Here’s Bryan with an early look at Thursday’s racing from Punchestown.
He had a good start to the season, winning at Wexford and Navan, and then was just touched off at Thurles. His last two starts haven’t been as promising and he is 10lb higher than when winning for me at Navan but he has had a nice break and I think the better ground here will suit him. And he won first time out in October, so he can go well when fresh.
He was a very good bumper horse and he has won on both his starts since joining Gordon in the autumn, landing a maiden hurdle back in October. He was off the track a fair while before reappearing at Fairyhouse recently, where he won well on his chasing debut. I believe he had a wind op prior to that win, and he is clearly unexposed over fences and I think a mark of 131 is fair. He should go well.
This looks a very strong renewal of the Stayers’ Hurdle and the likes of Nichols Canyon, Lil Rockerfeller and Uknowhatimeanharry set a high form standard, and then you have up-and-comers like Sutton Place. Being realistic I am playing for places at the very best with Lieutenant Colonel – and that is probably being very hopeful, too. He was a very smart hurdler a couple of seasons ago, and indeed he is a Grade 1 winner over 3m, but his chasing form tailed off this season and he was beaten a long way on his return to hurdles at Fairyhouse recently. If I can finish sixth and pick up some prize money for Gordon I’d have done well. I like Sutton Place the most in here, for all that the trip is a question mark.
He is pretty useful on his day, winning at Fairyhouse on New Year’s Day and then finishing a good second to Open Eagle at Thurles last month. He was in the process of running a big race when badly hampered 3 out at Fairyhouse last time, and I had no option but to pull him up quickly there. I actually did so with this meeting in mind. I think he would have gone close to winning that day, so off the same mark here I think he will run a big race, Conditions look ideal for him, too.
Willie’s Great Field is the one to beat in here – and his Townshend is also very interesting too after his Naas win – but Ball D’Arc is well up there on official ratings. He has improved massively since the turn of the year, rattling up a hat-trick and only being beaten ½ length by Ballycasey at Fairyhouse. He was possibly a bit below that form when third to Road To Respect and Yorkhill over 2m4f in the Ryanair Gold Cup Novices’ Chase last but it was clearly another solid effort, and I think the step down to 2m will be in his favour. He would probably prefer it a lot softer but you clearly have to respect his chances. I just hope that he doesn’t find things happening a bit too quickly here in these conditions, and that his busy recent spell hasn’t caught up with him.
She is the joint highest-rated in here on a mark of 137 and hasn’t run a bad race all season in some high-class company, most recently when second to Let’s Dance at Cheltenham and third to Augusta Kate at Fairyhouse. If those runs haven’t left their mark then she has leading claims once again.
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