Sunday 22 April 2018

'Thief' ready to steal his opportunity in Champion

Douvan is poetry in motion under Ruby Walsh as he jumps alongside Sizing John on the way to landing the Ryanair Novice Chase at Punchestown Photo: Getty
Douvan is poetry in motion under Ruby Walsh as he jumps alongside Sizing John on the way to landing the Ryanair Novice Chase at Punchestown Photo: Getty
Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

In life, it's usually better to focus on what we have rather than what we don't, but tonight's Punchestown spread lacks a little lustre.

Annie Power, Faugheen, Nichols Canyon and Arctic Fire are all absent, leaving the €200,000 Betdaq Champion Hurdle light on heavyweights.

My Tent Or Yours, second in two Champion Hurdles and again the bridesmaid at Aintree, is here; another tackling a third spring festival.

He might have his day, but Vroum Vroum Mag leads the Closutton team after Willie Mullins' reshuffle, with Sempre Medici also on duty.

Identity Thief, outclassed at Cheltenham, will bid to repair his reputation as a rising star for Henry de Bromhead and Bryan Cooper. He won't get a better opportunity.

If there is a bona fide equine star in attendance, it is On The Fringe. We've seen this week how hard it is for even the most exalted thoroughbreds to complete the Cheltenham-Aintree-Punchestown treble once.

Enda Bolger's classy 11-year-old made it look easy in 2015. If he were to repeat the dose under the inimitable Nina Carberry in this evening's climactic Champion Hunter Chase, it would be some feat - illustrious, even.

3.40 KFM Hunter Chase 2m 4f

Shin A Vee hasn't run since winning this a year ago. He has to concede weight, while Enniskillen ran well in Tuesday's banks race. Hasty Times is another to merit consideration.

Verdict: If Enniskillen has recovered from Tuesday's turn, he might be the one.


Marlbrook won well at Naas in February. That was his handicap debut and Colm Murphy's charge is 11lbs higher now, but the form has worked out and he is progressive.

Sambremont faded in the Kim Muir. This trip might suit, and, having beaten Ttebbob previously, he is potentially well treated off 139.

Mr Diablo comes here after a confidence-boosting win, although it is a big step up, while Avant Tout is three pounds worse off with Lord Scoundrel now after beating him two lengths in Graded company at Limerick. Both should run their races again.

Verdict: Marlbrook is one to keep on side.

4.55 Hanlon Concrete EBF Mares' Chase 2m 5f

Emily Gray capped a fine season with a Grade Three win at Fairyhouse. She is game, but has to concede weight here.

Having been fancied in the Irish Grand National, Bonny Kate is dropping in grade and may be the one to beat, while the hat-trick seeking Solita is 10lbs higher now.

Centasia is an unexposed raider, and Perfect Promise is in off a nice weight. Third to Emily Gray last time, she will enjoy some decent ground.

Verdict: Davy Russell can guide Perfect Promise to victory.

5.30 Betdaq Champion Hurdle 2m

My Tent Or Yours was put in its place by Annie Power at Cheltenham and at Aintree, where the two-and-a-half-mile trip found him out. While he races more maturely now, a third outing in quick succession is a concern, given that he was off for two years.

He is in all probability the best horse in the race - he is a fantastic specimen - but we've seen this week that isn't necessarily enough to win here.

Vroum Vroum Mag is still an unknown quantity, especially at this trip. The seven-year-old has never looked short of gears, but she has always raced against mares so this is a new test.

It's possible that she will get the opportunity to dictate, which could render her hard to pass.

Stablemate Sempre Medici might need softer ground to excel, while Identity Thief is interesting. Henry de Bromhead's six-year-old couldn't cope in the Champion Hurdle, but he was highly progressive before that. This won't be nearly as taxing.

Verdict: Identity Thief is trusted to deliver the nap vote for Bryan Cooper.

6.05 Tattersalls Champion Novice Hurdle 2m 4f

A Toi Phil and O O Seven ran well to a point in the Neptune at Cheltenham.

O O Seven finished a few lengths behind A Toi Phil, but he raced keenly and also got involved in a bit of scrimmaging. He has some quality and will be a big player here if he settles.

A Toi Phil is clearly going to be involved as well, although he may be more of a chaser in the making, likewise Lift The Latch and Disko, which hasn't run since winning its maiden in November.

Jett was well held in a Fairyhouse Grade Two but Jessica Harrington's horses are on fire, while Champagne Harmony was impressive in lesser company at Thurles.

Jer's Girl has been among the season's better juveniles. She won a mares' Grade One in style at Fairyhouse and receives 18lbs here. That gives her a chance, and Thomas Hobson, the mount of Ruby Walsh, can be forgiven one bad run.

Verdict: If O O Seven settles, he could take a bit of stopping.

6.40 Star Novice Hurdle 2m

Koshari is an interesting newcomer for Willie Mullins. A son of Walk In The Park, he won in France in December and receives weight here.

Stablemate Bello Conti has the best form, running well behind Yorkhill at Cheltenham and Aintree. He is still a baby and his busy schedule has to be a concern. Three Wise Men and Fire In His Eyes are others with potential.

Verdict: Might pay to take a chance on the Paul Townend -ridden Koshari.

7.10 Racing FX Bumper 2m 2f

Some Neck has been frustrating, but he clearly has ability. A strongly-run race over this longer trip might suit, as a late challenge may be required.

Philip Hobbs' No Comment and Henry de Bromhead's Monalee are among a raft of others with chances.

Verdict: Patrick Mullins can get Some Neck home in front.

7.45 Racing Post Champion Hunters Chase 3m 1f

Marito and Paint The Clouds were placed behind On The Fringe at Cheltenham. They didn't tackle him at Aintree, and, while that may be to their advantage, On The Fringe had no trouble doing the treble last year.

Salsify has bounced back this year, but he needs to find more still now.

Verdict: Hard to oppose On The Fringe.

Irish Independent

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