Min is a hot favourite for the Champion Chase on day one of the Punchestown Festival, but his best effort came when allowed to dictate over further at Aintree, and he could find himself tactically snookered by his own stablemates today.
15:40 Kildare Hunt Club Father Sean Breen Memorial Chase
Vital Island is a poor pointer on balance, but one of his wins between the flags has come on a banks course and has run with credit on all three starts under rules in such events, including when fifth in this race last season on his debut in this arena. He followed that with a pair of fourth-placed finishes over track and trip in 2018. He has not covered himself in glory lately, finishing a well-beaten sixth of seven in a hunter chase at Clonmel in January. That run does not offer much hope, but as we have seen before, cross-country events are very different to normal chases, and some horses are simply better at this discipline.
Vital Island is one of those, and while he may find one of the Enda Bolger battalion too strong, he appeals as a place only bet in a race high on numbers but low on quality.
16:20 Herald Champion Novice Hurdle
Klassical Dream is rightly favourite here, but the quicker ground here compared to Cheltenham gives Aramon a chance of closing the gap between the old rivals, and when they met at the Dublin Racing Festival, there was barely the width of a cigarette paper between them. Prior to that, Aramaon had shown a bright turn of foot to land the Future Champions Novice Hurdle at the same track, and his defeat at the hands of Felix Desjy was another solid performance.
It’s understandable that punters aren’t queueing up to back him to turn around those reverses, but the form book shows that he has very little to find, and he is seriously overpriced to be placed here.
He certainly appeals more on racecourse evidence that Quick Grabim and jockey bookings are skewing the market more than they ought to.
17:30 Boylesports Champion Chase
This should go to Min on recent form, and he bounced back from a lacklustre run at Cheltenham when making all in the Melling Chase at Aintree. If he repeats those tactics he will be very hard to beat, but that’s an enormous if, given that Willie Mullins also runs Un de Sceaux, who made all to win this last year, and Great Field, who only knows one way of running.
I don’t fancy being the man to tell J P McManus that his horse might be held up for a change, and it seems certain that Jody McGarvey’s mount will be allowed to make the running.
In that scenario, Min immediately becomes an odds-against shot, and backing him at the morning prices seems daft. Un de Sceaux was also below his best at Cheltenham when ridden with more restraint, and I can’t see that happening again. Min is a very good horse on his day, but I can see tactics conspiring against him here, and it should be remembered that he was unplaced in this contest last year having run at both Cheltenham and Aintree, and that fact is again not being considered by many when assessing his chances.
- 15:40 – Back Vital Island for a place @ 5.0 or bigger for 5pts
- 16:20 – Back Aramon for a place @ 4.4 or bigger for 5pts
- 17:30 – Lay Min @ 1.67 or shorter for 15pts [max liability 10pts]
On this week’s Matchbook Racing Review, Donn McClean and Tom Stanley reflect on the racing week just gone and put up some bets and lays for the 2019 Punchestown Festival.