Punchestown day three: Previews, analysis and tips
Great Field looks set to maintain unbeaten record over fences in Ryanair Novice Chase
Willie Mullins has long suspected he needs a longer trip and on ratings Footpad doesn’t have much to find for the step up in trip to be competitive. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Time was Willie Mullins brought Quevega to Punchestown’s Day Three festival feature and she won: for four years between 2010-13 it was predictable. Mullins has four shots at resuming normal service on Thursday but any predictability can be upset by Footpad.
The new Stayers champion Nichols Canyon is expected to start favourite for the €250,000 Ladbrokes Hurdle and become just the second horse in the race’s 20 year Grade One history to complete the Cheltenham-Punchestown double.
He is certainly guaranteed more attention than at Cheltenham when Mullins famously regarded the Stayers as an opportunity for a tea-break during a tumultuous afternoon that ultimately saw him record a four-timer.
Nichols Canyon was definitely the surprise element of the four, rather surprising for a horse recording an eighth Grade One success but typical of a career largely spent playing second-fiddle to some of his more glamorous stable companions.
After looking to be on the slide earlier in the season, a shake-up of stable routine and a step up to three miles worked the oracle at Cheltenham and Nichols Canyon is now back at a track where he’s unbeaten in three starts including that famous defeat of Faugheen in the 2015 Morgiana.
If it’s almost two decades since Anzum brought off the festival double much of that is due to most of the subsequent Cheltenham winners skipping here afterwards. But now there’s the prospect of a return clash between Nichols Canyon and the horses he beat last month, Lil Rockerfeller and Unowhatimeanharry.
They are part of a three-pronged British attack alongside last year’s winner One Track Mind and the Lil Rockerfeller camp will fancy their chances as they turned into something of a target for Nichols Canyon’s late burst at Cheltenham.
It’s also worth recalling how Unowhatimeanharry was widely regarded as festival banker last month only to come up short although ground conditions could again be less than ideal now.
Mullins and his trainer’s title rival Gordon Elliott have each declared four and if Nichols Canyon is the Closutton No.1 then there will be plenty interest if Elliott pitches his hugely promising youngster Stutton Place into the race. He did however miss Fairyhouse due to going similar to this.
There could be value however in betting that a first step up to three miles will do the trick for one of the Mullins support team.
Footpad is a Grade One winner from Auteuil last year and has run fine races in both the Irish and English Champion Hurdles over two miles. However Mullins has long suspected he needs a longer trip and on ratings Footpad doesn’t have much to find for the step up in trip to be competitive.
In contrast, two miles on a decent surface looks just the sort of speed-ticket for Great Field in the Ryanair Novice Chase.
He has been spectacular in three wins from three runs over fences to date. A habit of getting low at his fences has resulted in some errors too but the overall impression has been of a potential Champion Chase candidate if he irons out his jumping.
If that’s to be the case then this hardly vintage Grade One should be well within Great Field’s compass. It might be trite to describe it as a case of ‘bar a fall’ – and it will be biggest career test yet for both the horse jockey Jody McGarvey – but whatever happens it’s likely to be exciting.
Time was too when the spectacular La Touche Cup over the banks was almost Enda Bolger’s private property with ten wins in a row between 1997 and 2007.
Normal service was resumed by Bolger with a 13th win in all last year and Cantlow boasts impressive credentials to follow in some illustrious hoof-prints. His defeat to Cause Of Causes and Bless The Wings at Cheltenham reads better with those two rivals finishing runner-up in two Nationals.
Racing opens with a 28-runner handicap hurdle in which Le Vagabond returns to jumping for the first time in almost a year.
Since winning on quick ground at Tramore, Edward O’Grady’s versatile sort has won twice on the flat and chased home his stable companion Roconga at Cork earlier this month. That one failed to frank the form on Tuesday but Le Vagabond looks to have plenty in his favour.
Brian O’Connor’s day three tips:
3.40: Le Vagabond
4.15: Hurrican ben
5.30: Footpad (nap)
6.05: Showem Silver
6.40: Great Field
7.45: Next Destination
Tony Keenan’s day three tips:
5:30 – Unowhatimeanharry: Looking for instances of ‘recency’ bias, where recent events are accorded too much importance, can be a way into betting markets and it is better to judge a horse on its overall form rather than an aberrant run. Unowhatimeanharry was the pick of the staying division all season prior to Cheltenham and likely ran to a higher level in winning the Cleeve Hurdle than Nichols Canyon did at the festival. That one could have more in him over staying trips but the reaction to Unowhatimeanharry’s last defeat seems excessive.
6:05 – Sadler’s Risk: Plenty of these have scope to improve but few are as well-treated as the seemingly exposed Sadler’s Risk off a mark of 137. A 150-rated hurdler at his peak, a current chase figure of 154 suggests his abilities remain undiminished despite a long career. His declining hurdles mark seems more a by-product of running over the smaller obstacles sparingly and when in need of the outing, a point made by his trainer recently. He gets his ideal conditions of a right-handed track and decent ground too.
6:40 – Powersbomb: This race has distinct chaos potential with the favourite Great Field an erratic jumper that could get taken on for the lead; Ballyoisin, Townshend and Listen Dear have all made the running in recent starts. That could set things up for more conservatively ridden types like Ball D’Arc and Ordinary World but Powersbomb is worth chancing at big prices. He’s improved since going chasing and has showed latent ability on a number of recent starts.