The Punchestown festival begins today in deepest darkest Kildare, and whilst the festival will certainly start at 1540, the big question is whether Cheltenham hero Labaik will deign to start in the 1620 race.
This horse was superb in the Supreme, but prior to that had his own ideas about starting. He had the advantage in the UK of the permissible “long whip” (think circus lion tamer) to encourage him to start. Such aids are not allowed in Ireland, and the risk of a sit-in must be significant.
The second at Cheltenham, Melon, is entitled to improve anyway as that was his second run, but he can take advantage of any recalcitrance from Labaik.
Trainer Gordon Elliott can strike straight back in the trainers title race, as his consistent Veinard can finally put his head in front in the 1655 handicap hurdle. He ran a blinder last week at Fairyhouse, and a repeat of that could be enough.
Un de Sceaux will be expected to land the odds in the day’s big race at 1730. We would be concerned that two miles on good ground has never seen him at his very best. Gods Own looks out of sorts, so fellow English challengers Fox Norton and Sir Valentino look the most likely. Tempting as the odds are for Valentino, Fox Norton was good at Cheltenham and superb at Aintree, and can bustle up the favourite here if holding his form.
Finally the grade 1 novice chase (1840) has Disko priced in very short after what was a broadly disappointing effort at Cheltenham. We prefer Acapella Bourgeois who was even more disappointing at Cheltenham, but that was after a battle for the lead with the amazing Might Bite. Acapella can get a solo lead this time and race tactics could play into his hands.
A day 1 Yankee beckons…
Melon (1620 Punchestown) 11/8; Veinard (1655 Punchestown) 9/2; Fox Norton (1730 Punchestown) 3/1; Acapella Bourgeois (1840 Punchestown) 5/1.
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