Sir des Champs is bound to be a warm order for the Punchestown Gold Cup on the second day of the big meeting at the County Kildare track on Wednesday, having chased home Bobs Worth in the English equivalent at last month’s Cheltenham Festival.
However, CAPTAIN CHRIS will relish the return to a right-hand track and Philip Hobbs’ charge rates a cracking bet at 11/2 (available with Ladbrokes, Paddy Power and Sky Bet at the time of writing) to end this season on a high here.
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The nine-year-old hasn’t finished out of the first three in seven completed starts going right-handed, and while he was a long way behind Sir des Champs in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, I wouldn’t read too much into that.
Though he won the 2011 Arkle Chase at Prestbury Park, Captain Chris has never looked at his best at the Gloucestershire venue. This sharper track will be far more suitable, and he was successful on his sole previous visit to Punchestown, having landed the Ryanair Novice Chase at this meeting two years ago.
Long Run beat the selection a neck in the King George at Kempton on Boxing Day and was also ahead of him in the Gold Cup. However, Captain Chris tends to come into his own at this time of year and can turn the tables on that rival this time.
Sir des Champs had a really hard race at Cheltenham and he will not be seen to advantage if things become tactical, which isn’t beyond the realms of possibility, with no out-and-out front runner in the line-up, while I feel that First Lieutenant, winner of the Betfred Bowl at Aintree earlier this month, will come up short here.
The finish of the Irish Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle is likely to be fought out by Willie Mullins’ duo Ballycasey and INISH ISLAND. Ruby Walsh prefers the former, but I reckon he has made the wrong decision.
There’s no doubt that Ballycasey is a highly promising novice. However, Inish Island looks very solid, winning a Grade 3 on penultimate start at Clonmel prior to finishing a cracking third to At Fishers Cross, who franked the form when winning again at Aintree, in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
The Guinness Handicap Steeplechase may well go to Nicky Henderson’s Nadiya de le Vega who did the job well at Fairyhouse last time. She’s pretty short at around the 7/2 mark, though, and MR CRACKER, who was just foiled in a Grade 2 at Navan at the beginning of the month, could be the answer.
Briar Hill was impressive when landing the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham and has every chance of following-up here. However, it’s interesting that David Pipe is willing to take him on again with THE LIQUIDATOR who was fourth in that contest, but the pace will nowhere near as fierce here and, if this is more tactical than at Cheltenham, the five-year-old would be better equipped to cope with such a scenario than Briars Hill.
3.40 Questions Answered
4.20 Gassin Golf
4.55 Inish Island
5.30 Captain Chris
6.05 The Liquidator
6.40 Mr Cracker
7.15 Beat That