A field of ten go to post for this intruding hurdles race at Punchestown on Day 2 of the Festival, see our betting tips and the full race preview below.
IN SUMMARY: If back to anywhere near his best Milsean would be dangerous but this can go to the progressive DRUMCONNOR LAD, who can make it back to back wins over hurdles. He has been steadily improving over these obstacles and posted a career best when winning well under Davy Russell at Fairyhouse on his latest start, showing a good turn of foot to swoop on past. He doesn’t have that rider today but Robbie Power certainly isn’t just a substitute and with conditions to suit and the yard having winners, he can take the victory. Minella Till Dawn and Battleford head up the dangers as they both can boast a solid level of form.
1 BADEN – British raider for Nicky Henderson who has been very much a mixed bag over timber for the top trainer, winning once but posting some very questionable efforts either side. A good third in this race last year when only beaten around two lengths on only his third hurdling start, he seemingly hasn’t improved from that and has been disappointing this season; he only managed a win in a poor novices’ hurdle at Wetherby in December. He was last seen well beaten in the Albert Bartlett and he needs to step up massively if he’s to be competitive in this, which can only be taken on trust. Too risky.
2 BATTLEFORD – Six-year-old for Willie Mullins who was hugely impressive in bumpers, but has been massively let down by his jumping over timber thus far. Winning on his second hurdling start at Leopardstown when making most, he finished second behind two useful rivals on the two starts that followed (including Monalee). He then finished eighth in the Martin Pipe at the Festival where he was slightly disappointing as he never looked likely to threaten. He should be happier if given a more positive ride this time around and he does look a main contender if his jumping holds up, with conditions to suit.
3 BEYOND THE OBVIOUS – Highly tried in bumpers with eight runs in that discipline between April 2013 and December 2015, he made his hurdling debut very late on at the age of eight when winning at Navan in a maiden back in March 2016. He has only been seen once this season when well beaten at Clonmel in November and he’ll need a huge amount more to threaten in this. This step up in trip will need to have a drastic effect and he’s impossible to fancy.
4 BURGAS – Noel Meade six-year-old who hasn’t been disgraced the last twice; he finished third to Open Eagle at Thurles in March at the three mile trip before finishing ninth in a big field Grade B handicap at Cork ten days ago. Those two runs should have prepared him well for this and he has conditions to suit. Therefore this €140,000 purchase could well have a say for the places if taking another step forward for an in-form yard. Others look more likely in terms of form, but he wouldn’t be amiss in the places.
5 C’EST JERSEY – Another for Willie Mullins who has something to find on the figures, though this lightly raced five-year-old couldn’t be discounted by any stretch. He has had only four runs for his current yard, finishing a close second at Navan behind Any Second Now (who turned out to be useful) before a disappointing effort at Fairyhouse where he could only manage third in a race that he possibly should have been winning. He left that race well behind though when winning a maiden at Navan. However, he then finished tenth in the Albert Bartlett when last seen in March where he never looked likely to land any sort of blow. He needs to improve and although that is entirely possible, he doesn’t seem to be progressive at present which is concerning. Conditions are to suit and he does have place claims, but he may just be found wanting for the victory.
6 DRUMCONNOR LAD – Progressive seven-year-old for Adrian Keatley who’s been steadily improving from run to run over timber and he looks likely to be involved again with another jolt of progress. On hurdling debut at Naas he was moving into second when falling at the last, which he really didn’t deserve after such a promising run. He ran admirably again when third at Gowran Park last month and then improved significantly to land a maiden at Fairyhouse eight days ago, travelling well and leading close home under a brilliant ride from Davy Russell. He is still unexposed, and the fact that he stayed on well on his latest run – plus the fact that he is entitled to come on for the run – bode well on his second attempt at this trip over hurdles. Very interesting contender and he isn’t one to underestimate.
7 HIGHWAY ROYAL – Won on hurdling debut at Ballinrobe back in August after showing little snippets of ability in bumpers. He followed that up to finish a creditable third at Galway in November, running on well but unable to get to the leaders. He did not, however, improve on that effort when a disappointing fourth at Fairyhouse when last seen. That leaves him with questions to answer and plenty to find with the principles. He’s unexposed, but others make far more appeal and he’s passed over.
8 MILSEAN – Finished second in the 2015 Albert Barlett behind the smart Martello Tower, but he has not improved from that performance this season. He was well beaten on all four occasions which means that he’s very hard to assess. At his best he would perhaps clear of these rating wise, but he’s shown nothing this season to suggest that he’s anywhere near that. He was last seen dropping away tamely from the lead when well beaten at Navan in Grade 2 company and, although this is easier, it’s hard to put him forward with no evidence to suggest that he’s the same horse he was two years ago. Hard to rule out completely, but is a very risky proposition.
9 MINELLA TILL DAWN – A promising five-year-old for powerful connections of Gordon Elliott and J P McManus who looks set to go close if leaving behind his latest run at Fairyhouse. Finishing second on hurdling debut behind Moulin A Vent and ahead of Runfordave, he improved on that effort to win at Fairyhouse over today’s trip, asserting well in the closing stages for a length success. Upped in listed company at Naas in March, he was perhaps disappointing when only able to muster up third when well backed and he was in with a chance of victory in Grade 2 company at Fairyhouse on his latest when falling at the last. Clearly has the potential, but he just needs to pull everything together and this is perhaps easier than his last two assignments. So he should have his part to play with conditions to suit. Respected.
10 THEOPHILUS – Six-year-old who is looking regressive over hurdles and, although he showed promise last season when going close on two occasions, he’s been well beaten on both his starts this season for Desmond McDonogh. He had no excuses when well beaten at Limerick 27 days ago and it’s hard to see him playing any sort of role in this considering what he’s shown so far. Others are readily preferred.