17:30 Punchestown Champion Hurdle
Anyone listening in to the Matchbook podcast earlier in the week will have endured some spirited debate between myself and Johnny Ward on the merits of Samcro and his likely participation in this race.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not a Samcro denier, and fully expect that he will make up into a stunning chaser next season, and no doubt he has “Future Gold Cup Winner” stamped through him like a big maroon and white stick of Gigginstown rock, but the idea that he’s only got to turn up to beat Melon in a two-mile Championship Hurdle is awfully big talk about a horse who comes here on the back of a win in the two-mile-five-furlong Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle.
Samcro keeps acing his tests, but perspective is needed. Melon’s performance in pushing Buveur D’Air to the wire in the Champion Hurdle is superior to Samcro’s demolition of Black Op. And by some margin.
I fully expect the gap between the pair in terms of form to be narrowed significantly, but Samcro is stepping back in trip and on faster ground, whereas Melon is hardly fully exposed himself, and will be in his comfort zone in such conditions, while it does not need to be mentioned how his stable is currently faring.
This is either an each-of-two war, or Melon ought to be a marginal favourite. That isn’t how the market speaks now, but it is the way to bet, and while the odds-on favourite has the potential to win, that eventuality is palpably overstated at present.
18:05 Profile Systems Champion Novice Hurdle
It’s a huge surprise that Getabird is still in the field for this, with Willie Mullins surely not needing to pull out all the big guns, and while he had an apparent excuse for his poor effort earlier in the week (struck into), that hardly gives punters any confidence to back him again, with the longer trip now looking an issue given his increasing tendency to be very keen.
There is a possibility that he won’t be pressed for the lead, and the dwindling field makes that more likely, but presumably Gordon Elliott and Davy Russell will be aware of that possibility and will ensure that Pallasator gives the Mullins horse no peace. That could prove the decisive tactic in an intriguing race.
19:10 Salessense International Novice Hurdle
It’s not been a great week at Punchestown for Joseph O’Brien, with admittedly a series of half chances rather than serious ammunition for the meeting, but the stable’s hurdlers have struggled on the whole since the turn of the year, and that has been masked by the high-profile success of Edwulf in the Irish Gold Cup.
He’s got the favourite here in the shape of Shady Operator, but he’s been absent since November, and his latest effort, while his best to date on the figures, makes him look like he lacks the tactical pace to be fully effective at this trip, getting swamped by Sharjah having looked to hold every chance between the last two hurdles.
He is a lovely prospect for next season, with fences and longer trips likely to bring out further improvement, but that counts for nothing here, and he looks opposable at the prices.
- 17:30 Lay Samcro @ 1.95 or shorter
- 18:05 Lay Getabird for a place @ 2.1 or shorter
- 19:10 Lay Shady Operator @ 5.5 or shorter