After a few big priced placed horses yesterday, we move onto day two with an exciting eight race card to cast an eye over and hopefully pick a few winners. The feature race of the day is the Ladbrokes Punchestown Gold Cup over three miles and one hundred and twenty yards. This looks an open renewal with the withdrawal of Minella Indo earlier in the week. Dual Gold Cup winner Al Boum Photo heads the market with Clan Des Obeaux and Kemboy his main market rivals.
I like the Willie Mullins trained, Kemboy with Danny Mullins in the saddle. The Mullins pair teamed up to take the Grade 1 Novices Chase yesterday and I think they could do the same here. Kemboy never seems to run his race at Cheltenham and this year was no different. Prior to Cheltenham, he had been in great form winning the Irish Gold Cup and was narrowly denied in the Savills Chase over Christmas at Leopardstown. Excluding his runs at Cheltenham, he has only been out of the first two places over fences twice and one of those was when he fell in the Irish Grand National at the first fence. He is unbeaten at Punchestown on the chase track, including victory in this race two years ago when he bet Al Boum Photo and provided Ruby Walsh with his last winner on the track. I think his price of 4/1 is very fair considering he has bet both his market rivals before and never performs at Cheltenham. I think he will go very close for the inform Mullins duo.
The first race on the card is the Adare Manor Opportunity Series Final Handicap Hurdle over two miles and four furlongs. Mt Leinster Gold is the favourite and I think she could take a bit of stopping. This seven year old mare maintained her unbeaten record on the race-track when fending off Rocky’s Howya over three miles in Wexford. Prior to that, she gave Jordan Gainford one of his early winners when winning at Fairyhouse over two miles. I think she won despite the trip on those occasions and this intermediate trip will be ideal for her. She has one of the rising stars of the jockey ranks on her back and I think she will go very close.
The second race on the card is the Connolly’s RED MILLS Irish EBF Auction Hurdle Series Final over the intermediate trip again. This series has been a great addition to the fixture list for the past few years. Heather Rocco is the favourite and looks hard to oppose. Either side of his mid-season blip at Thurles he has been flawless. He was an easy winner last time out when Mr Coldstone came down at the last when looking like he was booked for second as Heather Rocco appeared to be going better. He was very impressive on debut when winning in Limerick back in December, doing so with the minimum of fuss. He is clear of these on ratings, and I think he can claw one back in the jockey’s championship for Rachael Balckmore.
The next race on the card is the Louis Fitzgerald Hotel Hurdle over the intermediate trip. There isn’t much between Blue Sari and Decimation in the market and on ratings. My preference is for Decimation. He first run on the track was back in October and he has been progressing nicely throughout the season. After a run of seconds, he got his head past the post in-front on his penultimate start when he bet Hallowed Star with ease. He then stepped up in grade last time out when he ran a cracking race to be second to the very experienced Ashdale Bob. The step up in trip to the intermediate trip last time seemed to be very beneficial and he looks on an upward curve. I think he can provide Rachael Blackmore and Henry De Bromhead with a quick-fire double.
Albert Bartlett winner Vanillier looks to gain back to back Grade 1 success in the Irish Mirror Novice as he takes on a field of eight including two other Cheltenham Festival winners. I will be siding with Vanillier. He was very impressive at the Festival when routing the Albert Bartlett field by eleven lengths. Prior to that he was below par at the Dublin Racing Festival when at the time Gavin’s horses were not flying. He ran a fantastic race at Limerick when he was just held by Farouk D’alene on desperate ground and I think they are the best staying novice hurdlers around. I do not think he will be winning by a wide margin, but he is a horse on the up that could take a bit of beating with Jonathan Moore back in the saddle after missing Cheltenham with an injury.
The ITM-Supporting Irish Store Sales Champion INH Flat Race sees Sir Gerhard and Kilcruit clash once more. These two are very exciting horses and there was not much between them at Cheltenham with Sir Gerhard coming out on top after getting a fantastic ride from Rachael Blackmore who is now replaced by Patrick Mullins. I will be siding with Kilcruit, Blackmore set perfect fractions on Sir Gerhard at Cheltenham, but I do not think Sir Gerhard will have things all his way in front this time. I think Derek will be closer to the pace on Kilcruit compared to his Cheltenham run. Kilcruit was breath-taking when winning by 12 lengths at the Dublin Racing Festival, albeit the race fell apart. I think he was bet by a fantastic ride on the winner at Cheltenham and I think he will reverse the form here and win.