Salsify to satisfy
Man On The Spot previews Friday's action at the Punchestown Festival.
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15.40 KFM Hunters Steeplechase for the Bishopscourt Cup
This is confined to horses owned by members of the Kildare Hunt and form over regulation fences counts for little. Cool Warrior, who won this in 2010, was well beaten a year ago and has shown virtually nothing since. SHIN A VEE was a 50/1 chance when landing this in 2009 and was narrowly beaten by Cool Warrior three years ago and has hardly raced subsequently. He has the benefit of Derek O'Connor in the saddle and is taken to come out on top again. Satorie finished fifth a year ago but went well later and scored at Ballingarry last summer. A recent run should have put him straight and he could provide the main threat. Barnbougle Dunes hasn't had much luck in the race having fallen last year and being brought down in 2011 but arrives in decent form having finished runner-up in a point three weeks ago. Alright Benny has had several attempts at this without looking as though he could succeed.
16.20 Aon Novice Handicap Steeplechase
Philip Hobbs won this for the UK a couple of years ago so there's no reason why Venetia Williams' Shangani shouldn't go well. The Real Article has yet to win over fences though the former useful hurdler has probably been racing over trips too short. Sweeney Tunes landed a Grade 2 at Naas in February before a tremendous run in the Irish National and enters the equation despite his big weight. The six-year-old Home Farm finished just in front of him at Fairyhouse and must also be considered. Avondhu Lady is well up to this class having been narrowly beaten in a Grade 2 at Limerick and she's on the short-list but IMMEDIATE RESPONSE is given the nod. He's managed to win six races despite looking a tricky ride on occasions but he jumped really well at Clonmel last time and could have been let in lightly for his handicap debut over fences.
16.55 Breakfast With Hector On 2fm Handicap Steeplechase
It doesn't get any easier for punters, nor for the horses as this 3m6f will take some getting in these conditions. Treacle has failed to get round in the last two Grand Nationals and was well beaten in this two years ago but he's won some good races and is definitely on the short-list. Vesper Bell, runner-up in a Grade 1 hurdle here last April, hasn't had much experience over fences but is doing well and there should be more to come as there should be from PANTHER CLAW, who ran a fine race in the Irish National and looks the one to be on. That was only the seventh run over fences from Paul Nolan's charge and he would have finished much closer but for a bad mistake at the third last fence. Useful hurdler Novarov made a winning debut over fences at Gowran last month but may not have the experience for such a tough event.
17.30 Rabobank Champion Hurdle
Willie Mullins had six of the original ten entries and still runs four but all eyes will be on the Champion Hurdler HURRICANE FLY, who has now won an incredible 15 Grade 1's which includes this race for the past three years. He regained the championship he had lost to Rock On Ruby with a tremendous display at Cheltenham and only the latter stands in his way of a fourth victory in this event. Noel Fehily's decision to attempt to make all on Rock On Ruby at The Festival didn't please everyone but he tried to run the sting out of Hurricane Fly and at one point looked as though he'd succeeded. Similar tactics are likely here and it should be a fascinating spectacle. Galway Hurdle winner Rebel Fitz is admirably tough and consistent though his only start at this level resulted in a fourth place behind Dedigout here a year ago and that form is nowhere near good enough. Thousand Stars invariably plays second fiddle to his illustrious stablemate and his turn may come again in France, as it did last year after finishing third here.
18.05 Tattersalls Ireland Champion Novice Hurdle
There was a prevailing smell of scorched fingers when PONT ALEXANDRE was beaten in the Neptune Investment at Cheltenham as he was considered an Irish banker of the meeting. He ran well enough but just didn't have the pace to cope with The New One and Rule The World and he remains a long-term chasing prospect. He's expected to regain winning ways but it's no surprise that Gary Moore has elected to send Ubak here after his demolition job at Aintree. He was well behind the selection at Cheltenham but clearly showed massive improvement to land the Grade 1 Mersey Novices' Hurdle and it wouldn't be a shock if her were to prevail here. Sizing Rio is a smart prospect though his overall form to date falls just short of the required level and Mullaghanoe River is taking a massive leap from maiden company. The selection's stablemate Un Atout ran well behind Champagne Fever at Cheltenham where a blunder three out didn't help and he's no forlorn hope to cause an upset.
18.40 Star Best For Racing Coverage Novice Hurdle
UN DE SCEAUX, twice a winning bumper in the French Provinces, made a sparkling debut for Willie Mullins in a maiden hurdle on this track in February and has been saved for this event. He could prove very exciting and should remain unbeaten despite stepping up markedly in class. Waaheb has become disappointing and was beaten at very long odds-on at Fairyhouse in February. He definitely has the best form but is best watched for the moment and Moscow Mannon could prove more of a threat as he's run well in better company after making a winning hurdling debut at Navan. Cops And Robbers is making very good progress and there was much to like about his close second to Pique Sous in a Grade 2 at Fairyhouse earlier this month.
19.10 Irish Thoroughbred Breeders Association Fillies Scheme Premier Bumper
Katie Walsh rode the winner for Willie Mullins last year and is on board the stable's newcomer Bluemountainbeach this time and the half-sister to Blackstairmountain is one for the short-list. The champion trainer also runs ROBINA MAI, beaten on her debut at Wexford but looking in need of the experience that day. She'll know much more this time and is handed the vote though there are plenty of dangers including Catimini, who made a winning start on testing ground at Wexford in December. Storm Away made a good impression when landing a Tramore bumper a couple of weeks ago and has to be respected along with Table Tips, who is reunited with Derek O'Connor after her victory in a point-to-point at Lemonfield.
19.45 Racing Post Champion Hunters Steeplechase
Oscar Delta had seen the back of SALSIFY so many times in the past that it was a shock to see him in front over the last in the Foxhunter at Cheltenham. It must have been a shock to horse and rider also as the ten-year-old jinked on the run-in and unseated Jane Mangan leaving their old rival to win the race for the second time. The rider had compensation of sorts on board The Liquidator here on Wednesday and will be keen to make amends for her mishap but the overall form of Rodger Sweeney's charge may prove too much again. The remainder look as though they are playing for places though Enda Bolger could have unearthed another classy performer in this sphere in Festive Affair, who was making his hunter debut when giving the very useful Mossey Joe a scare at Cork. Western Charmer, runner-up in the 2011 Irish National, looks best of the rest.