Get stuck into Treacle
Donn McClean previews the feature action from the fourth day of the Punchestown Festival.
- Related Content
It was the Willie Mullins Show at Punchestown yesterday. It usually is the Willie Mullins Show at Punchestown, but five out of eight winners, including the two Grade 1 races and the 1-2 in the mares' novice hurdle, is good even by the champion trainer's standards.
It could be more of the same today. For starters, it is difficult to see Hurricane Fly getting beaten in the Rabobank Champion Hurdle. It is great that Rock On Ruby is here to keep him honest, and Harry Fry's horse obviously has a verdict over the Montjeu gelding on his cv from last year's Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham, but it was a different story in this year's Champion Hurdle when Hurricane Fly was by far the superior horse.
It may be that Rock On Ruby will be ridden a little less aggressively today than he was then, but it is difficult to imagine that tactics will beat the champion. He has won the last three renewals of this race, he loves Punchestown, he goes well on soft ground, he is all class, he is at least as good as ever this year, and this is a home gig for him, whereas last year's champion has to travel. He is not a betting proposition, but he really should win.
From a betting perspective, however, Immediate Response in the Aon Novice Handicap Chase is a more attractive proposition at around 7/1. Hugely progressive as a hurdler last season after joining Mullins and after a break of almost two and a half years, he won his first three, progressing 40lb up the handicap, before he came unstuck in the Setantabet Handicap Hurdle at last year's Punchestown Festival.
He looked good on his debut over fences this season at Limerick, and there was a lot to like about the manner in which he travelled and jumped on his most recent run at Clonmel, when he probably won with a fair bit more in hand than the three-parts-of-a-length winning margin.
An extended two and a half miles on heavy ground should be close to his optimum, his handicap mark for his chasing bow is 2lb lower than his hurdles mark and, although he is 10, he is a lightly-raced 10-year-old. He has raced just three times over fences, and consequently he has lots of scope for progression. Add to that the fact that Ruby Walsh rides him for the first time today, and that Ruby has chosen him over Terminal, who ran so well after making an early mistake in the RSA Chase, and it is easy to see him go close.
Treacle could be the answer to a really competitive Breakfast with Hector on 2FM Handicap Chase. Second in last season's Paddy Power Chase and third in last season's Irish Hennessy, Tom Taaffe's horse jumped well when he beat his stable companion Ninetieth Minute over three and a quarter miles at Down Royal last month on his prep run for the Grand National.
He unseated his rider at the Canal Turn first time in the National, it was obviously far too early to know how he would have fared, but he seems to be in fine form now at the age of 12.
This is a race that can turn into a torrid test, and in which the older battle-hardened horses tend to fare well, with the last two renewals and four of the last seven going to horses aged 10 or older. Treacle gets to compete today off a mark of 138, 7lb lower than his 2012 Grand National mark, the booking of Barry Geraghty is a significant positive, and he looks a little over-priced at 11/1.
- For more of Donn's thoughts, visit www.donnmcclean.com