Video: Unaccompanied can prove too hot for rivals
Published 07/05/2011 | 05:00
The 2010/2011 jumps season draws to a conclusion at Punchestown this evening, when the Taoiseach Enda Kenny will be on hand to present the various titles.
As the curtain comes down on the Co Kildare Festival with another busy rather than spectacular card, only the jockeys' title remains up for decision.
To suggest even that much, though, requires generous use of the imagination.
Although he hasn't ridden since breaking his collarbone on Tuesday, Paul Townend is five to the good over Davy Russell.
Russell has six remaining chances of eating into the deficit, but the plain-speaking Youghal native would be the first to tell you that the 20-year-old Townend is certain to be crowned champion for the first time in his career.
Despite another brilliant season, Russell's main employer Gigginstown House Stud will also concede the owners' award.
Michael O'Leary's operation wrested the title off JP McManus 12 months ago, and it is to the Limerick man that it will now return for a 15th time.
Willie Mullins, who hasn't enjoyed quite the same domestic dominance this term as last, will pick up his fifth trainers' gong at the end of a campaign that also yielded a first leading handler's prize at the Cheltenham Festival.
His son Patrick is guaranteed a fourth amateur riders' title, while Bryan Cooper -- son of Tralee trainer Tom -- has so far amassed a record haul of 37 that will earn him the conditional jockeys' equivalent.
As for the day's racing, the AES Champion Four-Year-Old Hurdle is the standout event, with Dermot Weld's Unaccompanied set to tackle top British prospects Grandouet and Kumbeshwar in what should be a cracking Grade One finale.
2.30 the irish field
A few make quick reappearances in this, but it is the top two horses that attract most interest on their first outings since Cheltenham.
Sizing Australia earned a deserved success on that occasion, while Freneys Well, although well beaten then, cannot be ruled out as he bids for a third successive triumph here.
Verdict -- Sizing Australia should be good enough.
3.10 Madra Irish Dog Food Novice Chase
Montan may not line out, having run yesterday. Bellvano, a smart hurdler at his best, could be the pick of the British raiders on just his second start over fences.
The consistent Uncle Tom Cobley, a winner and placed on six of seven chasing starts, should also feature prominently.
Verdict -- Uncle Tom Cobley is overdue a win.
3.45 ITBA Fillies' Scheme
EBF mares Hurdle
Four decent contenders give the raiders a chance in this. Alasi, fourth to Quevega at Cheltenham, is now 17lbs better off with Veiled for a five-length defeat last time, so she could go very close.
The home team is not easy to quantify. Golden Sunbird is in good heart despite being beaten at Fairyhouse, and Elyaadi is interesting on her first start since the autumn.
Verdict -- Alasi is weighted to score.
4.25 AES Champion
Unaccompanied is the horse to beat on the basis of her fine second to Zarkandar in the Triumph Hurdle.
Kumbeshwar, second to that one at Aintree, continues to improve, though Unaccompanied's main threat in this outing may be Nicky Henderson's Grandouet.
Possibly not suited by the hill when third in the Triumph, that one was running a big race when brought down two-out at Aintree.
Verdict -- Unaccompanied is impossible to pass up.
5.0 Tulfarris Hotel & Golf Resort Pat Taaffe Chase
Beautiful Sound will be a warm order here. He came from way back to be third over an inadequate trip at Cheltenham, and was strongly fancied for the Irish Grand National but didn't make the cut.
Beyond him, this is wide-open. Shakervilz, seventh on his reappearance in the National, and Askmeroe are two with the potential to go close.
Verdict -- Beautiful Sound ought to collect the prize.
5.35 www.thetote.com Handicap Hurdle
Bog Warrior must have a chance in his first handicap. A bumper and hurdle winner in two completed starts, he gets in off a low weight here.
Willie Mullins has six hopefuls, while Silverhand is Noel Meade's sole contender.
Unbeaten in his last three, Silverhand doesn't look badly treated off an eight-pound higher mark than when landing the first of his hat-trick last July.
Verdict -- Silverhand could still be ahead of the handicapper.
6.10 Peggy Barry Walsh Memorial INH Flat Race
An impossible bumper to decipher. Whichever of the debutants from the bigger stables attract support will be informative.
Of those that have run in point-to-points, Dedigout is the only one with any form.
Verdict -- Dedigout might live up to his name.
6.45 Diageo Ireland
Not a race in which to be looking to get out of trouble.
However, Gordon Elliott has a strong hand, with Sounds Of Thunder and Wikaala just two that are fit and running well.
Verdict -- Sounds Of Thunder is a tentative selection.
- Richard Forristal was on the mark for punters at Punchestown yesterday when three of his selections scored to record a 32/1 treble.
The Baler got the day off to a great start at 9/2, Hurricane Fly landed the nap at 1/2, while Whatwillwecallher took the bumper at 3/1.