And so we come to the last day of the Punchestown Festival 2021, a Saturday when the flat season really begins to click into gear also with the first of the Classics, the Guineas at Newmarket.
Race 1 – 14:15: Dooley Insurance Group Cross Country Chase
A cross country chase to start the day’s proceedings. It is hard to believe that both Jamie Codd and Sneezy Foster still await their first winner at this year’s festival but Alpha Des Obeaux may correct that trend here. He was carried out at the tenth in the La Touche two days ago, was previously 4th at Cheltenham and should still be fresh enough to give a good account.
Race 2 – 14:50: Colm Quinn BMW Group Handicap Chase
Freewhelin Dylan won the Irish Grand National as the rank outsider this year at 150/1. However as he showed, his price was all wrong having had proven form on the better ground and the marathon trip. He has his conditions here today again and is a front runner so should be able to avoid the heavy traffic and potential trouble that usually occurs in these big field long distance handicaps. He should give a great spin for his backers and is an each way price.
Race 3 – 15:20: Coolmore Kew Gardens Irish EBF Mares Champion Hurdle (Grade 1
The Mares’ Champion Hurdle is a good race, with the betting dominated by Willie Mullins’ Concertista, who was just beaten a head by Black Tears at Cheltenham. Willie has three other runners also but the team seem very sweet on Concertista and she’ll do for me. Burning Victory could be best of the rest.
Race 4 – 16:00: Ballymore Champion Four Year Old Hurdle (Grade 1)
There is plenty of fancy for Willie Mullins’ Haut En Coleurs, third in the Triumph off only one previous run, while Zanahiyr was all the rage prior to Cheltenham following impressive wins. However the Triumph winner Quilixios is unbeaten to date and was impressive at Cheltenham so I’m sticking with Quilixios here.
Race 5 - 16:30: Palmerstown House Pat Taaffe Handicap Chase
Another difficult handicap to try and figure out. Popong could go well for Henry and Rachael here, with form against the outstanding Colreevy. Noel Meade’s Jerandme could be spot on for a big run following his run over shorter at Fairyhouse. I wouldn’t put anyone off either of those, however Fag An Bealach won the Ulster National last time, could still be well in and would be a popular local winner for Arthur Moore.
Race 6 – 17:05: BARONERACING.COM Handicap Hurdle
Another very difficult handicap with lots of chances. I’m giving a tentative vote to Gabynako (each way) who has good novice form and was well fancied when hampered and brought down at the first flight of hurdles in the Martin Pipe at Cheltenham. Of the Mullins runners, I think Ciel De Neige will go well at an each way price.
Race 7 - 17:40: Mares Handicap Hurdle (4yo+)
Another deep and tricky race to sort out. A course and distance winner, Klassy Kay comes from the right connections and must have a big chance if none the worse for her fall last time out.
Race 8 – 18:10: Buggyman (Pro/Am) INH Flat Race
This looks to be between Guily Billy and Willie The Coo, looking at the betting market. While it may be foolish to oppose the Mullins team, Guily Billy was an impressive point to point winner before becoming an expensive Cheveley Park acquisition. Given their record in purchasing good NH types, I favour Guily Billy to win this.
Ant that’s it for Punchestown 2021! We have often had to rely on getting winners elsewhere to survive Punchestown and on that note, in his interview yesterday, Harry Derham appeared to be very confident about the chances of Friend Or Foe in the 16:07 in Uttoxeter. Good Luck!