Race Time: 1.05pm Meeting: Punchestown Day: Thursday 31st December 2015 Full Race Name: Free Festival Upgrade Ticket Offer Hurdle
From the original numbers we are down to the bare eight this afternoon but at least if they all stand their ground we have the possibility of an each way option, so lets have a look in as bit more depth.
With the name Mullins surprisingly missing from the trainer list this year others get a chance, and can you believe that the twelve year old Seabass (11/4) stands his ground for trainer Ted Walsh with the excellent Katie Walsh in the saddle. He isn’t getting any better at his age (or is he), yet he won nicely enough at Thurles last time out over further to suggest he still has chances, though we would rate him about 122 based on that run alone, which would leave him a few pounds short of some of the others here today.
One horse we feel could or even should finish in front of him (and hopefully in front of all of them) is Jessica Harrington’s High Stratos (7/1) who has an awful lot in his favour here. Relatively unexposed with just the ten career starts, he won a couple of bumpers at Ludlow and Punchestown and a maiden hurdle at Navan over this trip on similar ground, after which he was thrown in at the deep end when seventh to Killultagh Vic and Thistlecrack in a Grade One at Punchestown at level weights but with those in front of him rated 143, 161, 154, 139, 154, and 143, over hurdles or fences, that was some race and his rating today of 125 seems a way short of his true potential. Pulled up at Killarney, he returned at Punchestown and ran a blinder in third, only beaten by two classy rivals in the Willie Mullins trained Thomas Hobson and Gordon Elliott’s Jetstream Jack (both entered in a Grade one on Sunday), and it really doesn’t look as if anything anywhere near to that class opposes him here, and we are delighted to see he is at such a decent price as well!
Nine year old Texas Jack (4/1) is better know for his exploits over fences than hurdles these days but peaked at a rating of 150 which, if repeated over the smaller obstacles, would leave him winning this and doing so with some ease. He hasn’t won a race of any sort in close to two years and after eleven races but has placed behind the likes of Don Cossack and Champagne Fever over fences and could be the dark horse this afternoon.
Meanwhile, Double Seven (12/1) was OK if not spectacular over hurdles but is another who ran up a sequence, this time over fences in 2013, seeing his ratings rise a massive thirty six pounds which is close to unheard of! We all assume that this will be little more than a pipe opener over the smaller obstacles ahead of a campaign back over fences but if his improvement is transferred to hurdles then he may be the surprise package today, and a possibility for the each way boys and girls this afternoon.
To end with, the combination of shrewd trainer Tony Martin, owner J P McManus, and top jockey Barry Geraghty catches the eye with Noble Emperor (9/2) who is having his first start over hurdles since winning a maiden at Limerick in April 2014. He would be rated about ten pounds below Texas Jack over fences which is a concern, and may just be on a confidence booster after falling at Limerick last time out, but with his high powered connections we won’t be writing off his chances just yet, though we would expect a half decent price based on the bare bones of his form at least.