Our Matt Brocklebank is at Punchestown where he's looking forward to seeing Andy Dufresne tackle Captain Guiness in the Sky Bet Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle.
Andy Dufresne has had people talking about him for a long time already.
Partly due to the fact that he’s named after a popular film character, but also because he cost JP McManus a relatively large sum of money (we are talking relatively here – don’t worry too much about £330,000 eating into the owner’s funds) after winning his point-to-point in taking fashion.
He was all the rage for his bumper last January and duly delivered, ditto the Navan maiden hurdle he contested on November 19.
He was talked about as a potential Albert Bartlett contender in the aftermath of that success over a mile and a half, but the Ballymore was still an option, according to many. We love an option when it comes to Cheltenham don’t we – just imagine the options when we have a fifth day. Lovely jubbly.
Hold the phone.
Defeat for Andy Dufresne in the Grade Two Navan Novice Hurdle. Some plucky upstart called Latest Exhibition trained by Paul Nolan had dethroned the anointed one.
He’s not the Messiah, and he’s now suffered defeat on just his third start over hurdles. How deflating. What a roller-coaster.
But let’s not get too carried away with one reverse either.
Thankfully, everyone has had to hit the reset button, and that includes his connections who have opted to start afresh and drop right back to two miles for today’s Sky Bet Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle at Punchestown.
I’m sure it’s occurred to Gordon Elliott that Latest Exhibition might just be a very good horse, one who had shaped with abundant promise over an inadequate trip when chasing home the same stable’s subsequent Grade One winner Abacadabras on his previous outing.
But there was a hint that Elliott felt big Andy hadn’t quite sparked to the same degree as when romping away with his maiden.
And one suspects that will need to be rekindled if he’s to get back to winning ways this afternoon and put himself back in the mix as a serious Cheltenham Festival candidate.
It is a race with a rich history already, having been won by the likes of Kicking King (2003), Mikael D’Haguenet (2009), Vautour (2014) and Douvan (2015).
Standing in his way are two Joseph O’Brien runners of contrasting experience – namely Anything Will Do and the hurdling debutant Meticulous.
Front-runner Anything Will Do is 4-5 over jumps and knows what’s required around this course already, while Meticulous was last seen contesting the red-hot Weatherbys Champion Bumper at Cheltenham won by Envoi Allen.
The big danger to Andy Dufresne is Captain Guiness. He benefitted from Blackbow’s late fall to win a Navan maiden last month but you couldn’t fault the way he went about his business, travelling and jumping superbly.
He attacked the last flight like a horse with plenty in the tank and pulled seven lengths clear of Belfast Banter, who subsequently looked on his way to winning at Cork before falling two out.
The eventual fourth Texard has also gone on to win at Cork. It looks very reasonable form.
Captain Guiness’ trainer-jockey combination, Henry De Bromhead and Rachael Blackmore, continue in fine form and he looks the one to put it up to the favourite. He’s 33/1 generally for the Sky Bet Supreme, compared to 16s about ‘the redemption horse’, Andy Dufresne.
Matt Brocklebank's Punchestown tips
- 12.30 - Chosen Hour
- 1.05 - Speak Easy (NB)
- 1.35 - Roxboro Road
- 2.10 - Cappacurry Zak
- 2.40 - Captain Guineass
- 3.15 - Fag An Bealach (NAP)
- 3.45 - Blackbow
It’s a cracking card also featuring the Grade Two Killiney Novice Chase which brings together last year’s Ballymore hero City Island and Willie Mullins’ well-touted Carefully Selected, but don’t ignore Speak Easy here.
He was mixing with the cream of the crop in his novice hurdle days and even beat the likes of Scarpeta, Riders Onthe Storm and Dortmund Park when taking his maiden hurdle before injury struck.
O’Brien’s seven-year-old ran well on chasing debut at Fairyhouse in November and has been given time to recover in a bid to try and avoid the bounce. That race contained the likes of Bapaume who has won well since and I liked the way he made up ground at his fences.
Bet of the day comes in the Irish Jockey Association Critical Illness Cover With Irish Life Mares Handicap Hurdle, where Arthur Moore’s Fag An Bealach appears potentially thrown in on her first venture down the handicap route.
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