Our racing tipster is taking on the market leaders in today's feature at Punchestown.
It was poor form on the part of Willie Mullins to withdraw Vroom Vroom Mag from the Select Hurdle at Sandown on Saturday, with the trainers’ title beyond his grasp, and the £1,000 fine imposed will feel like loose change if the mare lands this evening’s Punchestown Champion Hurdle (due off 5.30pm).
There’s a first prize of 118,000 up for grabs and, according to the layers, she has a better than 2/1 chance of pocketing it for connections, with no bigger than 15/8 available. However, today’s opposition is a definite step up on what she has been facing and, while she has a pacemaker to ensure an even gallop, the fact remains she has done most of her winning over further and may be vulnerable to a speedier type. On balance, she’s opposable.
Indeed, the bookmakers prefer Nicky Henderson’s My Tent Or Yours and the nine-year-old is massively respected after twice finishing second since returning from injury, including when chasing home Annie Power in the Cheltenham equivalent, with IDENTIFY THIEF well behind in sixth. However, the latter horse can be excused that run and as he appeared ill at ease on the track and, having been freshened up since, he might be capable of showing the sort of form he showed when winning the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle in November. At the forecast 4/1, it’s worth paying to find out.
The British action is modest in comparison with a couple of jumps cards, two flat meetings and Lingfield on all-weather duties, and I wouldn’t blame anyone who decides to give it a miss and wait for the weekend action. That said, I’ve made a few quid out of backing Ralph Beckett-trained runners in the early weeks of the season and he has double prospects this afternoon, starting off with GIRLING in the 1m2f maiden (due off 2.50pm).
The three-year-old daughter of Rock Of Gibraltar showed considerable promise on her only start at two, finishing second over 7f at Salisbury in October, and is expected to come into her own middle distances this term at a high level. Indeed, she has Group 1 entries and to justify them she has to win this modest maiden against weak opposition well.
That is reflected in her price of course but we can always double her up with stablemate CAPE BANJO, who carries top weight in the extended 1m handicap run later on the card (4.00pm). A gelded half-brother to five winners, he finished second on both his juvenile starts, making a bold bid from the front on each occasion, and we can write off his reappearance sixth at Kempton as he gave himself no chance after setting off at a suicidal pace.
That run at least qualified him for a handicap mark and it’s a potentially lenient one of 80, with his burden reduced further by his rider’s 7lb claim. Of course, he’ll need to settle better to take advantage and backers are taking that risk, though the application of a first-time hood provides some encouragement for that and we’ve also got the compensation of a double-figure price.