Punchestown Festival Day One & Two Bets

Punchestown Festival

Last week was a good week for the ante-post analysis column.

SAIL AWAY at 6/1 duly obliged in some style at Ayr thanks to a brilliant Bridget Andrews ride and both MILKWOOD and EMPIRE STEEL had good spins in their relative races.

With Scotland’s big day now behind us, we head to Punchestown for the final big spring festival of the national hunt season and although Willie Mullins looks to have a stronghold on all five days, there are a few interesting bets.

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Here are my angles into the first two days of the Punchestown Festival.


Hopes with Paul 

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The opening race of the week is one of the most interesting contests of the whole five-day event with the market at 11/4 the field.

Runners who have gone to Cheltenham and Fairyhouse collide with contenders who come into this fresh and it’s Martin Brassil’s WALK WITH PAUL at 9/1 that holds my biggest interest.

Plenty in here – Shecouldbeanything, Nikini, and The Model Kingdom – all come into the race from having run at the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham and the form has taken a bit of a whacking since, so I’d be weary to be looking at these runners.

WALK IN PAUL arrives at Punchestown having finished very close to the useful Deeply Superficial at Limerick on her last run while giving two pounds away to the winner – Deeply Superficial did run a good race at Cheltenham considering she came back lame having pulled up after the second-last.

If you can forgive the run behind Corbetts Cross and Find A Fifty at Naas in February, a race that looks good on form anyway, then her maiden hurdle win in January was very promising, displaying a good level of speed and jumping throughout.

Martin Brassil is a trainer whom I rate highly and he has been good at these spring festivals so far this year thanks to his two close seconds at Cheltenham, so with her in receipt of three pounds from some of the field, she could be there at the finish.


A Classic winner 

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The first Classics of the flat season are just around the corner with the Guineas at Newmarket occurring next weekend, however, my mind is on another Classic in the form of a Cheveley Park runner today as CLASSIC GETAWAY at 7/2 is the way I want to play the Dooley Insurance Group Champion Novice Chase.

The seven-year-old hasn’t been seen since his beginners’ chase win in November, however, on bare form alone, he had JOURNEY WITH ME, a horse who reappears here, beaten at the second-last before he fell as well as finishing ahead of stablemate MINELLA COCOONER who was a runner-up twice in two Grade 1 hurdle races last season.

I think there is plenty of scope to take on his owner and stablemate Sir Gerhard in the fact that I’m not convinced that he is a true stayer or as good as people think he is and his run behind Flame Bearer over 2m4f at Fairyhouse last time out, just 16 days ago, looked very laboured to my eye.

Journey With Me is the worthy favourite in the fact that he is very consistent but we are still yet to see him perform in Grade 1 company and the rest of the field, bar JAMES DU BERLAIS who looks to be overpriced at 12/1, wouldn’t be to my liking.

If he is 100% for today, which would be a small concern considering he has had more setbacks than runs in the last 12 months, I think he will take a lot of beating with the mustard man Danny Mullins in the saddle.


Royalty to retain thrown 

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And finally, day two at the Punchestown Festival is difficult in the Grade 1s but I’m turning to the 2m5f handicap chase at 7:05 for a scummy each-way play as I think ROYAL RENDEZVOUS looks very interesting back in the race he won 12 months ago.

The 11-year-old was very good last year to sneak up the nearside rail under Paul Townend and win off a five-pound higher mark than he will have to carry this time around and it seems to be great placing from the team at Closutton to get him down from a high-mark of 165 by running him in three Graded races since – their hand was slightly forced due to his rating, however.

You’d have to say that even though he has yet to show too much promise in his three runs since, a good pipe-opener last time out at Fairyhouse should have him spot-on for the €100,000 contest and with William Hill going 6/1 about him on a very workable mark, he sets the standard in this nine-runner field and looks to be a sneaky each-way play on a tough day of racing at Punchestown.


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