The Punchestown Festival continues on Wednesday with the feature race on Day 2 being the Punchestown Gold Cup. Here we take a look at the main races on Day 2 and pick out the best bets for the day
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4.55 – Irish Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle (Grade 1) 3m
BALLYCASEY (Evens with Bet Victor) was a leading fancy for the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham but was withdrawn from the race on the day of the race. As a result he ought to be a fresh horse for this time of year and although he is inexperienced a small field race like this should suit him well. A point to point winner he is a strong stayer and his main asset so far has been his jumping which was been very accurate and efficient. He is the choice of Ruby Walsh and a bold bid can be expected if he is over the abnormality he had before Cheltenham. Inish Island is a very capable second string for the Mullins team and he ran a great race at Cheltenham when a staying on 2nd behind At Fishers Cross. He will want a real test of stamina which isn’t guaranteed in this small field and having had a tough race at Cheltenham he might just not be quite as fresh as his stable-mate; holds strong form claims all the same
It would be a surprise where one of the two market principles not to win but Road To Riches has shown some ability this season despite his disappointing effort at Aintree last time out. Going into that race on the back of a break, he was struggling quite a long way from home and ended up well beaten. Needs to bounce back quickly from that disappointment but will surely prove better than his last run.
Selection: BALLYCASEY @ Evens with Bet Victor
5.30 – 17:30 Bet Online With Thetote.com Punchestown Gold Cup (Grade 1) 3m1f
The feature race of the day sees the 2nd, 3rd and 6th placed finishers in the Cheltenham Gold Cup pit their wits against each other alongside Aintree Grade 1 winner First Lieutenant. The Gigginstown team hold a strong hand here and First Lieutenant being considered the second string emphasises that. He found 2m5f too sharp at Cheltenham when 2nd behind Cue Card but looked far happier on better ground over 3 miles at Aintree. That does mean he has had an extra race than his rivals and he has done plenty of travelling of late too which may well start to take its toll. On form there is very little between him and Sir Des Champs with only half a length separating when they met in the Lexus Chase earlier in the season. Sir Des Champs has seemingly progressed with every run this season however and his 2nd to Bobs Worth in the Gold Cup was a career best run. His chances will hinge upon his jumping which can be sketchy on occasions but drying ground will help him and he will be looking to confirm the form with the Gold Cup 3rd Long Run. He ran a fair race in the Gold Cup too finishing 3rd after leading for a long way and the cheek-pieces worn that day are kept on here. It is debatable how much they helped him as he seemed a little free however it is perhaps a sign that they are going to try and lead again. He is an enigmatic performer and he has a remarkable record in Grade 1 races, not finishing outside the first 3 on any of his starts in them; however there is a suspicion he holds a little back in a fight and is hard to be confident about for winning purposes.
CAPTAIN CHRIS (11/2 with Coral) didn’t enjoy himself in the Gold Cup jumping violently out to his right for most of the race, but he did keep going and ran on into 6th place. He will be far happier going right handed and has won at this festival before. He ran a great race when 2nd to Long Run in the King George earlier in the season and also when he was set to give Cue Card a very close race before making a bad jumping error. He is another who isn’t the easiest to predict but on his day is a high class horse, so with the Hobbs stable in better form in recent days he looks a fair price.
Selection: CAPTAIN CHRIS @ 11/2 with Coral
6.05 – Betdaq The Peoples Exchange Champion I.n.h. Flat Race (Grade 1) 2m
BRIAR HILL (6/4 with Sky Bet) was a convincing winner of the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham and he will be looking to emulate stablemate Champagne Fever’s exploits last season by following up at Punchestown. Sent off at 25/1 at Cheltenham he wasn’t the most fancied of the Mullins runners but he stayed on strongly and a repeat performance makes him hard to beat. There are several horses who are re-opposing him and of them the horse who finished closest to him is THE LIQUIDATOR (6/1 with Bet Victor). He ran a good race to finish 4th at Cheltenham showing a willing attitude after getting a little outpaced. That will be of concern again here but he won’t mind conditions and there is every reason to expect another bold showing. Blackmail ran disappointingly at Cheltenham and needs to bounce back to get involved here. For all that would not be the biggest surprise given his earlier season form behind Moyle Park it is hard to be confident about his chances, with similar comments applying to Sizing Tennessee who similarly disappointed at Cheltenham.
Of those who skipped Cheltenham Outlander looks to have the most obvious claims having won on all 3 bumper starts this term. The bare form of those races is nothing extraordinary but he looked to have something in hand on all his starts and rates at the unknown quantity stepping into this class
Selection: BRIAR HILL @ 6/4 with Sky Bet
E/W Selection: THE LIQUIDATOR @ 6/1 with Bet Victor
6.40 – Guinness Handicap Chase (Grade A) 2m4f
Highly competitive with plenty of question marks over a lot of the runners there is no stand out in the field, with the betting currently headed by the Nicky Henderson trained Nadiya De La Vega. An impressive winner on her latest start at Fairyhouse she steps back into handicap company here on a mark of 140. She is very capable on her day but is prone to poor performances and her lack of consistency is a worry given her relatively short price. CALL THE POLICE (15/2 with Bet Victor) finished 3rd behind Bobs Worth in the RSA Chase last season but has on the whole struggled to make an impact in graded company since then. He has struggled on recent starts but excuses can be made for those and it may be that this is his level. On his only other chasing handicap start he looked a likely winner before falling late on at this track and a return to form would be no shock at all.
Tranquil Sea hasn’t looked the force of old this season but he ran a decent race at Aintree last time out. He came a close 5th in this race last season off a 10lb higher mark and could get involved if the hint of a revival last time out wasn’t just a one off. Lambro is another to have struggled this year coming out of novice company and has been turned over at short prices a couple of times. He did run a decent race in handicap company earlier in the season however and the ease in class will help him, for all his mark doesn’t look particularly lenient. Lastoftheleaders beat Lambro in that handicap race and also had Grand Annual winner Alderwood behind him. He hasn’t backed that form up since and the step up in trip isn’t necessarily a help so enough to prove, but not without a chance
E/W Selection: CALL THE POLICE @ 15/2 with Bet Victor
Bonus Bet: WIN DOUBLE – Ballycasey and Briar Hill @ 4/1 with Bet Victor
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