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Benny may be ayr apparent

FOR better or worse, millions of people around the world have come to rely on Wikipedia for their facts and figures and, while I'd agree that it's a very handy reference tool, its accuracy is often questionable.

I got a little irritated this week when reading their article about the Punchestown Festival in which they describe it as the "Irish version of the Cheltenham Festival."

While there's no doubt that Cheltenham has become the pinnacle of the National Hunt season on both sides of the Irish sea, the Punchestown Festival actually predates the English Festival by quite some time, so their description is, perhaps, a little erroneous.

Nit-picking aside, the meeting, which begins on Tuesday, is one I thoroughly enjoy each year and the fact that it's held a month after Cheltenham is something I find helpful. In the run-up to Cheltenham, many horses are kept under wraps and it's hard for the punter to analyse the form of a horse which might not have been seen in months.

With Punchestown, some participants will have raced at Cheltenham, so at least we've some sort of idea of where they're at.


I spent some time this week looking for some angles for the upcoming Festival and I discovered that horses which won a race at Cheltenham last time out have a 35pc strike rate at Punchestown with 13 winners from 37 bets since 2003 and a very small profit to level stakes.

But it seems that the market is quite good at sorting the wheat from the chaff and the fancied horses perform even better. Indeed, since 2003, had you backed all Punchestown favourites (or co-favourites) that had won last time out at the Cheltenham Festival, you would have had 11 winners from 20 bets and earned a profit of nearly €80 to a €10 stake.

A couple of horses fall into that category, including Sir Des Champs (4/5) in the Growise Champion Novice Chase and Quevega (11/10) in the World Series Hurdle.

In the meantime, the Scottish Grand National takes place at Ayr today (3.25) and one that catches the eye each-way is Benny Be Good, available around 25/1. He's a dual purpose animal and has had a reasonably successful season over hurdles and fences, but it's probably fair to say he's a chaser at heart.

I will admit he looked tired in his latest two starts in handicaps at Newbury and Doncaster, but his mark has been dropped accordingly and I'm convinced that the nine-year-old still has a few good races left in him yet.

Earlier in the season, he won a listed handicap at Market Rasen by two lengths from Buck Mulligan and showed further improvement in December when narrowly beaten by Qianshan Leader, although as mentioned, he's slowed down a little since. He's up near the top of the weights today, but I feel he now has a fair handicap mark, leaving him with solid place claims at the least.

Likely favourite Harry The Viking will be no pushover, though. Paul Nicholls' seven-year-old proved that he can stay the distance when second in the four-mile chase at Cheltenham last time. He's still unexposed and looks very menacing.

Each-way outsider

At 25/1, Pintura could be worth a few shekels in the Berry Bros & Rudd Magnum Spring Cup Handicap at Newbury (3.45).

While David Simcock's colt did nothing to write home about in his two starts this season, connections have had this race in mind for some time and a big run is expected.

Today's selections

2.35 Newbury: Best Terms

3.25 Ayr: Benny Be Good (e/w)

3.45 Newbury: Pintura (e/w)

4.10 Bangor: That's Rhythm

Irish Independent