Horse Racing Tips: Punchestown Festival Day Five
Of course, it’s 2,000 Guineas Day at Newmarket but, rather conveniently, the last two Grade One races of the week at the Punchestown Festival fall directly either side of the first colts’ Classic.
Once again, there’s plenty of Cheltenham Festival form on display, so it’s more a question of sorting the wheat from the wheat than the wheat from the chaff!
3:20 Coolmore Kew Gardens Irish EBF Mares Champion Hurdle
Concertista was just touched off by her old rival Black Tears in the Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival but, nonetheless, holds stable companion My Sister Sarah and Minella Melody on that form. She sets a very high standard.
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Course and distance winner Skyace finished fourth in the Parnell Properties Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham and has since recorded her first Grade One win, back over 2 miles 4 furlongs, at Fairyhouse. Even so, she still has 13lb to find with Concertista on official ratings, so may be running for a place at best, if the handicapper is accurate in his assessment.
In fact, a Willie Mullins 1-2, or even 1-2-3, could be on the cards if his remaining entries, Stormy Ireland and Burning Victory, run to form. Stormy Ireland was winless in four starts for Paul Nicholls, but scored at the first time of asking, in Grade Two company at Fairyhouse, following her return to Mullins’ yard in late March. Burning Victory, on the other hand, makes a belated reappearance, but is unbeaten over hurdles – albeit including a highly fortuitous victory in the 2020 JCB Triumph Hurdle – and should not be underestimated.
4:00 Ballymore Champion Four Year Old Hurdle
Just two of these, Mica Malpic and Palace Rock, didn’t run at the Cheltenham Festival, so the standard looks exceptionally high, befitting a race worth €100,000 in guaranteed prize money. Quixilios, Haute En Colours and Zanahiyr finished first, third and fourth in the Grade One JCB Triumph Hurdle, while Jeff Kidder, Saint Sam, Zoffanien and Druid’s Altar finished first, second eighth and fifteenth in the Grade Three Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle.
Both Jeff Kidder and Zoffanien have both won since to give the latter form some substance, but the horse to take out of the race is probably Saint Sam, who re-opposes the winner on 14lb better terms for 2 lengths. That said, Saint Sam had previously been easily beaten twice by Zanahiyr, including in receipt of 3lb at Leopardstown on Boxing Day, and once by Quixilios, at level weights. Consequently, in the context of this race, the JCB Triumph Hurdle form looks far superior.
Quixilios won his sole start for Francois Nicolle in France and since joining Gordon Elliott – and subsequently Henry De Bromhead – has extended his unbeaten sequence to five, without ever being seriously challenged. His ready, 3¼-length defeat of Adagio at Cheltenham bears close inspection and it will be disappointing if he cannot maintain his 100% record, even in this exalted company.
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