Charlie McCann of BetVictor.com with Friday’s Punchestown best bets
There is no doubt who is the star attraction on Day Four of the Punchestown Festival with the unbeaten Samcro stepping out of novice company and back down in trip to two miles for the Champion Hurdle.
The form of his win in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle (2m 5f) at Cheltenham last month has been franked by the subsequent Grade 1 wins of runner up Black Op (Aintree) and third horse home Next Destination who landed the 3m Grade 1 Novice Hurdle earlier in the week.
The six-year-old is unbeaten in seven starts and has long been considered a future Gold Cup winner. It was expected that Gordon Elliiot’s star would go straight over fences next term, but if he impresses today he is likely to be aimed at the Champion Hurdle in March.
Samcro is 10/11 to win this afternoon and 8/1 to win hurdling’s Blue Riband event with BetVictor in March. He has won a Grade 1 over this trip at Leopardstown back in February when he travelled supremely well but I am not convinced he beat a great deal on that occasion and I am going to take him on with Melon (5.30).
The selection improved to finish second to Buveur D’Air in the Champion Hurdle when he was the subject of sustained market support and I would argue that form is the best two-mile form going in to today’s race. The selection is 9/4 at BetVictor and that might be the value – we know Samcro is an outstanding novice with a wonderful cruising speed but this will be a completely different examination.
Das Mooser (3.40) won the corresponding race 12 months ago and must carry a 5lbs penalty for that success but she looks sure to give a bold bid for a repeat from the front with the ex-Nicky Henderson inmate Alpha Male considered the danger.
It wasn’t Davy Russell’s finest hour when De Plotting Shed was caught close home by an 80/1 shot at Fairyhouse earlier in the month but he is reunited with Elliot’s 8-y-old today and must have every chance in the 2m 5f Novice Handicap. I have long been an admirer, however, of Willie Mullins’ Up For Review (4.20) and hope he can reward each way support.
Pallasator (6.05) is not the most fluent of jumpers but his hurdling is improving and this former Sir Mark Prescott trained stayer on the level will be fresher than most and can land the 2m 4f Novice.
The selection is 5/2 with BetVictor for a race were a number of the runners are having their second outing of the week including Delta Work who looks a big danger having finished second to Next Destination over 3m on Wednesday.
I hope to see Dubai Angel (2.05) get back to winning ways at Perth for Ruth Jefferson. The stable are reverting to hurdles with their seven-year-old who has run just twice this season over fences shaping with promise on both occasions. He is likely to be back over the larger obstacles soon, but the yard obviously want to preserve his novice chase status for next term.
The ITV cameras are at Sandown and I will be keeping a close eye on Almodovar returning from a 589-day absence for Roger Charlton. The horse has changed yards since being pulled up at Ayr on soft ground in September 2016 but his big-race entries later in the season suggest this six-year-old gelding has much more to offer. He is 16/1 at BetVictor and would have been the selection had the Charlton yard made a better start to the season.
You could also argue that the Stoute yard have pulled up few trees so far this term and that this 10f trip is on the sharp side for Crystal Ocean (2.25) but I am a big fan of the colt who ended his three-year-old campaign by finishing runner up in the St Leger. He obviously gets further but he is taken to land this 10f Group 3 contest – he is 5/4 at BetVictor.
There is heavy rain forecast for Sandown and Sevenna Star (3.00) can follow up his impressive 14L Windsor Maiden success for John Gosden despite the fact that he has the worst of the draw in stall nine – unless the field tack over to the stands’ side. The colt is 11/4 at BetVictor and 20/1 for the Derby.
Addeybb (3.35) ran away with the Lincoln on soft ground and cannot be opposed stepping up in class in the Group 2 Mile for William Haggas. The selection (15/8 at BetVictor) looked a Group horse at Doncaster but will have to be as a number of his rivals will also cope well with underfoot conditions underfoot conditions especially Here Comes When (13/2) who represents the biggest danger if the ground turns soft.
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