Ross O’Sullivan: Champion Hurdle could be race of the week
The Betway ambassador gives his thoughts and predictions for the big races on Thursday and Friday at the Punchestown Festival.
Punchestown is a fantastic festival and the perfect way to end the National Hunt season in Ireland.
We were planning to run Thunder And Roses in the La Touche (16.20pm) on Thursday but unfortunately he got a little knock and wasn’t 100 per cent so we had to pull him out.
It was a shame because it had been the plan for a while and there are only 10 runners. Josies Orders would have been very hard to beat and I’d say Jim Dreaper’s Sizing Coal will be the one most likely to chase him home.
Any Time ran well in the opening Ladies Cup on Tuesday for Tom Harney. She made a mistake about a mile from home and took a couple of jumps to get her confidence back after that.
She ran a respectable race and although she’s no superstar, we’ll have a bit of fun with her.
Punchestown on Thursday
The big race on day three is the Stayers Hurdle (17.30pm) and to be honest it doesn’t look the strongest of renewals.
Bapaume is the rock solid one after his good fourth to Paisley Park at Cheltenham. Ruby Walsh has gone for him and Willie Mullins' horses are in great form at the moment. He hasn’t won yet this season, but he’s been very consistent and should be hard to beat.
Aux Ptit Soins won very well at Aintree. He’s perhaps struggled a little bit in graded company in the past, but as this isn’t the hottest renewal you could see him giving Bapaume a race. He’s Dan Skelton’s only runner of the week.
The Ryanair Novice Chase (18.40pm) is a very interesting race and to me it looks between the market leaders, Duke Des Genievres and Defi Du Seuil.
Paul Townend would have had the choice after winning the Arkle on Duke Des Genievres. He was very good that day, as was Defi Du Seuil in the JLT.
I didn’t think Ornua was good enough to be a Grade One winner but he was very good at Aintree. That said, I still think it’s between the big two.
There is a small yet select field in the bumper (19.45pm) but it looks a very good race. The Big Getaway was a bit unlucky in Navan the last day.
I saw him when he won his point-to-point, he won it by a distance and I was very taken with him. He’s a big horse, 17 hands plus and he could be very good when he goes jumping. He’s one to keep an eye on.
Punchestown on Friday
The Punchestown Champion Hurdle (17.30pm) could be the race of the week. Apple’s Jade ran much better in Aintree than she did in Cheltenham.
You’ve then got last year’s winner Supasundae who was a length in front of Buveur D’Air in the Aintree Hurdle, and Melon who was a little keen in Aintree. It’s hard to call the winner but it should be a great race to watch.
It’s hard to look past City Island in 2m4f Champion Novice Hurdle (18.05pm). He was very good in the Ballymore and Martin Brassil has freshened him up since then.
Battleoverdoyen was disappointing in that race. He’s a big horse and may just have been a little over the top then. He’d need to come back to form.
Reserve Tank was very impressive in Aintree and the Tizzards have had plenty of success at this meeting in the past, so he looks the main danger.
We were delighted with An Fraoch Mor at Wexford on Saturday. He gave the winner and the second plenty of weight. He travelled like the winner through the race but was maybe a little too keen.
That was his first run in a handicap. He’ll have a break now and go chasing in the autumn. He’s a real three mile, soft ground horse and he could be a good staying chaser in time. He’s been jumping his hurdles a bit big so fences won’t be a problem.
We think the Betway Chase at Cork came a bit quick for Call It Magic after Aintree, it was only a couple of weeks. We took a chance with it because it was great prize money.
He travelled and jumped well for the first few but just flattened out. He’ll run in five or six weeks around Ballinrobe as he’s been there before. The big target at the start of next season will be either the Becher Chase or Grand Sefton at Aintree.
Baie Des Iles set for Paris
All is well with Baie Des Iles who will run in the Grand Steeple Chase de Paris at Auteuil two weeks on Saturday.
She went to the Curragh last Sunday and did a nice bit of work. She’ll work again this weekend. Her weight seems good and she’s in a good frame of mind.
There is huge prize money on offer and it would be lovely to get some of it. Whether she’s good enough to win it, who knows, but on her form from last year’s Prix des Drags she’s entitled to run it.
She loves Auteuil and if you have one good enough to run in a race like this you have to give it a go. We might never have one like her again.
Willie has had an unbelievable season, possibly his best ever. He’s managed to win two of the big races that were missing from his CV, the Gold Cup and Irish National.
He’s getting stronger all the time, his strike rate is always very high. It’s just a very powerful operation and they’re buying lots of very nice horses.
He started off small but he’s got better and better. He’s the yardstick we all have to try to reach.
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