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30/04 Punchestown Preview: Min The Merciless set to go well in Champion Chase

Syndicate Captain Cheltmental offers us his thoughts on the Boosted £10,000 Place 6 pool on the first day of the Punchestown Festival 2019.

 

15:40 – Memorial Chase For The Ladies Perpetual Cup (5yo+) 3m1f

A minefield of an opening leg, given the conditions of this race, will lend itself to lower quality and less consistent types but one horse that does look attractive considering his connections is Youcannotbeserious. He’s been off the track since November 2017 and was beaten on his last three starts under rules as favourite but, at the very least, he’s unexposed and retains potential.

Blue Templar was second in this race last year when sent off as 7/4 favourite so is on the shortlist again and Enniskillen might be 14 now but he’s been round here more times than the lawnmower.

Selections – Youcannotbeserious, Blue Templar, Enniskillen

 

16:20 – Champion Novice Hurdle (Grade 1) (5yo+) 2m100y

Tactics will play a part in the result of this race but, in terms of racing style, Klassical Dream is one of the more straightforward novices. He’s the standout performer having landed the Supreme at Cheltenham, doing so in convincing fashion. He was slightly excited in the prelims and was a bit keen in that race but if the occasion was going to get to him that would have been it so I wouldn’t be too concerned. However, I am mindful of that given the price that he is.

Felix Desjy showed what he can do when given an easy lead at Aintree and this race would be a similar set up in the fact that it’s a small field and on more suitable ground for him than he would have found Cheltenham. The most significant difference is that Willie Mullins trains two thirds of the field, so you’d be surprised if they let Felix Desjy have it all his own way up top. That being said I’m not sure having company for the lead is as much an issue as it would be if he wasn’t able to be up with the pace at all

Quick Grabim may well have started favourite for the Supreme had he made it there and, bar one under par performance this season in which Ruby took the blame for a poor ride, he looks a very smart type. The layoff wouldn’t be a worry and Paul Townend knows who to win on this lad.

Aramon was a valiant second at Aintree behind Felix Desjy but might come up just short again although the ground will suit him. Mister Blue Sky is having just his fourth hurdle start but despite landing a Grade 2 hurdle earlier this month this is a marked step up in class but he looks ready for it

Nicky Henderson sends Champagne Platinum ride here and he’s a horse I’ve been quietly impressed with in his two starts this season. I thought the horse showed serious ability to win on debut when, for me, he was given a harder task than required at the business end. In his next race he produced in similar fashion but the longer run to the finish line allowed him to draw clear. Mark Walsh knows how to ride this course and, although it’s Champagne Platinum’s first time round this way, there is nothing to suggest that should be a problem

Selections – Klassical Dream, Champagne Platinum

 

16:55 – Killashee Handicap Hurdle (Grade B) (4yo+) 2m100y

There’s a fair standard of runners in this Handicap Hurdle and, as is often the case, there are plenty who have shown promise throughout the season. The stand out runner for me on that basis is Raya Time. He’s a very head strong horse and is still a maiden but I really do think he has a serious engine.

He all but ran out on hurdle debut when literally crashing through the wing but still managed to finish fifth and only really flagged after the last. He was beaten just under 6 lengths by eventual Ballymore winner City Island and in first time headgear was behind Annamix but a full 20 lengths clear of the third. For me this horse is miles better than his mark of 127 and, considering he’s placed in four of his five starts, he’s a standout play.

Sancta Simona is a Grade 3 winner this season and was second in a Grade 1 but she’s been dreadful on her last two starts. Pearl Of The West won well for us at Cheltenham in October but underwhelmed more recently at Ayr, when well beaten and struggling a long way from home.

Konitho was sent off favourite to beat Fred Winter winner Band Of Outlaws and, given that run came soon after an easy maiden win, you probably could forgive him. It may also have been a ground thing with him but he’ll get away with that here I suspect so looks a genuine player. He also gets a weight for age allowance being just a 4yo.

Selections – Raya Time, Konitho

 

17:30 – Champion Chase (GRADE 1) (5yo+) 2m

Min is widely regarded at the second best two mile chaser in training and, away from competing against Altior, he’s shown that he is a high class performer. I do think he’s a better horse when being allowed to force the issue which was apparent at Aintree in The Melling Chase. That was over 2m4f but he’s versatile enough to compete at the very top over both the minimum and middle trips. I’d be surprised if he was allowed to dictate here though, with stablemates Great Field & Un De Sceaux having shown their best from the front also. The former has fallen at the last twice and would probably prefer slower ground but is a horse with a serious engine.  The latter landed this race in very good style last season so, while he’s an 11yo now, he’s a serious player.

The honours should be going to Closutton but another runner who is better from the front is Hell’s Kitchen and, with Mark Walsh on board, we might just see the horse allowed to at least be up with the pace. He’s a keen enough horse all round but when he gets in a rhythm up top he does seem to enjoy himself that bit more. Regular pilot Barry Geraghty often seems to believe settling him in the pack is best for the horse but his best performances have come from the front.

Selections – Min, Un De Sceaux

 

18:05 – Goffs Bumper (4-5yo) 2m100y

Gordon Elliott sent the first three home in this race last year with his only three runners but Robert Tyner had landed the two previous renewals so, with very little form to go by, it usually pays to stick to the usual suspects. Willie Mullins doesn’t even send a runner here so Patrick is free to ride elsewhere and he goes on Son Of Camas, who is Nicky Henderson’s only runner.

Robert Tyner runs three but jockey bookings suggest that Fiston De Becon might be his best chance. However, his other two runners, Arctic Ambition and Nelson’s Point are both worth monitoring in the better under a couple of claimers.

Gordon Elliott also sends three but Jamie Codd riding Festival D’Ex would suggest that’s the pick of the trio.

Bulldoze and Flanking Maneuver both run for Gigginstown but the latter is of greater interest as he’s full brother to Hollowgraphic who was second in this race in 2017, beaten by a neck.

Selections – Son Of Camas, Fiston De Becon, Festival D’Ex, Flanking Maneuver

 

18:40 – Champion Novice Chase (GRADE 1) (5yo+) 3m120y

Really exciting renewal of this stayers’ novice chase but hopefully it won’t be quite as eventful as 12 months ago, when Paul Townend and Gold Cup winner Al Boum Photo dodged the last for no obvious reason.

Willie Mullins just sends Getabird here and he proved himself, when novice hurdling, to be tricky to catch right. I do think the horse maybe lacks a bit of confidence but one thing we know for certain is that he’s a better horse right handed. He ran twice at this festival last season when flopping over 2m then was the victim of misfortune after being forced to pulled up due to a close rail. This trip is well worth a try so he’s a horse I can see going well if he’s in the mood.

Delta Work was third in this year’s RSA, where I thought he might have been able to kick on as they turned for home and might have actually won the race. That was a proper RSA though so I’ve no doubt that’s the best form coming into this race and he ran well at this meeting last season. Hard to see him out of the frame, especially if the field of eight all line up.

A Plus Tard is the only 5yo in the race so he gets 5lb from the field. He was a ready winner at The Festival in The Close Brothers Novice Handicap Chase but this is tougher and it’s the first time he’s tried the trip. He beat subsequent Arkle winner Duc Des Genivres last December but he was comfortably beaten by Winter Escape in a Grade 3 earlier this year and now meets that rival on 9lbs worse terms.

Winter Escape is a horse I like a lot and I do think this step up to 3m will suit him more than some. He bled at the Dublin Racing Festival so a line can be put through that race and I think when he ran just nine days ago it was more for fitness than to be competitive. He’s one I think could go well at a big price.

Both Chris’s Dream & Discorama have hinted at levels of form to suggest they could be competitive in this but the overall feeling for both of those is that they are just not up to Grade 1 standard yet. Drover’s Lane for me if a horse who shows his best at the middle trip but the ground will suit him and, with Paul Townend, on board he could go well for a long way.

Selections – Getabird, Winter Escape, Delta Work

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