Irish Eyes: Arbor Supreme bet
Our in-form Irish Eyes column previews Sunday's feature action at Punchestown.
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Don Cossack bids to redeem his reputation in the Grade 2 Moscow Flyer hurdle at Punchestown on Sunday. He was well beaten prior to stumbling and falling after the last, behind Pont Alexandre in the Grade 1 Navan Novice Hurdle on his last start. Don Cossack was found to be lame after the race but Pont Alexander has gone on to prove himself again, winning a Grade 2 at Leopardstown in impressive style.
Sizing Gold is a common link, having finished second to both horses, and a strict interpretation of the form suggests that Pont Alexandre would have beaten Don Cossack at Navan whether he was lame or not. Therefore, he might be best left alone if he remains an odds-on shot on Sunday.
The second-favourite, Ned Buntline looks a decent prospect but Urano let his form down at Leopardstown last weekend and, on pedigree, one would have thought that Ned Buntline would not be in love with this heavy ground. He might just be seen in a better light when the weather improves.
One horse that will relish conditions however is Mozoltov. He is hard to evaluate, given he won his only hurdle start by 24 lengths at Gowran Park but that was as bad a maiden hurdle as you'll ever find - not a single winner has emerged from it since. However, a horse can only beat what is put in front of him and his bumper form gives us a much better idea of the level of ability that Mozoltov possesses.
He finished third to Cheltenham Bumper winner Champagne Fever in a Grade 1 at Punchestown, when he was a mere one and a quarter lengths off the second horse that day, subsequent Grade 1 Tolworth Hurdle winner Melodic Rendezvous. Mozoltov finished 50 lengths clear of the fourth horse that day, and there were some fair horses in behind on that occasion.
Given that the bookmakers seem to have decided this is essentially a two-horse race, between Don Cossack and Ned Buntline, it may pay to take a chance on Mozoltov, despite his inexperience. His trainer Willie Mullins knows what is required to win the race too, and is aiming for his third Moscow Flyer Hurdle in just five years.
Colbert Station is the obvious choice in the Pertemps Hurdle, which is also a qualifier for the Cheltenham final. He is towards that bottom of the handicap, off a mark of 119 which looks very generous in light of the fact that he won the €190,000 Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas off a mark off 132, and has since been raised to 146 over fences.
It is a competitive race but it is impossible to find a challenger that is better handicapped than Colbert Station and the fact that Tony McCoy is prepared to do 10st 5lb (just 2lb higher than the lowest weight he has managed throughout 2012), tells you that he fancies his chances as well.
The Grade 2 Tied Cottage Chase has attracted just five runners and it's impossible to look past Sizing Europe, who is biding to take this race for the second year in a row, having been beaten in the race in 2011 behind Golden Silver and Big Zeb. He turned the form around with Big Zeb last year and there is nothing of their calibre up against Henry De Bromhead's star this year. He is miles clear of the rest of the field and the betting will reflect this.
Moving on to the Grand National Trial and the horse that simply jumps out at us here is English challenger, Arbor Supreme.
The presence of the likely favourite, Vesper Bell, means that four of his 10 challengers remain out of the handicap and although he is a previous course and distance winner, Vesper Bell remains a novice and he'll need to be smart to win his first handicap off a mark of 138 here.
Arbor Supreme meanwhile, ran a cracker last time out in a good Welsh National to finish fourth. Incidentally, Jadanli was pulled up in the same race but went on to win last week's Thyestes Chase at Gowran Park. Master Overseer was also pulled up in the Welsh National before winning on Thursday at Wincanton, so Arbor Supreme's performance there deserves extra credit.
Arbor Supreme was previously trained by Willie Mullins and has run just three times at Punchestown, each time running a cracker. His first appearance came exactly five years ago when he finished second in this very race. He went on to win a €50,000 chase at the track over 3m 6f before finishing a close third off 139 in a €60,000 race here. Running off a mark of 120 on Sunday and with the useful Maurice Linehan claiming 5lb, he will think he's running loose with just 10st 1lb on his back.
Both of last weekend's each-way selections finished in the money. Abbey Lane was an impressive winner of Saturday's feature race, the €100,000 boylesports.com hurdle at 16/1 (having been available at 25/1 in the morning of the race).
Private Treasure was the other each-way selection and he finished second in the bumper at 12/1 behind one of the favourites for the Cheltenham Bumper Le Vent D'Antan.