Mullins to land day one prize
Man On The Spot previews the first day of the Punchestown Festival and fancies Faugheen for Willie Mullins.
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As ever this great fixture begins with a low-grade hunters event and once again Enda Bolger is very well represented. Nina Carberry rides Be Positive while Derek O'Connor is on board Phar And Away so neither will lack expertise in the saddle. Robbie McNamara's presence on board Remarkable Man will ensure support while Kanesh and Finea are consistent between the flags and can go well. LORD HAWKFIELD finished runner-up to Zest For Life a year ago and looks as though he's been primed for a repeat so is taken to go one better.
FAUGHEEN was one of the most impressive winners at Cheltenham though his victory was achieved over 2m5f and he's never run at this trip over hurdles. While that wasn't the strongest of races at the Festival he could hardly have done it any better and will take all the beating. Sgt Reckless couldn't match the pace of Vautour at Cheltenham nor Josses Hill at Aintree but this is his trip and looks certain to get competitive. The selection's stablemate Valseur Lido was behind Sgt Reckless at Cheltenham but did better at Fairyhouse where he comfortably saw off the challenge of Real Steel with the very disappointing Wicklow Brave well beaten. Western Boy and The Liquidator are both held on Cheltenham form.
The shortest price winner of this in the last ten years has been 10/1. A P McCoy rides Gallant Tipp, who couldn't handle Grade 2 company at Fairyhouse while City Slicker has also been well beaten at that level in his last two races. Lucky Bridle hasn't been done any favours in the handicap after beating Shield at Thurles but GLEN BEG ran very well behind Court Minstrel at Aintree and is handed the vote. She would be a strong selection if there is any more rain which would greatly enhance her chances. Cool Macavity's credentials don't looks strong enough but Diplomat had a recent run on the Flat and his stable can do little wrong at present.
Twinlight put two shocking performances behind him when chasing home stablemate Arvika Ligeonniere at Fairyhouse when Turban fell at the first. Ruby Walsh has opted to ride him and he should get into the frame though SOMERSBY has to be the form pick. Mick Channon's charge only runs at the very highest level and has finished behind Sire De Grugy in his last three starts though the fact that he's unseated his rider twice recently is a bit of a concern. Hidden Cyclone is another high-class performer who chased home the classy Dynaste in the Ryanair though that's over 2m5f which may prove to be more like his trip. Module was only a neck behind the selection in the Champion Chase with the veteran Sizing Europe around 4l further back but don't be surprised by a big effort from the latter, who won the race in 2012.
Just Get Cracking was always travelling nicely on his debut at Limerick but just couldn't quicken past Poker School in the heavy ground. Ustica was a 20/1 chance when making a successful start for Philip Kirby at Newcastle and has been transferred to Jonjo O'Neill. Willie Mullins has won this three times in recent years so Very Much So is an obvious one to keep an eye on as is Caleb Coomber, who is a full brother to a winning bumper. NATIVE DISPLAY has numerous winning relatives, several of them in bumpers, and won't have been sent here by Nicky Henderson unless thought capable of coming away with the spoils so she is handed the vote. Noel Meade's pair Russian Bill and Snow Falcon are respected while Dessie Hughes' Daydream Island has a speedier pedigree than most and could reward each-way support.
Ballycasey beat Don Cossack at Leopardstown then didn't quite get home in the RSA Chase at Cheltenham. He was going strongly when falling at the second last at Fairyhouse last time and will be fancied to make amends. His stablemates Mozoltov and DJAKADAM both also failed to finish on their latest starts and it's the latter, who is only a five-year-old and gets plenty of allowances, who gets the nod as he looked very smart when beating Bright New Dawn at Leopardstown and was going well when falling at Cheltenham. Carlingford Lough had Morning Assembly just behind in the Grade 1 Topaz at Leopardstown in December and can confirm the form without troubling the selection.
Neatly Put made an encouraging debut at Fairyhouse and Patrick Mullins is a very interesting booking while Bell Of The Ball went very close at Wexford and can only improve. Ange D'Or Javilex disappointed at Limerick but may do better on this quicker ground though the chances are it will be a newcomer who takes home the spoils. HASANOUR is by Giant's Causeway and the first foal of a mare who won a Listed race on the Flat. He should have more genuine pace than most of these and Katie Walsh can steer him home. Nina Carberry's mount Alamein is another to keep an eye on in a race where the market should prove a good guide.