Fresh from a 9/1 winner yesterday, our racing expert gives his verdict on Friday's fare.
Gordon Elliott is now playing catch up in the Irish trainers’ championship, having led Willie Mullins at the beginning of the week, and the Punchestown Champion Hurdle (5:30) might be his last throw of the dice.
The €162,250 first prize has surely swayed him into running crack novice Samcro and the unbeaten six-year-old (8-8 if you include his point succes) has been put in as favourite at around the even mark. However, for all his success over 2m, he has looked more of a staying type, with his Ballymore success over 2m5f clear evidence of that, and he’s now taking on the big boys over this trip for the first time.
They include MELON, one of five Willie Mullins-trained representatives and the clear form choice on his neck second behind Buveur D’Air in last month’s Champion Hurdle. The searching gallop of that contest helped to coax a career best out of the six-year-old, whose jumping was as clean as it’s ever been, and they won’t be hanging around here either with both Samcro and Supasundae likely to force the pace.
The latter horse lowered the colours of Faugheen in the Irish Champion Hurdle over this trip before two cracking efforts in defeat over further at Cheltenham and Aintree. He cannot be dismissed lightly and nor can last year’s surprise winner Wicklow Brave, but I’m sticking with Melon at Boylesports’ 3/1.
The 2m4f Champion Novice Hurdle (6:05) is the other Grade 1 on the card and all bar one of the 12 runners are either housed with Elliott (five runners) or Mullins (six). The exception being Margaret Mullins’ Debuchet who doesn’t look quite good enough based on his efforts this season, although he could beat several of his rivals home.
However, I’ve been waiting to back Elliott’s PALLASATOR at this meeting and his decision to skip an opportunity over 2m on Tuesday can be vindicated here as the nine-year old is a strong stayer over this longer trip and could be far too good for these.
A notoriously tricky type on the Flat, albeit good enough to win a Group 2, he has been sweetened up for the switch to hurdles and beat a decent field in a Grade 2 at Fairyhouse last time. While his winning margin was just over two lengths, he was value for more as he barely clambered over the last to give his pursuers a sniff, before rallying and gamely pulling out more on the run in. If his temperament continues to hold up, he could do big things over hurdles as well as landing a big staying prize back on the level.
The handicaps are far trickier as you’d expect and the novice handicap chase over 2m5f is no exception with bookmakers going 6/1 the field. However, having somehow found A Great View, who did us proud at 9/1 yesterday, I’m going to have a crack and there is plenty of juice in the price of Edward O’Grady’s THE WEST’S AWAKE. He hasn’t been well held on his last two starts on winter ground and will appreciate today’s better surface, while all his three of his chase wins have come on right-handed tracks, including one here. He can surely outrun his 25/1 price tag and reward each-way backers.
All odds were correct at time of posting.