-handed track suits him best but he might not be able to give weight to some of these. De Name Escapes Me will prove better at this trip but he can be hard to get right over fences but on a going day he could prove up to his lenient mark. Louis Vac Pouch is an improving chaser and has form in big field staying handicap hurdles and could be an interesting candidate. Scoir Mear was the outsider in the betting when winning at Navan last time but he’s hard to trust but could reward at a big each-way price. Slightest of preferences in a wide-open heat is for POKER PARTY who looks highly progressive and is hat-trick seeking with Rachael Blackmore aboard. The horse skipped Cheltenham when weighted to go close in a race won by his stable companion A Plus Tard, that indictment could suggest he’s up to progressing further and taking the honours in this.
ASK SUSAN has been backed like defeat is out of the question in a competitive Mares Handicap. Barra rates a big danger and likely each-way player whilst Moyhenna would have big claims if her sometimes suspect jumping can hold up. Preference is for Willie Mullins mare who looks very well treated and with market support rife.
APPLES JADE is taken to bounce back after a valiant defeat at Aintree. The high-class mare has had a long and busy season but her style of running could be hard to peg back on this track and the suggestion is she is better right-handed. Buveur D’Air is an obvious danger but things haven’t clicked for him this season. Don’t rule out Supasundae who loves to spoil, but Apples Jade has his measure based on earlier runnings this season. The others are hard to trust in this company.
City Island is rightfully a short-priced favourite after having an unbelievable season and winning very impressively against some of these at Cheltenham. Champ has boosted the form since and Martin Brassil’s horse is the one to beat. Reserve Tank has progressed hugely and deserves his spot but this is a tough race. Royal Rendezvous could be the biggest danger of the respected Mullins quintet as he is lightly raced and could be open to any amount of improvement. Tornado Flyer could also bounce back after his flop last time in a race won by BATTLEOVERDOYEN who is given another chance after an abject run last time. He clearly didn’t travel but horses aren’t machines and some don’t handle Cheltenham and he was unbeaten before that and favourite for the race won by City Island. He’s at a good each-way price now as the favourite seems short enough for the quality of this field.
Burning Ambition looked to be coming to win the Foxhunters Chase but finished a tad disappointingly. Up in trip he could be vulnerable with his stamina but is respected. Ucello Conti was fortunate to win last time, has had a busy season and a poor strike-rate overall but certainly has each-way claims. Caid Du Berlais was an emphatic winner of this last year and is hugely respected. Preference is for STAND UP AND FIGHT who was ante-post favourite at Cheltenham and ran well despite his inexperience. He is the choice of Derek O’Connor and at this trip he has fair claims.
Breaken showed a great engine in a romping success last time despite some errors in his jumping. If showing necessary improvement he’s the one to beat and the market speaks hugely in his favour. Cash Back had a great run last time behind Mister Blue Sky who ran a cracker behind Klassical Dream earlier this week and must have decent claims. But both have to give 8lb to GARDENS OF BABYLON who is one of the star 4yo Hurdlers this term and was unlucky in defeat last time. He finished 3rd in the Triumph Hurdle and has plenty of experience. He’s had a busy season but in receipt of weight and with an experience edge he looks the value to me.
NAP : APPLES JADE
NB: ASK SUSAN