PUNCHESTOWN DAY ONE PREVIEW
I’ll miss riding at the Punchestown Festival this week. It’s a pity to miss it, it’s always a great meeting.
On the positive side, I am making good progress, the swelling is coming down in my arm. My back was giving me a little bit of trouble; I broke a wing of a vertebrae down low. It’s usually not that sore, but it was just where it was, there was a lot of muscle around it. It has improved a lot over the last few days though thankfully. I’m getting there.
I had a similar injury last year and it was 11 weeks before I was back, so I’m looking at a similar timescale now.
The quality of racing on Tuesday is very good. I would have been riding Anibale Fly in the Grade 1 Growise Champion Novice Chase (6.40), and he is not without a chance. He has run two disappointing races this season, but one of those was at Kempton over Christmas when he just couldn’t get into a rhythm, and the other was in the Ten Up Novice Chase at Navan last time on heavy ground.
His other three runs over fences have been good, he won his beginners’ chase at Navan, he finished second behind Coney Island in the Drinmore Chase, and he won a Grade 3 chase at Naas.
Also, he won a valuable handicap hurdle at this meeting last year, and that is always a positive.
Disko sets a high standard. He won the Flogas Chase at Leopardstown in February, beating last Monday’s Irish National winner Our Duke, and he ran well to finish third behind Yorkhill in the JLT Novices' Chase at Cheltenham. A Toi Phil, Alpha Des Obeaux and Acapella Bourgeois also have chances. It’s a good race.
I probably would have ridden Roconga in the two-mile Killashee Handicap Hurdle (4.55). He hasn’t run over hurdles since he won at Killarney last August, but he won a handicap on the flat at Fairyhouse last September, and he kept on well to win a 10-furlong handicap at Cork last Saturday week.
It looks like he has improved on the flat and, if he can transfer that improvement back to hurdles, he should run a good race.
My initial thinking was the Un De Sceaux might be vulnerable in the BoyleSports Champion Chase (5.30), dropping back down to two miles and on goodish ground. He saw out two miles and five furlongs well to win the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham.
However, God’s Own was disappointing at Aintree. He does go well at Punchestown, I won the Ryanair Novice Chase at this meeting on him three years ago, and he beat Vautour in this race last year, but he also goes well at Aintree, and his run there was disappointing.
Fox Norton is the other main alternative, and he was very good at Aintree, but he has been to Cheltenham and to Aintree, and now on to Punchestown. It’s difficult to do all three.
Un De Sceaux skipped Aintee, he will have had a nice break since Cheltenham, and he is the one they all have to beat.
It looks like other Grade 1 race on the day, the Herald Champion Novice Hurdle (4.20), is between Labaik and Melon, the first two home in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.
The big worry about Labaik is whether or not he will start. He started okay at Cheltenham, but the assistant starter stands behind you in Britain with a long tom, and that may have helped Labaik. He effectively refused to race in his previous three races.
There is no doubting his talent, he was very good at Cheltenham, and it may be that he enjoyed the experience of winning Cheltenham, and that he will jump off with them no problem at Punchestown. Even if he does not give away ground at the start though, he still may not confirm placings with Melon.
Melon was beaten just over two lengths by Labaik at Cheltenham, and that was just his second ever run over hurdles. It was a massive run for such an inexperienced horse.
It will be very interesting between the two of them again, but Melon might just have the edge this time.