'Buveur' taken to atone for Aintree near-miss
The Punchestown Champion Hurdle today features an array of talented performers but none perhaps in their pomp.
Apple's Jade ricocheted from one awe-inspiring performance to the next in the early season but has been below par in Cheltenham and Aintree.
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Perhaps she is not at her best in the spring but her early-season exertions must surely be taking a toll. A mare of her calibre can never be written off but I think she will need a Madonna-like reinvention to rekindle her flame at this stage of the season.
Supasundae won this last year and showed guts to win the Aintree Hurdle last time. I think he is at his best at the intermediate trip though. Wicklow Brave was victorious here two years ago but again two miles is probably on the sharp side for him at his age.
Melon fell in this race, in perfect unison with Samcro, last season and again in the Aintree Hurdle. While he was second in the Champion Hurdle, there was no second in truth and his form all season has been below par.
Petit Mouchoir and Summerville Boy are two former Grade One winners which appear to have lost their way.
Buveur D'Air adds some spice to the pot. The dual Champion Hurdler went down heroically in Aintree but it must be said that he looks to be on the decline from his pomp after his Christmas Hurdle defeat too. Nevertheless, the ground, trip and track should all be in his favour and with Mark Walsh in the plate, I expect him to gain another notch on his belt here.
We run Ask Susan in the mares' handicap chase. John Nicholson recommended her to me when he sent her to the sales and I was delighted to get her for Simon Wilson. She's very versatile having won from two miles to 2m 7f and on heavy ground in December to good ground in June.
She ran well on her debut for us in Fairyhouse over two miles and she had a feather weight in a €100,000 hurdle. She ran respectably to finish sixth but showed us she needs further to be at her best.
Today she steps up five furlongs, is back against mares only and goes over fences. The only negative is that she is backing up only 10 days after her Fairyhouse run, never ideal after a seasonal debut. However, she did manage to win in Tramore once having ran the day before so she has shown she can handle short rest periods! Simon Wilson has had great luck with Patricks Park last year, and he will have lots of fun with this mare over fences, hurdles and on the Flat.
In the 2m4f Novice Hurdle, City Island puts his credentials from Cheltenham on the line. We send five out to beat him with Tornado Flyer and Royal Rendezvous the main two. However, both are coming off extended breaks due to small setbacks. City Island will be hard to defeat but our two are definitely ones to watch out for in the future, hopefully with uninterrupted campaigns.
I ride Monkfish in the bumper. He is a large chestnut horse which won his point-to-point in workmanlike fashion. He's about as good at catching pigeons up the gallop as Muttley was in Wacky Racers but I like the way he finishes out his work, always a good sign, and the 2m2f trip here will suit.
Ask Susan 4.55
Buveur D'Air 5.30
City Island 6.05