Flaxen Flare can light up Grade Three feature


RACING:Cracking the Triumph Hurdle code can be a big-money business and Flaxen Flare could justify a six-figure purchase price on the road to Cheltenham if successful in today’s Grade Three feature at Punchestown.

Just five line up for the Juvenile Hurdle, the latest black type stop en-route to the festival where it has been over a decade since the last Irish-trained winner of the four-year-old championship.

That was the Willie Mullins-trained Scolardy in 2002 and the champion trainer pitches two hopes into today’s race, including the impressive Gowran winner Diakali who cost Mullins €160,000 off the Aga Khan in France.

Dogora is another Mullins French import, and was also a maiden on the flat. However, he too won impressively on his Irish debut, at Limerick over Christmas, to take his place among a strong team of Mullins youngsters headed by Blood Cotil.

Dessie Hughes has another member of a good looking Irish crop of juveniles in Our Conor but in Cheltenham terms bookmakers reckon Diakali will be the centre of attention this afternoon. The son of Sinndar is currently a general 16 to 1 shot for the Triumph, double the price available on Flaxen Flare, who won his own Irish debut over flights at Leopardstown during the holidays.

Unlike his rivals Flaxen Flare was twice a winner on the flat in Britain for Andrew Balding and changed hands for 105,000 guineas before arriving at Gordon Elliott’s yard.

Dermot Weld’s Diplomat started a warm favourite for that Leopardstown race but those professionals who’d seen Flaxen Flare finish ahead of Diplomat in a schooling race at Fairyhouse a couple of weeks previously had an edge.

Flaxen Flare was an impressive winner and crucially looked to have a good attitude to his new trade, something he can emphasise again now.

The historic Conyngham Cup has been re-branded the Amateur National but whatever the tag it looks a race that can provide Whats on the Menu with a return to winning form.

Ruby Walsh was on board John Berry’s runner on his last start which was over two miles at Punchestown behind Luke’s Benefit.

For a horse that only won his maiden over hurdles when upped to three miles, the minimum trip looked well short of Whats On The Menu’s best and he should be much better suited by a stamina test like today’s.

Unoccupied belied 20 to 1 odds at Tramore on New Year’s Day to win in style and is something of a dark horse here but may not be suited to a galloping track like Punchestown.

Some Article looks a fascinating runner in the maiden hurdle. Bought by JP McManus after a hugely impressive debut victory in the Land Rover Bumper at Punchestown, Some Article made his first jumping start in a hot maiden at Navan won by Un Atout.

He was beaten before the second last that day but was still beaten less than 10 lengths and should strip significantly sharper for that experience now.

Rockyaboya’s long term future looks to lie over fences so Willie Mullins’s decision to keep him to hurdles after he won his novice last season indicates he thinks Rockyaboya has a win in him over the smaller obstacles. That theory can be proven correct now but the two Mullins runners in the conditions hurdle could come up short against Shrapnel.

The Gigginstown horse is the lowest-rated in the five-runner contest but has looked a transformed character since joining Gordon Elliott. Take A Shot managed to win a handicap hurdle off a mark of 105 and can manage the same in the Opportunity Chase off a Down Royal victory during Christmas.

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