Tuesday 4pm I am having to post Day 2 before seeing Day 1 which is a bit awkward re Going, Mullins v Elliott, market moves etc. but it’s a logistics thing!
3.40 This is isn’t going to be easy! It’s the final of the Martinstown series for claiming jockeys, a 2m 4f handicap hurdle for horses rated no higher than OR123, a figure which looks hugely relevant on first glance. I don’t think it was a plan more of a lucky coincidence but Drumcliff has an awful lot going for him here. I have been waiting to back the horse over 2m4f preferably right handed on decent ground and he has all three here. Seconds to Mr McGo and Bigmartre read well and the fitting of a first time tongue tie could bring further improvement. This is an 86-123 handicap and Drumcliff conveniently has an OR123! Andrew Ring is a competent claimer, Harry Fry’s yard is in fine form and I don’t think they would send Drumcliff to Punchestown just to fill the horsebox! Mullins has the disappointing Wood Briezh whereas Elliott has Dawerran plus a very interesting first reserve in the rapidly improving Fridaynightlights who would be a player if “for any reason” Dawerann was taken out!
4.20 A 2m 4f conditions hurdle for very little prize money! Just €15K to the winner. Not surprisingly the ten runners could be categorised as “disappointing under-achievers who you haven’t given up on yet but could be better over fences, maybe”! Elliott has the two highest on official ratings in Milsean and Minella for Dawn whilst Mullins opposes with Battleford and C’est Jersey. Nicky Henderson sends over Baden but he’s always looked a chaser to me. I’ll pass on a bet and just cheer on Team Mullins, every euro counts.
4.55 This could easily be the race of the week, the Grade 1 3m novice hurdle featuring Penhill and Monalee, first and third at Cheltenham in the Alfred Bartlett, Presenting Percy, who hacked up in the Pertemps Final at Cheltenham carrying 11st 11lbs, Champagne Classic, Gigginstown’s “worst” horse who bolted up in the Martin Pipe at Cheltenham and the progressive Grade 2 winner Al Boum Photo.
I’ll happily oppose Penhill who has been on the go since Galway last June. Likewise Champagne Classic stepping up in class. Monalee, surely a top class chaser in the making, and Presenting Percy, the small yard find of the year, were two I backed at Cheltenham and I am loathe to oppose them here but I think the lightly raced Al Boum Photo, for whom the Closutton vibes are bullish, could be the freshest horse on display, will improve for the extra half mile and was mighty impressive when hacking up in a Grade 2 at Fairyhouse last time out.
5.30 If there wasn’t enough quality in the previous race try this one for size. Two Cheltenham Gold Cup winners in Sizing John (2017) and Coneygree (2015), staying chases highest rated bridesmaid Djakadam, the Thyestes winner Champagne West, Lexus winner Outlander and Flemenstar makes up the six!
I’m looking forward to the reappearance of Coneygree who I hope returns in A1 condition because he changes the whole shape of a race. He will go from the off and Nico de Boinville will attempt to set a gallop that takes the opposition out of their comfort zone, none of this Irish style of hunting to three out then race for home! Now we will see if Sizing John is the real deal over 3m, likewise it will answer questions concerning Djakadam and Outlander. Personally I think a strong pace will really suit the former and in the Betfair Chase at Haydock Coneygree couldn’t take Cue Card beyond three out and if he still needs the run I hope it is Ruby who kicks on when Coneygree fades. Once again I’ll pass on a single but Djakadam needs to beat Outlander and if he could win it would be a huge boost to my Mullins to beat Elliott bet.
6.05 The Grade 1 Champion Bumper is just that! Fayonagh was unbelievable at Cheltenham where Carter McKay was a blowout, Someday was controversially withdrawn there and the other four are unbeaten. Paloma Blue couldn’t have been more impressive, Poli Roi is allegedly better than the mighty Samcro, Dell Oro is sent from Sussex and is by Walk in the Park whilst Go Another One has dotted up at Market Rasen and Killarney.
I backed Someday to win at Cheltenham and I see no reason to desert him now especially considering the current form of Jessica Harrington. The market will be very interesting for this race.
6.40 Punchestown’s equivalent of Cheltenham’s Brown Advisory Plate, a Grade A 2m 4f handicap chase run right handed on a quicker track. No surprise Diamond King for Gordon Elliott heads the Ante Post market but he would be one of the first I cross off. He’s a non-runner but the connections saddle Jetstream Jack instead and I can’t have him either as he just doesn’t look a natural chaser to me. Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh team up with Poildam who makes his Irish debut off a French handicap mark and who knows? Both could be plots of the highest order but I’m going to put up another JP McManus horse who I’ve been waiting to back over this trip, not on winter ground off a mark around OR125-ish. When Peoples Park won back in December off OR122 he looked like he had joined in at the second last. He was put up 9lb for that win but he’s back down to OR127 here and with the excellent champion claimer elect Rachael Blackmore taking off a further three Peoples Park will go to post with just 9st 7lbs on his back!
7.15 The card closes with another bumper, this time a Grade 3 for mares. Surprisingly Willie Mullins runs just one with son Patrick riding Mystic Theatre but it’s one more than Elliott has going to post.
So how do we punt this card?
Peoples Park 2 star** each way 14/1 WH
Drumcliff 2 star** win 13/2 Coral + Lad 6/1 general
Al Boum Photo 2 star** win 9/1 WH
Someday 2 star** win 4/1 general
Plus a half star* win Lucky 15 (7.5 stars)
Total = Fifteen and a half stars
It interested me I don’t know if it interested anyone else?
Last Saturday there was a conditions race over 7F at Thirsk where Rene Mathis (OR100) beat Custom Cut (OR110) by a length and a half at level weights. The race conditions included that the handicapper could only affect the winner whatever the outcome. Never known that before.
Prior to the race trainer Richard Fahey told sportinglife.com “The ebfstallions.com Michael Foster Conditions Stakes is a tricky test for Rene Mathis in that he’s up against a 110-rated horse in Custom Cut. He’ll be hard to beat but hasn’t run at seven furlongs for a considerable time and we’re a specialist at the trip. Our horse is fit and well and we’ll see how he goes.”
So what did the handicapper do? Here is his blog today. “NO KNEE-JERKS Thirsk ran a conditions race on Saturday and it was one of the ones in the trial where Handicappers cannot raise the handicap marks of exposed horses except for the winner. The winner in this case was Rene Mathis with a pre-race rating of 100 and he beat the 110-rated Custom Cut by a length and a half. The Handicapper is, of course, allowed to raise the winner and you would think that the trainer would be worried about a hike in the rating. You might be surprised to learn that Richard Fahey had rung me before he made the entry to discuss possible outcomes. We get rung by trainers for advice just as often as we get rung for complaints. I was able to reassure him that there would be no knee-jerk reaction since his 7yo horse has a long history of solid performances and there was no way that I was suddenly going to assume that it was a 112 performer. In the event, and despite beating a 110 horse, I was able to leave the rating for Rene Mathis unchanged. The only horse that I had mathematically running above its handicap mark was Mount Tahan in third. I would have left him unchanged anyway for much the same reason.”