A nice start to the Punchestown Festival with Gods Own winning the Boylesports Champion Chase beating Vautour fair and square this time. Vautour looked a little flat and connections said he may be run over further next year. Southfield Royale ran OK until 3 out and then seemed to go out like a light and I am surprised Paul Townend even made him finish the race off and didn't pull him up.
We should have ended up with a nice profit on Gods Own but there was only 7 runners and we did say no bet if less than 8 runners
So onto business..
The team at Cleeve
4.55 Punchestown Irish Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle
Top 3 Rated:
2) Coney Island
3) Acapella Bourgeois
Top rated Bellshill ran well for us at Aintree having been heavily backed from 10/1 into 11/2. He was absolutely cruising coming to the last and then made a total mess of the final hurdle, which knocked the stuffing out of him and he was beaten in the final stages.
Acapella Bourgeois looks as though he will stay three miles but has yet to run further than two and a half miles. The doubt about getting the extra half mile and his price made me look elsewhere for better value.
Other challengers in this competitive hurdle are Gangster and Emerging Force but both have had tough campaigns and may need a break at this stage.
Coney Island is unexposed and improving and won well when stepped up to three miles for the first time last time. He does need to improve again probably by about 8 pounds to beat Bellshill; however he is improving and has proven his capability at the distance. His price of about 8/1 does give us scope to play each way and he will hopefully go well for Barry Geraghty who won on him last time.
5.30 Punchestown Bibby Financial Services Ireland Punchestown Gold Cup
Top 3 Rated:
1) Cue Card
2) Carlingford Lough
3) Road to Riches
What a shame that Don Cossack has had to be withdraw from this clash with Cue Card due to injury and hopefully he will make a speedy recovery.
Road to Riches was tempting each way but with only seven runners he is not worth the risk with some top class horses running.
Don Poli and Djakadam will no doubt go well again but both could do with rain to show their best and offer no value.
Carlingford Lough could also do with rain and will come with a late flourish as usual, but is unlikely to get anywhere close to Cue Card.
Cue Card has had a wonderful season with his fall in the Gold Cup the only blip. It would have been superb to see him go toe to toe with Don Cossack, but with him missing should have no problem winning here. At around 4/7 he is not a betting proposition for us, so just sit back and enjoy the race.
6.40 Punchestown Guinness Handicap Chase
Top 4 Rated:
1) Captain Conan,
3) Irish Cavalier
3) Pairofbrowneyes (joint third)
I ruled out both Turban and Irish Cavalier due to their high weights although Jonathan Moore’s 5 pounds allowance will help the latter and I can see him challenging for a place.
Pairofbrowneyes was initially going to be the selection here as I think he has improved with every run and could still be well handicapped over fences. He won a Grade B chase last time and has scope to improve again, but his winning form is all on soft or heavy ground and this just might be too quick for him.
There are several tough handicappers in this which makes it very competitive – Ted Veale, Killer Crow and Rogue Trader, but all have question marks against them.
The probable favourite is Colms Dream which has had four wins in his last six races with the other two being falls. His wins have been at a lower level, but he has won at Punchestown two from two. I am concerned that his jumping may suffer at the quicker pace of this better race. In a big field race his price is fairly tight, so I have looked elsewhere.
Captain Conan has not won for three years, but has low mileage on the clock after having injury problems. His form on his return this season has not set the world alight, but he has been running in the best of company. He is a multiple Grade 1 winner running for the first time in a handicap and I am sure that Nicky Henderson has not sent him here just for a holiday. What grabbed my attention is the fact that Barry Geraghty is riding Captain Conan rather than Rogue Trader for his retainer JP McManus. This sends me a signal that Captain Conan is back to somewhere near his old form and should give us a good run at big odds.