Our racing expert has a couple of value bets on day three of the Punchestown Festival.
Willie Mullins has seen a couple of his horses get turned over at odds-on at Punchestown this week, but it’s hard to imagine Douvan’s name being added to the list.
The six-year-old is unbeaten in 10 starts since his debut in France, the last five over fences, and was a brilliant winner at the recent Cheltenham and Aintree festivals. With Mullins saying about him “he’s as good as I’ve ever had” – some compliment when you consider the horses he’s had through his hands – a clear round will surely suffice in today’s Grade Ryanair Novice Chase (due off 6.40pm).
Sadly, we’re not going to get rich backing him at the best-priced 1/5, and there’s another short-priced favourite in the other Grade 1 contest on the card, the Ladbroke Champions Stayers Hurdle (5.30pm), though Mouse Morris’ Alpha Des Obeaux is a far more backable 6/4. His seven-length second to Thistlecrack at Cheltenham is the standout piece of form and it’s a big plus that he skipped Aintree to be fresh for this. However, he doesn’t win that often – twice from 10 starts over hurdles with one of his defeats coming at last year’s meeting – and if the ratings are to be believed he doesn’t have much in hand at all over his rivals.
On balance then he’s opposable and I’d rather have a small wager on Gordon Elliott’s DIAMOND KING at 5/1. The eight-year-old is stepping up to Grade 1 company for the first time but he looks ready for it as after winning here in January on unsuitable heavy ground, he was a ready winner of the Coral Cup at the Cheltenham Festival, winning with a bit more in hand than his length and a quarter winning margin would suggest. Given the way he was finishing that 2m5f contest, he shouldn’t have any problem getting 3m and especially now the ground has dried up a bit. Expect Davy Russell to ride a waiting race before putting his speed to good use at the finish. Well, that’s the theory and at the odds it’s worth paying to find out.
The big betting race on the card – if impossible-looking big-field handicaps are your thing – is the Murray Spelman Handicap Hurdle over 3m (due off 6.05pm). Bookmakers make Rathpatrick a general 6/1 favourite and that’s understandable as the eight-year-old is the only course and distance winner in the field and ran a decent race in the Pertemps Final last time. He has to be thereabouts but off a 10lb higher mark than when winning here and with some luck in running required, he’s swerved at a single-figure price.
Instead, let’s have a little each-way on the Robert Tyner-trained FAIRLY LEGAL at the 14/1 on offer. The six-year-old was a smooth winner of a 2m3f maiden hurdle at Naas two starts back and ran a fair fourth when returned to that track and trip for his handicap debut last time, finishing fourth after getting tired close home. I’d be inclined to blame the heavy ground for that weary effort and, while he does have his stamina to prove, he shapes like a stayer and today’s better ground is going to be a big help in that respect. Off a mark of 129 and with further improvement likely after just four hurdle starts, he should go well under Mark Walsh and hopefully land us some place money (bet365 are paying out in the first five) at the very least.