Rather like Frank Sinatra running for the train in the closing moments of Von Ryan’s Express, so we chase in desperation to jump on the Jessica Harrington/Robbie Power bandwagon that has been steaming along at some pace since Cheltenham.
We’ll be looking to climb aboard Woodland Opera (not literally, 11st 6lbs is a bit of a stretch…) as Jessica Harrington’s charge looks to record a third win of the season under the man of the moment, Robbie Power, in the novice handicap chase (1620 BST).
A winner here over hurdles last year, he showed he was peaking with an easy win last time at Fairyhouse. The stable couldn’t be in better form, and although this race is big on numbers, Woodland Opera could have the quality to continue the stable’s wonderful run.
The feature race of the day is the Champion Hurdle (1730). Arctic Fire vies for favouritism having defied a lay-off with a handicap win at Cheltenham, whilst stablemate Vroum Vroum Mag won this last year and has a handy mare’s allowance. That said we feel the Cheltenham Champion Hurdle has to be the key race.
Second there was My Tent Or Yours. He was also 2nd at Aintree, and we would have reservations about those quick runs and this course. Instead we trust Cheltenham 3rd Petit Mouchoir who should like the course and the conditions and can get an uncontested lead on the way to making all the running.
Labaik is obviously interesting in the same race as he has clearly immense quality – however he refused to race again here on Tuesday, and any mishap in the starting procedure (accidental or jockey-engineered) could put him back into a sulk.
Away from Punchestown, get ready to hear a lot about master trainer John Gosden during this coming flat season. From a strong squad of runners today, his lightly raced colt Eldritch looks capable of landing a favourite’s chance in the opener at Doncaster (1340). He easily won his only race at Haydock and a mark of 77 looks super generous for this handicap debut.
Woodland Opera (1620 Punchestown), 9/2 generally available
Petit Mouchoir (1730 Punchestown), 4/1 Boylesports,
Eldritch (1340 Doncaster), 3/1 Bet365, BetVictor
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