Concorde to fly again
Man On The Spot previews Wednesday's feature action at Punchestown and Ascot.
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This is tricky given the Hannon team has won the last couple of runnings and both of today's representatives have leading claims. Musical Comedy returns to action having scored in soft ground at Newbury by five lengths in October. But Richard Hughes goes with EXPERT, runner-up in a competitive handicap at Newmarket a fortnight ago, and it could pay to stick with the champion jockey's choice. Mick's Yer Man has plenty to find with the selection on latest running while Speedfiend beat little of note to land the odds at Kempton and One Chance has it all to do on today's terms. Rufford has a shout on his second to Supplicant in the Mill Reef last season but Pontefract winner Danehill Revival is an unknown quantity at this level.
A race won by Estimate last year, who went on to beat Simenon in the Gold Cup here. The latter has every chance on that form as he returns from Meydan. Estimate later flopped in the Quipco Long Distance Cup over track and trip when Harris Tweed was only beaten a nose in soft ground. He'll prove tough to get past in this, but TAC DE BOISTRON is fancied to take up where he left off last year. Marco Botti's charge won the Group 1 Prix Royal-Oak over 2m at Longchamp in October and is a leading contender for the top staying prizes this season, especially with some cut in the ground. Richard Hughes presence on Irish raider Missunited catches the eye but she has a bit to find with Harris Tweed on collateral form and also the selection on form in France. Oriental Fox steps up from handicaps while both Earth Amber and Cocktail Queen have a tough task at the weights.
A tight contest according to the form book. Fencing won this last year and is closely matched with Graphic on last month's running at Doncaster where he was beaten a neck. The latter had found Sirius Prospect too good at Kempton in November which brings Dean Ivory's charge into the equation, but recent form points to FRENCH NAVY. The Godolphin representative finished ahead of Fencing when runner-up in the Earl Of Sefton at Newmarket on his return and can go one better with that run under his belt. Levitate, Baltic Knight and this year's Lincoln winner Ocean Tempest will all need to be at their very best to get involved.
Beat That left previous form behind when stepping up to 3m1f at Aintree but the form of that race doesn't look as strong as VERY WOOD's victory in the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham. Noel Meade's charge outstayed some very smart novices and the form has already been franked. It's difficult to see third Apache Jack reversing the placings here, though Dessie Hughes' six-year-old has place claims again. Don Poli won over 3m at Clonmel in February, when Captainofthefleet was only fourth, and completed his hat-trick in a conditionals' race at Cheltenham. He's on the upgrade but this a very tough heat. Lots Of Memories won easily at Fairyhouse 10 days ago after a break and could also go well and this trip should suit Shanahan's Turn, though he has a bit to find on the form book.
Willie Mullins won last year's renewal of this Grade 1 contest and will fancy his chances of landing the spoils again as both BOSTON BOB and On His Own arrive off the back of impressive performances at the highest level and will be prominent in the betting. Preference is for Ruby Walsh's mount after he returned to his best with victory in the Melling Chase at Aintree. He's always been held in high regard and should be followed now finally starting to fulfil his potential. He ran over a shorter trip at Cheltenham and never really figured but On His Own carried the Wylie colours with distinction in the Gold Cup, only going down by a short-head to Lord Windermere in a blanket finish. He'd won his previous two starts at Gowran and Fairyhouse and is much improved. First Lieutenant usually runs well in this grade but doesn't win as often as he should and Long Run may not be the force of old. The novice Morning Assembly may be biting off more than he can chew at this stage of his career while Lyreen Legend looks held by a couple of these on last season's form. Argocat finished ahead of First Lieutenant at Aintree but needs to reproduce that form on a consistent basis.
Everything fell into place for SILVER CONCORDE in the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham and he probably had a bit in hand as he came off a true line in the closing stages. The Mullins' trio Shaneshill, Black Hercules and Killultagh Vic - second, fourth and sixth - take him on again and the latter could come out best of those today as he met trouble in-running, though the winner looks smart. Value At Risk was further behind. Last month's Limerick winner Aminabad also represents the Mullins team while Fine Article looked potentially decent when scoring at Gowran. Seven Nation Army won a Listed contest at Ascot in December but looks held on a line through Newbury scorer Definitly Red and lacks the scope of fellow UK raiders Jollyallan, Some Buckle and Aniknam. Riviera Sun justified favouritism at Down Royal but will need a lot more here.
Pass The Hat won at Leopardstown last month but is 8lb higher here. Competitive Edge was hampered and fell in the Grand Annual at Cheltenham but had only found one too good in his three previous starts and will be bidding for compensation here while Beneficial Spirit has the past form to figure. Gift Of Dgab has been in action over hurdles lately but is another who could figure while Grandioso has been quite highly tried over the last few months, though probably needs some help from the handicapper. HECTOR'S CHOICE took advantage of a tumbling mark to score at Wincanton at the start of the month. He was always going well and, only three pounds higher, could be primed for a follow-up. Aupcharlie was just beaten in a Grade 1 in 2012 and got back to winning ways at Clonmel but this is a lot more competitive.