After Willie Mullins’ 5-time yesterday the Punchestown festival moves on to Day 4 where he has another set of strong chances, including Champion Hurdle victor Hurricane Fly. Here we take a look at the main races on Day 4 and pick out the best bets for the day
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5.30 – Radobank Champion Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m
HURRICANE FLY (4/11 with William Hill) has looked back to his best this year with 4 wins out of 4 including the Champion Hurdle last time out. He has won this race for the last 3 years and it is tough to see him beat. Rock On Ruby set a frantic gallop at Cheltenham and probably paid for that at the business end of the race, but his hopes of reversing that form would have hinged on the conditions being better than this. He will be less suited to the testing conditions than he was even at Cheltenham for example and with Hurricane Fly perfectly at home in soft ground he should confirm that form.
With just 7 runners there are only 2 each-way places available and so from a betting perspective it isn’t the greatest of races. Thousand Stars has been a little below-par this season and would most probably be suited by further than 2 miles, whilst the rest have upwards of 15lb at least to find with the principles in order to feature. Of them SO YOUNG would appear to be the third string of the Mullins team after his average run in the World Hurdle last time out. He had previously won a Grade 2 event at Gowran Park over this distance in impressive fashion and with testing conditions a huge help to him, he could offer some each-way value in the market without the favourite
E/W Selection: SO YOUNG W/O FAV @ 8/1 with Paddy Power
6.05 – Tattersalls Ireland Champion Novice Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m4f
PONT ALEXANDRE (4/6 with Ladbrokes) was a high profile disappointment at Cheltenham after being backed as if defeat was out of the question beforehand. Looking back he may have been beaten by two very smart horses in The New One and Rule The World and whether Cheltenham suited him was up for debate. He will be much happier back on heavy ground around a track like Punchestown and with the Mullins yard firing in winners he can gain compensation here. Mullins will also saddle Un Atout who ran well for a long way in the Supreme before a few late jumping errors saw him drop out of contention. He wears a tongue tie for the first time and the step up in trip ought to suit him. He is a real chaser in the making and anything he does here will be a bonus.
Ubak was a shock winner at Aintree when he ran away with the Grade 2 event and as impressive as that was it was probably not the strongest race on paper. He had previously been well beaten by Pont Alexandre at Aintree and will do well to follow up here
Selection: PONT ALEXANDRE @ 4/6 with Ladbrokes
6.40 – Star Best for Racing Coverage Novice Hurdle 2m
Much was expected of Waaheb over hurdles this season but he has failed to fire, winning once in four starts and beaten at ¼ last time out. His 2nd to Jezki at Christmas is smart form but he subsequently fell in the Royal Bond and he didn’t seem to be over that on his latest start. Capable performer but needs to bounce back and in these testing conditions looks a risk at around 2/1. UN DE SCEAUX (7/4 with Betfred) has had just the one start for Willie Mullins when winning impressively at this track, beating two next time out winners readily. He won two bumpers in France in facile fashion and looks to be a nice prospect. This represents a step up in class but conditions will suit and everything he has done so far suggests he can take it in his stride
Moscow Mannon finished 4th in the Cheltenham Bumper last season but hasn’t quite taken that form forward. He was well beaten in a Grade 2 event at Naas and ran respectably enough to finish 3rd in a Listed contest last time out. More required to take this and likely to be fighting it out once more with Clonbanan Lad for the minor places.
Selection: UN DE SCEAUX @ 7/4 with Betfred
WIN TREBLE: HURRICANE FLY, PONT ALEXANDRE and UN DE SCEAUX @ 5.72/1 with Ladbrokes
7.45 – Racing Post Champion Hunters Chase (Grade 1) 3m1f
OSCAR DELTA (6/4 with Sky Bet) looked all set to win the Hunter Chase at Cheltenham before jinking on the run in and unseating his rider, handing the race to reigning champion Salsify. Salsify had previously beaten Oscar Delta three times, losing once when falling, and by 53L at Leopardstown in February but had no answer for him until the unfortunate mishap from his rival. The rain will be in favour of Oscar Delta who will be more suited to a slog as shown at Cheltenham when stamina appeared to be the difference between them. Salsify was all out to win this contest back in 2011 and if Oscar Delta turns up in his Cheltenham form he may need a career best to take this. It is an intriguing clash and with conditions likely to be testing the nod is narrowly given to Oscar Delta to makeup for his unfortunate defeat at Cheltenham.
Western Charmer is an interesting contender on his hunter chase debut after winning a point to point race last month. He has a chase victory over Uncle Junior to his name and a Grade 1 second behind Quito De La Roque. He is another for whom testing conditions are perhaps not ideal but he certainly has the class to get involved
Selection: OSCAR DELTA @ 6/4 with Sky Bet
During the Punchestown Festival, Bet Victor are offering a brilliant money back special. If your selection finishes 2nd to a Willie Mullins-trained winner they will refund your losing win stake up to £25 as a free bet! Open a Bet Victor account here
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