Updated 9.34 - all selections online.
National Hunt racing can be criticised – often justly – for the way in which top horses avoid each other but that hasn’t been the case in the early part of this winter with Sunday’s John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase (1:50) another example.
Min is odds-on for the Grade 1 over the two-and-a-half-mile trip, that seems his optimum these days but this is no penalty-kick and he’ll need to near his best to win with a couple of last season’s novices Real Steel and Hardline among this most interesting rivals.
This isn’t a race that makes major betting appeal though.
Minella Melody is a warm order in the Voler La Vedette Mares Novice Hurdle (Punchestown, 12:50) but MOUNT IDA is interesting in her own right and looks the main danger to the favourite, something the market doesn’t reflect.
She placed in a maiden hurdle last year before reverting to a bumper, an approach Gordon Elliott has used with a few of his good horses; No More Heroes and Sutton Place among them, and the one she beat easily back on the level won her next two starts.
The maiden hurdle she won at Galway in October wasn’t the strongest but the second did win next time and she jumped well, the two-mile trip looking on the sharp side. Up in distance here, she may be able to give the favourite a race.
THE DABBLER showed promise on occasion in maiden hurdles in 2018/19, chiefly at Punchestown and Navan around this time last year, forcing too strong a pace in latter race.
While he disappointed afterwards when switched to the Liam Cusack yard, there was enough in his last run to say he can be competitive off 113 in a race like the Carmel Colgan Memorial/Blackrock Insurance Supporting Kilmacud Crokes Handicap Hurdle (Punchestown, 1:20).
That Navan contest was his first outing since the previous April, and he raced keenly throughout but still had enough in the tank to finish fifth. The time-figure was good and three horses from it were involved in the finish of a similar race on Troytown day despite getting involved in a pace battle. With a run under his belt he may not be quite as fresh and can make his presence at this level.
The Kerry Group Hilly Way Chase (2:35) is the main attraction down at Cork but the same sponsor’s Irish EBF Mares Novice Chase (3:05) over the same course-and-distance is more appealing for a bet.
Sinoria might be the most natural two-miler of the field but trip preferences may not be quite as important in confined races like this (a theory supported by the recent winners of this race, many of whom were better over further) and AGUSTA GOLD looks overpriced.
A talented and consistent hurdler, she has taken well to fences and despite being ideally suited by a longer trip, handled the minimum distance well at Bangor when going down by a short-head in a race that was run in a good time.
Tony Keenan’s next tipping column will be on Saturday, December 14th.
Tony's Best Bets (scale 1-5 points):
1pt win MOUNT IDA (4-1 general)
1pt win THE DABBLER (12-1 bet365, 10-1 general)
0.5pt win AGUSTA GOLD (8-1 general)