Horse racing tips and advice for the best bets on Day 1 of the Punchestown Festival.
The UK jumps season may be over, but across the Irish Sea, things are just beginning to sparkle, with the five day Punchestown Festival about to get underway. For many trainers this is the highlight of their year, and the meeting certainly looks to have attracted some of the best horses in training. The Festival gets underway in spectacular fashion with three Grade 1 races on the first day!
Cheltenham’s Neptune Novices’ Hurdle winner FAUGHEEN (8/11 Betfred) seems to be the banker of the day, heading a field of eight in the first Grade 1 of the day – the Herald Champion Novice Hurdle. Trainer Willie Mullins has caught a few off guard by dropping this six year-old back in trip to 2m as opposed to running the mightily impressive Vautour in the race. Mullins hopes this trip might see the horse jump better and, although he doesn’t appeal at his price, I can’t see him being beaten.
The second Grade 1 of the day is the Boylesports.com Champion Chase where 10 head to post. Of those runners, four ran in Cheltenham’s equivalent – Somersby (5/1 Betfred) finished second, Module (11/2 Coral) a neck behind in third, Sizing Europe (10/1 bet365) back in fourth, and Baily Green (8/1 Ladbrokes) who was travelling fine when falling two out. Each one demands respect but look likely to struggle against HIDDEN CYCLONE (9/2 William Hill). Last time out he finished runner up to Dynaste in the Ryanair at Cheltenham, where the winner arguably ran the race of his career. Back to a preferable 2m trip he could well prove a difficult horse to beat. His second place finish behind Sire De Grugy at Ascot was an eye-catching run, and although he was never on terms with the winner, he made everything else in the race look no better than average. Although he is a Grade 1 bridesmaid, having finished runner-up on a number of occasions, he looks to have conditions to suit and should give a bold show.
The Growise Champion Novice Chase completes the list of Grade 1 contests on the opening day of the Festival. Willie Mullins is represented by a pair of runners – Ballycasey (11/2 SkyBet) and Djakadam (11/4 Ladbrokes). The latter is the pick of Ruby Walsh and had solid form prior to falling last timeout in the JLT Novice Chase at Cheltenham. Ballycasey is another vulnerable to a fall, both in a schooling session and in the Powers Gold Cup. Both have something to prove in the jumping department so neither can be backed with total confidence. Of the others, although DON COSSACK (6/1 Coral) has been beaten by both Morning Assembly (3/1 SkyBet) and Carlingford Lough (6/1 William Hill) this season, I can’t help but be swayed in his direction for this race. There isn’t much between these three horses but, man of the moment, Barry Geraghty picks up the plum ride on Don Cossack, and that can only be a good thing for the horses chances. He’ll attempt to make it third time lucky at a major festival this season, having been an unlucky faller in the RSA, and a runner-up to Holywell in Aintree’s Mildmay Chase. He seems in great form and he won’t mind the drying ground either. For me, he is the value bet in the race.
4.20pm – FAUGHEEN (WIN) (8/11 Betfred)
5.50pm – HIDDEN CYCLONE (WIN) (NAP) (9/2 William Hill)
6.40pm – DON COSSACK (WIN) (6/1 Coral)
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