Thursday 24 May 2018

Punchestown Day Four: The top tips from all our experts plus a race-by-race preview

Jack Kennedy celebrates after guiding Samcro to victory at Cheltenham last month – Gordon Elliott’s exciting novice hurdler is taken to make the step-up in grade today. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Jack Kennedy celebrates after guiding Samcro to victory at Cheltenham last month – Gordon Elliott’s exciting novice hurdler is taken to make the step-up in grade today. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Michael Verney

All eyes will be on Samcro today as Gordon Elliott's potential superstar steps up against seasoned hurdlers in the Betdaq Punchestown Champion Hurdle on day four with his performance likely to decide whether he will stay hurdling or embark on a chasing career next season.

If Samcro can get the better of Willie Mullins' Cheltenham Champion Hurdle second Melon and Jessica Harrington's Stayers' Hurdle runner-up Supasundae, then connections are likely to prepare for a tilt at Buveur D'Air and delay his progression to fences.

It makes for another intriguing day and having had a quiet week by their standards, it may be time for Elliott and Jack Kennedy to shine.

3.40 KFM Hunters Chase for the Bishopscourt Cup 2m4f

PETER MAHER is an expert in these contests and is triple-handed with Alpha Male the one of most interest under Barry O'Neill.

Beaten narrowly by stable-mate Enniskillen over Punchestown's point-to-point course in February, the seven-year-old (formerly trained by British champion trainer Nicky Henderson) comes here with leading claims.

This is likely to be a battle between him and last year's winner Das Mooser for Mark Fahey and jockey Richie Deegan and despite not running since, he clearly goes well fresh having overcome a similar lay-off 12 months ago. He is the one to beat.

Verdict: Das Mooser can make it back-to-back victories.

4.20 EMS Copiers Grade A Novice Handicap Chase 2m5f

THERE'S a six-pronged Closutton attack and with Mullins having won five renewals in the past decade, each one is respected although Paul Townend's decision to partner Kemboy is key.

Fourth in the JLT at Cheltenham before falling at the first fence in the Irish National, Kemboy got back on track at Limerick and looks the class horse in the field.

Elliott has three contenders led by Tombstone - second behind Kemboy last time out - while A Sizing Network is very interesting for Harrington and Robbie Power - a team which has taken three of the last five runnings.

The biggest threat may be Noel Meade's Bel Ami De Sivola, however, which had subsequent Ayr winner Crosshue Boy behind him when winning a nice pot at Fairyhouse earlier this month and runs off a nice weight.

Verdict: The classy Kemboy can edge out Bel Ami De Sivola.

4.55 Hanlon Concrete Grade B Mares Handicap Chase 2m5f

ELLIOTT and Kennedy - successful for the past two years - partner up with Synopsis in a rare contest where Mullins is not represented.

Oliver Sherwood sends over Got Away, already a Listed chase winner at Leicester, and Noel Fehily's mount is respected but the top two at the head of the handicap are preferred.

If Joseph O'Brien's Slowmotion can bounce back to the form that saw him get within five lengths of subsequent Ryanair Chase winner Balko Des Flos in the Galway Plate, then Barry Geraghty's mount will be right in the mix.

The selection is Meade's Bonny Kate, however. It's been a frustrating week for the Meath handler but his charge has been keeping top handicap company and stepping back in grade, she looked back to something like herself behind Mala Beach and may continue in that vein.

Verdict: Bonny Kate is an attractive proposition under Seán Flanagan.

5.30 BETDAQ Grade One Champion Hurdle 2m

MULLINS has won seven of the last eight renewals and holds a strong hand but most attention will be given to Samcro, which has taken all before him in superb fashion this season.

This is a significant step up but his novice form is bullet-proof with both Black Op and Next Destination - second and third behind him in the Ballymore at Cheltenham - both subsequently scoring at Grade One level.

With five of the eight runners, Mullins is likely to pick up significant prize money even if Samcro does prevail and Melon is the pick of his quintet.

He left his two previous runs well behind him when falling to Buveur D'Air by a neck in the Champion Hurdle and this is a fascinating duel between two six-year-olds.

Throw in last year's winner Wicklow Brave and Jessica Harrington's Supasundae - second in the Stayers' Hurdle at Cheltenham and runner-up at Aintree - and it's a fascinating feature.

If Samcro is as good as we are led to believe, he should be winning this, however, and he's expected to back up the hype.

Verdict: Brilliant novice Samcro (Nap) to continue his winning ways .

6.05 Profile Systems Grade One Champion Novice Hurdle 2m4f

WITH a sextet of runners, Mullins is spoiled for choice even if that makes picking the winner a daunting proposition. Getabird returns after disappointing three days ago and Patrick Mullins will need to get him settled early or all chance will be lost.

The sensible option of the Closutton crew may be Scarpeta, fourth behind Samcro in the Ballymore, even though he didn't progress as expected when third behind Pallasator at Fairyhouse and while he might turn the tables, Elliott's charge may just hold sway this time.

It will be interesting to see how Delta Work comes out of her excellent second to Next Destination on Wednesday but his stable-mate Pallasator is preferred under Davy Russell.

Verdict: Pallasator can complete the hat-trick for Elliott and Russell.

6.40 Champion Hunters Chase 3m120yds

NINA CARBERRY has won this race five times aboard the brilliant On The Fringe (2010, '12, '14, '16) - four times as favourite - and the 13-year-old would bring the house down if he can do the business again for Enda Bolger.

He's not without a chance but there's no doubt which horse has the best form in the book and that's Uxizandre, Ryanair Chase winner three years ago when trained by Alan King and now in the care of Pádraig Roche.

He famously provided AP McCoy with his final Cheltenham winner and Derek O'Connor switches from last year's winner Balnaslow - which he rode to success 12 months ago and at Aintree two weeks ago - to take the mount.

Patrick Mullins is a brilliant replacement on Graham John McKeever's charge but it may be wise to stick with O'Connor and Uxizandre.

Verdict: Uxizandre is fresh and has the ability to thrive in this sphere.

7.10 SalesSense International Novice Hurdle 2m

SOME smart types have won this like Un De Sceaux and Arctic Fire and Mullins is triple-handed as he goes for his fifth victory in six years.

Deal D'estruval was a 7/1 shot when tailed off in the ultra-competitive Martin Pipe at Cheltenham but had impressed on two starts before that and with race conditions in his favour, he is an obvious danger. English raider Phoenix Dawn takes his chance for Brendan Powell, while Whisperinthebreeze could make the frame for Harrington but Elliott may hold the key.

Kuraka looks totally unexposed after a comfortable win at Limerick last week but French recruit Vengeful - the mount of Kennedy - is the selection having been put away since making a winning debut at Thurles in October.

Verdict: Vengeful can get the job done.

7.45 GVA Donal O'Buachalla Property Flat Race 2m2f

NINETEEN go to post in a very open affair but one horse that won't be found wanting is the monstrous Press Conference.

Second on debut behind subsequent Champion Bumper second Carefully Selected, Harrington and daughter Kate can make up for just being touched off in the last on Tuesday and see the Moone handler visit the winner's enclosure.

Verdict: Press Conference can send punters home smiling.

Patrick Mullins

4.20: Up for Review

5.20: Samcro

7.10: Deal D'Estruval

Niall Cronin

3.40: Das Mooser

4.20: Bel Ami De Sivola

4.55: Teacher's Pet

5.30: Samcro

6.05: Pallastor

6.40: Balnaslow

7.10: Deal D'Estruval

7.45: Press Conference

 

Ian Gaughran

3.40: Alpha Male

4.20: A Rated

4.55: Bonny Kate

5.30: Wicklow Brave

6.05: Debuchet

6.40: Uxizandre

7.10: Deal D'Estruval

7.45: Press Conference

 

Robbie Power

3.40: Battle Hard

4.20: De Ploughing Shed

4.55: Magic of Light

5.30: Supasundae

6.05: Pallastor

6.40: Balnaslow

7.10: Whisperinthebreeze E/W

7.45: Press Conference

 

Katie Walsh

3.40: Das Mooser

4.20: Kemboy

4.55: Slowmotion

5.30: Samcro

6.05: Pallastor

6.40: Top Wood

7.10: Deal D'Estruval

7.45: All for Joy

 

Shark Hanlon

3.40: Alpha Male

4.20: Kemboy

4.55: Bonny Kate

5.30: Samcro

6.05: Pallastor

6.40: Balnaslow

7.10: Roaring Bull

7.45: Lone Wolf

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