Sunday 21 January 2018

Progressive Pittoni to prevail in feature

Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

Notwithstanding regrettably small fields in the main events, tomorrow's Punchestown programme promises to be an informative spread.

The Grade One Morgiana Hurdle, which offered prize money down to sixth place, features a paltry four runners, with Pittoni continuing to head the market since Hurricane Fly's withdrawal on Wednesday. Charles Byrnes' five-year-old is a real improver, having won on each of his last four starts across both codes.

At Naas on his most recent outing, he drew 12 lengths clear of the subsequent chase winner Donnas Palm, and this two-miler could be the perfect opportunity for Davy Russell's mount to make a successful step up in class.

That said, Oscars Well and Thousand Stars won't be easily brushed aside in the €48,000 contest.

The latter earned a deserved Grade One triumph over three-and-a-quarter miles in the French Champion Hurdle in June.

While earlier placed efforts counter the suggestion that he needs that sort of trip of trip to excel, Willie Mullins' grey -- the highest-rated runner here by 13lbs -- may be a fraction better over further.

A similar comment applies to Oscars Well, though Jessica Harrington's charge has the benefit of an encouraging reappearance third to The Real Article at Down Royal.

All told, then, Pittoni gets a tentative vote to continue his upward progression in a race that must ultimately have the sponsors and hosts scratching their heads.

The Florida Pearl Novice Chase is the pick of the other two graded races. Just five line out in this, two of which are owned by the all-conquering Gigginstown Stud.

One again, Russell has the unenviable but privileged chore of selecting between two very smart prospects, and he has opted for Last Instalment over Four Commanders.


Ironically, he had neglected Last Instalment when that one scored in authoritative fashion on its chasing debut for Philip Fenton at Galway last month.

However, Russell is reckoned to have chosen correctly this time, though that doesn't guarantee him success, as the aforementioned Donnas Palm is also respected. A classy hurdler, Noel Meade's charge won in style at Wexford on his initial try over fences.

While he can be expected to turn in another big performance now, Last Instalment may be better suited by the two-mile-six-furlong trip, so is preferred to confirm his considerable potential with a first win at graded level.

In the preceding Craddockstown Novice Chase, Lucky William sets the standard on form for Tom Cooper and Barry Geraghty, having made it two from two for the season with an assured performance here in a Grade Three in October.

That said, Henry de Bromhead's Days Hotel also crushed some useful sorts when coming home 10 lengths clear on his first chasing start over course and distance.

With just six previous runs, Andrew Lynch's partner has the scope to improve sufficiently to go in again now.

The day's nap is Daring Article in the maiden hurdle at Cork, a meeting that needs to pass a precautionary inspection at 3.0 today.

Mullins' Graham Wylie-owned Felix Yonger is respected in the two-and-a-half-mile heat, but Daring Article's race-fitness tips the balance of favour his way. A bumper winner at Tipperary first time up, Robert Tyner's five-year-old found only the fancied Jetson too strong at the Mallow venue two weeks ago.

The seven-race card's most interesting race is arguably a two-mile conditions hurdle that boasts the return of last term's Hennessy Gold Cup hero Kempes.

With the trip expected to be on the short side for that one, Psycho may be a better option under Adrian Heskin, who can also take the opener on the recent bumper winner Ballysteen.

Irish Independent

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