I’ve a cracking book of rides to look forward to this week at Punchestown starting with Douvan on the opening card of the five-day festival.
Willie had expressed some reservations about Cheltenham leaving it’s mark on a couple of our runners this week but I rode Annie Power last week and she seems back to her old self ahead of a crack at the mares race on Saturday.
Djakadam worked very well at the Curragh last Thursday after Willie thought he was taking a bit of time to get over his Cheltenham exertions when second to Coneygree in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Only time will tell whether he has but Wednesday’s Punchestown Gold Cup is a very, very good race with impressive Aintree winner Don Cossack and Gold Cup third Road to Riches also declared.
Hurricane Fly probably doesn’t have the speed of Faugheen or Arctic Fire now so the logical thing is to step him up in trip for Thursday’s World Hurdle. He stayed 2m 4f as a four-year-old so there’s no reason to suggest he won’t stay the extra half mile now.
I’m not worried about his stamina and just think he has a better chance of winning the 3m World Hurdle than the 2m Champion Hurdle this week.
I was a bit surprised though that Jezki was declared. That won’t help! I thought connections would have finished him for the season after he won at Aintree.
It’s all to play for this week and here’s my view on Tuesday’s action.
We’re very happy with Douvan. He was a good winner of the Supreme Novices Hurdle at Cheltenham and there’s no reason why he shouldn’t uphold the form with Sizing John who was third that day. He’s a course winner and with normal luck he should be very hard to beat.
He’s been built back up since his win in March and this is only his fourth run of the season – so there should be improvement to come. It hasn’t been that long a season for him and coming to Punchestown was always part of the campaign we had in mind for him.
I’m riding Rupert Lamb in this 2m hurdle but it’s a competitive race. He was disappointing over 2m 6f at Fairyhouse last time out but it was probably too far for him after along layoff. He should improve for the run but he’ll have to improve a lot. An each-way shot at best.
Cliff House could be well handicapped and has won his maiden hurdle at a handicap hurdle at Limerick well. Tony Martin’s The Plan Man and Noel Meade’s Waxies Dargle could also go close in a race where Paddy is paying the first 5 places.
Champagne Fever (above) was disappointing on his last start at Aintree where he cut out very quickly. Vautour was supposed to run here but Willie Mullins wasn’t too happy with his home work over the weekend.
I’ve chosen Champagne Fever as he was a better novice than Felix Yonger and Twinlight and seems to have recovered a bit of his sparkle since Aintree – even if the other two have won both their recent starts.
I always thought Champagne Fever was the better horse but he has to prove it again now. I could be on the wrong one.
Hidden Cyclone won the Grade Two Tied Cottage Chase impressively over this course and distance in February before finishing sixth to Uxizandre over 2m 5f in the Ryanair Chase.
He wears blinkers on Tuesday and more rain would definitely help his chances.
There’s not a whole lot of form to go on as the runners were ‘unbroken’ horses last June. It’s hard to get a handle on them. And while St Stephens Green goes nicely at home he wouldn’t be as tuned up as Willie’s bumper horses would be come November or December.
Don Poli (above) was very impressive in the RSA Chase at Cheltenham and has beaten most of these before. He saw off Apache Stronghold at Leopardstown over Christmas and Wounded Warrior at Cheltenham.
Apache Stronghold has in turn beaten my mount Valseur Lido the last two times they’ve met but the form points to Don Poli being very hard to beat.