Sport Horse Racing

Wednesday 21 February 2018

Legend Uncle Junior to plunder famous swansong victory

The signs are good for Douvan Photo: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE
The signs are good for Douvan Photo: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE

Patrick Mullins

There have been some mixed results at Punchestown this week for horses that have already been to Cheltenham and Aintree.

God's Own is after winning here and at Aintree and Petit Mouchoir is one of ours that has run really well at both meetings.

They were both at Cheltenham as well, so it's not easy to predict how different horses respond.

Yorkhill and Vautour were obviously a bit flat, and that was a factor in dad deciding against running Annie Power tomorrow.

He just felt that she hadn't been sparkling at home and decided to err on the side of caution.

Douvan looks to have a lot in hand, so I'd be hoping that he will be able to complete the hat-trick in the Ryanair Novices' Chase.

He is just a class horse. Gail Carlisle, who looked after Hurricane Fly, rides him out at home and she has been very happy with him. He seems in great shape. Sizing John, although below-par at Aintree, is a very admirable horse.

Nonetheless, Douvan has beaten him each of the five times they have met and I'd like to think he will add to that record now.

We have Shaneshill and Thousand Stars in the Stayers' Hurdle. Thousand Stars hasn't run since winning at Auteuil in November, and he could end up contesting that Grade One again, via the Prix La Barka and the French Champion Hurdle. He is an extraordinary horse that can run well fresh, but this won't be easy won. Alpha Des Obeaux is the one to beat. There is only a couple of pounds between him and Shaneshill on ratings, and they are both a little frustrating. Still, I'd like to think that Shaneshill's record at Punchestown might give him an edge.

He won the Champion Bumper here in 2014 and he was third to Killultagh Vic and Thistlecrack in this Grade One last year, so it might be a case of horses for courses. Of course, the most important runner of the day is Uncle Junior in the La Touche Cup. He gave me one of my biggest thrills winning this as a 14-year-old last year, and this will be his last race. He is a bit of a legend.

It would be very special if he could go out on a high. You only tend to find out on the way to the start if he is in the mood, but my mother Jackie rides him out every day at home, and she is happy with him.

We run four in the three-mile handicap hurdle. Burgas might well be the best of the quartet, but he appeals as being more of a chaser in the making.

Haymount might be the one to keep on side, because he will enjoy the ground and his rating looks fair on a line through Mall Dini, which won at Cheltenham.

In the mares' race, Ria D'etel could go close. Myska has lost her way a little and, while Paul Townend has stuck with her, Ria D'etel has been showing enough to suggest that she should give Danny Mullins a decent ride.

In the bumper, I am on Invitation Only. First Figaro's Flat speed makes him the one to beat, but I will be disappointed if Invitation Only doesn't give him plenty of it. I really think he is a lovely horse, one that caught my eye at home before he won so nicely on his debut.

The main concern with him would be the ground. He is a son of Flemensfirth and they enjoy a cut in the ground, but he has the ability to win if he copes with conditions.

Patrick's picks

3.40 Sir Scorpion 4.15 Sizing Codelco 4.50 Uncle Junior 5.30 Shaneshill 6.05 Haymount 6.50 Douvan 7.15 Ria D'etel 7.45 Invitation Only (nap)

Irish Independent

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