Charlie McCann of BetVictor.com picks out a few for Punchestown and Perth
The feature race on Day two of the Punchestown Festival is the Gold Cup, which sees two Cheltenham Gold Cup winners going face-to-face including Sizing John (5.30) last month’s fluent champion of the Blue Riband event of British racing.
Sizing John is Evens at BetVictor and that looks a very fair price given he travelled like much the best horse at Cheltenham and quickly put the race to bed between the last couple of fences. This slight drop back in trip is not a concern or the switch to a right-handed track. He has looked the real deal since being stepped up in trip for his last couple of starts and jockey Robbie Power and trainer Jessica Harrington are currently carrying all before them.
The 2015 Gold Cup winner Coneygree (5/1 with BetVictor) is the sole British raider but he has only raced once since November 2015 and he was no match for Cue Card on that occasion at Haydock. He didn’t exactly impress in a recent racecourse gallop and is entitled to be a bit ring-rusty – he cannot afford to be in this company.
The extended 3m trip is much more to the liking of Djakadam who finished fourth at Cheltenham but jumped and travelled like the second best horse for much of the contest. He has never won a Grade 1 over three miles, however, and the suggestion is he will be running in the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham next March. At 3/1, he will have his supporters although I do think that Champagne West will be better served back on a right-handed track – that said Sizing John will have the race run to suit and is the best horse in the race.
The Grade 1 Novice Hurdle over 3 miles is another high-quality event with the 1-2 from the Albert Bartlett Penhill and Monalee meeting another Festival winner Presenting Percy (4.55) whose winning time was half a second quicker than Penhill’s carrying 6lbs more.
The selection is 11/4 with BetVictor and I am loath to desert Penhill who did us a 16/1 favour at Cheltenham but I feel Presenting Percy scored with plenty in hand at Cheltenham and he gets a narrow vote. Both Monalee and the selection could go to the very top over fences next season but I give the vote to the Pat Kelly runner in one of the races of the Festival.
Only seven go to post for the Champion Bumper including the Cheltenham winner Fayonagh who came from last to first to win going away. He obviously doesn’t show a great deal at home as he has been returned 7/1 for both wins since joining the Gordon Elliot yard but he certainly gives his all when reaching the track and has the best form in the book.
It is also the first day of Perth’s three-day April meeting and Cultram Abbey (3.35) had his race in safe keeping at Carlisle last time only to come a cropper at the last. The handicapper has raised him 4lbs for that effort and he is reluctantly overlooked in favour of A Good Skin (3.35) who is blinkered for the first time.
The selection hasn’t won for a couple of years but did finish runner up to Cause Of Causes in the Kim Muir last March from a 7lbs higher mark and he is undeniably well-treated on his best form. The selection has raced exclusively at Cheltenham since running a good race at Ascot back in October (8lbs higher mark) and this flat right-hand track should suit.
A market move for Baysbrown on his chase debut for Nicky Richards would be significant but Lord Ballim (4.40) must be followed until meeting with defeat such was the manner of his Carlisle success (2m 4f) last time. The selection has won his last three starts at Carlisle in the manner of a much-improved horse and he didn’t have to fence with great fluency to score readily from a well-treated rival last time from a 9lbs lower mark.
The step up in trip is no concern and if Ciaran Gethings can get him into a nice rhythm, he can land the four-timer.
I was surprised by the ease with which Great Fighter (5.10) in his first-time visor put Azzurri to bed at Ayr on Friday and, if the headgear works the oracle again, he will be tough to beat despite carrying a 7lbs penalty.
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