Irish Eyes: Take a Chancol
Our Irish Eyes column is back with three selections for the Punchestown card and Noel Meade's Chancol is expected to strike.
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Chancol looks to face very little in the line of opposition in the opener at Punchestown and gets a strong vote to atone for a fall at Navan on his last run.
Prior to that disappointment, he'd run a decent fourth in a good maiden at Leopardstown over the Christmas period in a race that has produced two subsequent winners, both of whom finished well behind Chancol.
A reproduction of that run should prove more than good enough to win this weaker-looking event and the step up in trip to two and a half miles should suit on two counts.
First of all he won't be meeting his hurdles quite so quickly which should see an improvement in his jumping and secondly, his pedigree suggests that he will be much more at home over this trip and perhaps even further.
Railway Benefit is not useless and should put up some sort of a challenge, having finished just half a length off Shantou Ed who came out at won this weekend at Fairyhouse in impressive style.
Six of Chancol's other rivals are mares and, perhaps rather surprisingly, they include a couple of dangers, which highlights how weak this maiden is.
Dantes Firth should run well and is one for the places but the Willie Mullins-trained Pink Hat will need better ground to be seen at her best, judging by both her size and pedigree.
All told, the opposition does not amount to much and whilst Chancol is a horse that will not be 'taking the boat' come the second week of March, he should win this event, and that will suffice for now.
The second race on the card promises to feature a fascinating battle between Lieutenant Colonel and Wicklow Brave.
Both horses emerged from facile maiden hurdle wins with big reputations and possible Cheltenham aspirations.
Lieutenant Colonel was put in his place on debut by the Willie Mullins-trained Vautour but he subsequently sluiced home by 14 lengths at Fairyhouse.
Three days later, Willie's Wicklow Brave took a weak Cork maiden by half that margin but the key to this battle can be found in the latter's bumper form.
Wicklow Brave gave 10lb and a two-length beating to the talented Western Boy at Tipperary last October and Western Boy proceeded to give Vautour a fright when he finished just three-parts of a length off him in a Grade Two last month.
If that line thorough Vautour can hold up, Lieutenant Colonel has about seven lengths to find on Wicklow Brave, and that is even before we consider the 10lb weight discrepancy at Tipperary.
Indeed, it is somewhat bemusing therefore to see that bookmakers have Lieutenant Colonel trading at a general 20/1 for the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle whilst Wicklow Brave is available at 33/1.
Ruby Walsh is on board Wicklow Brave here and has gone on record as saying "we just don't know how good he is".
It is quite possible that both horses could have a big say at Cheltenham but for now we are concentrating on this contest and Wicklow Brave is taken to shade it. You could do worse than back for him the Supreme before the race too.
Mullins also supplies the likely bumper winner in the shape of Bosman Rule.
This six-year-old has finished second on both his starts to date, including at Leopardstown over the Christmas where he was beaten by the most impressive bumper winner seen in Ireland for many years, No More Heroes.
Unfortunately the third horse has subsequently died and the only other two to run from that race since have finished tailed off and pulled up, so the form hasn't exactly been franked since.
However, Irish punters have come to know that a Willie Mullins-trained bumper horse that is extremely fit takes a lot of beating, even if it is not quite a star.
The only real threat to him on this occasion is Hairy O'Malley, who has come up against three very decent horses on each of his racecourse appearances to date.
He finished within seven lengths of Cheltenham Bumper favourite and Bosman Rule's stablemate Shaneshill on his last start, whilst the closest he came to winning was when he was beaten less than two lengths behind The Winker in Galway.
However, the runner-up that day finished no less than 69 lengths behind Bosman Rule at Leopardstown over Christmas and even if that line of form might not exactly be rock-solid, it undoubtedly marks the Mullins horse down as the one to beat.
Nap: Chancol - 1.40 Punchestown
Next Best: Wicklow Brave - 2.10 Punchestown
Trixie: Bossman Rule - 4.40 Punchestown.