Day two of Punchestown. The weather lady assures me that there has been an ongoing battle between cold, and warm fronts, raging for the last few days.
The cold front won on day one, but the warm front will be in the ascendancy for the rest of the week. As she finished her report with a wink, and an "oiche mhaith", I'm convinced of her bona fides.
Three more Grade 1's dominate the card. The Punchestown Gold Cup is the undoubted highlight. A high class renewal. To such an extent, that the winner of the Cheltenham Gold Cup isn't currently favourite for the race.
3.40 Adare Manor Opportunity Final H'cap Hurdle
A fiendish puzzle. Probably best to concentrate on the novices. That doesn't narrow the field all that much though. The careers of Rock De Baune, and Klassical Dream have diverged markedly since they fought out a close finish in Auteuil. It will be a surprise if they ever meet again.
The Rock had shown virtually nothing since landing on our shores. That was until finishing a close fifth, in a decent handicap at Leopardstown over Christmas. He shaped that day like a slight drop in trip might suit. The handicapper has only raised him one pound, and even a slight improvement, should see him go very close here. Conron is just one of numerous potential stumbling blocks.
Selection: Rock De Baune 11/1
4.20: Connolly's Red Mills EBF Auction Hurdle Final
Zero Ten is the class of the field, and heads the weights. He travelled like a dream in Fairyhose last time, but seemed to run out of gas at the death. Connections stick to the same trip here. He's passed over due to those stamina concerns.
The Big Dog probably wants a stiffer stamina test. However, the rain softened ground should provide an adequate test. A big, raw horse. He will be novice chasing next term. The form of his impressive Gowran run, has been boosted since. His subsequent Leopardstown flop is easily forgiven. The ground was far too quick. He's a confident selection to make amends here.
Selection: The Big Dog 9/2
4.55: Louis Fitzgerald Handicap Hurdle
Not a race that lends itself to strong opinions. It probably rests between Paloma Blue, and Vision D'honneur. Paloma Blue hasn't really taken to chasing.
This looks a good bit of placing from Henry De Bromhead. Vision D'honneur is a very exciting prospect. The step up in trip will likely aid his cause, but he won't come into his own until seeing a fence. Paloma Blue might just know a bit too much for him tomorrow.
Selection: Paloma Blue 11/4
5.30: Irish Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle (Grade 1)
The first three in the Albert Bartlett reoppose. Carefully Selected bids to salvage a lost season here. The lack of winter rain, meant he didn't make his seasonal bow until Limerick last month. He can make up for lost time tomorrow.
A high class sort in bumpers, everything about him screams that he wants a stamina test. That Limerick win wasn't flashy, but that's not his style. He jumped accurately, and can put that experience to good use here. Ruby Walsh prefers Allaho, but Carefully Selected is notoriously lazy at home.
I'm confident he will win, before taking the staying novice chase division by storm next season.
Selection: Carefully Selected 6/1
6.05: Coral Punchestown Gold Cup
Tight at the top of the betting. Kemboy is marginally preferred. I would make Al Boum Photo slight jolly myself. Kemboy may have been advantaged by track position, in both his last two victories. Bellshill looks a big price here. He has triumphed at three of the last four Punchestown Festivals.
He threw away last year's Irish National, and again showed his quirks at the end of this race last year. David Mullins will be conscious of timing his run here. This is the first time Bellshill gets to run right handed this season. Expect noticeable improvement, and for him to go very close
Selection: Bellshill 11/2
6.40 Racing Post App Champion INH Flat Race
The Leopardstown bumper won by Envoi Allen looks the key piece of form here. Four horses from that race, reoppose here. Abacadabras, who ran out in that race, heads the betting. His subsequent fourth in the Cheltenham Bumper, confirmed he's a horse of some potential.
His quirks are a cause for concern though. Beacon Edge finished fourth in Leopardstown. He was badly disadvantaged by being held up in a slowly run race. That was just the second run of his life, off the back of a three month break. With natural improvement, and the prospect of a reasonable gallop, he should run well.
Selection: Beacon Edge 8/1
7.10: Guinness Handicap Chase
Sizing Granite returns to the festival for the third consecutive year. He won this race two years ago and, all things considered, ran pretty well in the Punchestown Gold Cup last year. This season has basically been a washout. It looked like age had caught up with him.
Then he went to Ayr for their Spring festival. He showed plenty of zest in finishing second to a handicap plot. The concern is that he's 11, and may struggle to back up that effort. If he does, he looks very well handicapped. At the price he's worth chancing.
Another Punchestown regular, Blast Of Koeman, heads the dangers. A talented if frustrating sort, he will likely flatter to deceive.
Selection: Sizing Granite 8/1
7.45: Weatherbys GSB EBF (Mares) INH Flat Race
Gypsy Island is hard to oppose. She has basically looked a world beater in all three bumper wins. Her recent Fairyhouse romp was probably the most impressive win yet. This is a stiff assignment, but one she can handle. Fag An Bealach was a surprise, and mightily impressive, winner in Down Royal. She could outrun her odds again, and hit the frame.
Selection: Gypsy Island 9/4