Things We Learned » Punchestown pointers

Punchestown pointers

Last Tuesday at Punchestown was a day that could reverberate through the entire National Hunt season.

The day started with trumpet blast as Tycoon Prince made just about all the running under Bryan Cooper to land the two-mile maiden hurdle.  The Gigginstown House horse ran in three bumpers last season for Gordon Elliott, and he won all three.  He didn’t go to Cheltenham, but the plan was always to skip Cheltenham, let him off after he won at Naas in February.  There was never any doubt about the regard in which he was held by connections.

If you wanted to be hyper-critical on Tuesday, you could point to the fact that he jumped to his left on occasion.  Even so, he was most impressive.  It probably wasn’t ideal for him that he had to make his own running, and he should do even better when he steps up from the minimum trip.  He has an engine all right.

The two-mile beginners’ chase was won by Sizing John, again, in impressive fashion.  Henry de Bromhead’s horse was a high-class novice hurdler last season, a Grade 1 winner, but he was always built for a future over fences.  He jumped well for Jonathan Burke on Tuesday, his fluency improving as the race progressed, and he had the race in the bag from long before the home turn.

The Midnight Legend gelding was beaten three times by Douvan over hurdles last season, at Gowran and at Cheltenham and at Punchestown, he has 10lb to find with Willie Mullins’ horse on official hurdles ratings, but he ran a cracker in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham when he didn’t have the run of the race, and he shapes like he could leave his hurdles form well behind over fences.  He is a really exciting chasing prospect this term.  Interestingly, this is the race in which both Noble Prince and Forpadydeplasterer got off the mark over fences, and those two both went on to land novice chases at Cheltenham the following March.

No More Heroes was imperious in landing the two-and-a-half-mile beginners’ chase, a race that has been won in the recent past by Shanahan’s Turn, Morning Assembly and Pandorama.

Another Gigginstown/Elliott/Cooper charge, the Presenting gelding was superb at his fences for a debutant.  He attacked them with verve.  He appeared to relish the challenge that each large black obstacle posed.

Like Sizing John, he was a high-class novice hurdler last season, albeit over longer distances.  He beat Shaneshill in the Grade 2 Navan Hurdle, and he might have won the Albert Bartlett Hurdle at Cheltenham had he enjoyed a clearer passage up the home straight.  For all of that, it was always as a steeplechaser that he was going to excel, and he is shaping up to be a good one.

The season is but a pup, and it is unlikely that a single raceday in October has ever produced three Cheltenham Festival winners, but it will be really interesting to see how these three progress as the season develops.

Gigginstown are go

Speaking of Gigginstown House Stud, Michael O’Leary’s operation have started this season as they ended last season.  In the two weeks between Don Cossack’s seasonal debut in the Irish Daily Star Chase at Punchestown on 15th October and yesterday, Gigginstown had 13 winners and five seconds from 28 National Hunt runners.  That’s a strike rate of over 46%, and two of the runners-up were second to a fellow Gigginstown horse.

The majority of the winners were trained by Gordon Elliott, but there was a good cross-section of trainers, with other winners trained by Henry de Bromhead, Eoin Griffin and Noel Meade, and with the Mouse Morris-trained Ravished going down by just a head to Hash Brown in a handicap chase at Galway on Monday.

The stats are there to back up the obvious quality.  With horses who have the potential to be competitive at the top level in just about every division, it could be another lucrative season ahead.

European raid

Nothing unites like a common American goal, and this weekend in Keeneland, we are all European.

The Breeders’ Cup is much less the World Championships of Racing than it is the Ryder Cup of Racing, except that there are more American contenders than there are European contenders, and it is staged every year on American turf.  (Or dirt.)

It is not a jointly-hosted event, it is very much an American party, but the Europeans are welcomed with open arms.

Before last night’s racing, the bookmakers bet best odds of 15/8 about three European winners, 5/2 about four, and 8/1 about five or more.  Your sense was to err on the high side, especially with the rain that has been falling on Lexington all week.  Then again, your sense is usually to err on the high side with a known challenge, and remember, Karakontie was the only European winner last year.

The 8/1 about five or more European winners looked reasonable.  At combined best odds yesterday evening – European combined best odds admittedly – it was a shade of odds-on that a European horse won the Juvenile Turf and a shade of odds-against that a European filly won the Juvenile Fillies.

At combined best odds on this evening’s races, it is about 1/5 that a European horse wins the Mile, about 2/9 that Golden Horn or Found wins the Turf, and around 2/7 that a European wins the Filly and Mare Turf.  Put all five eventualities into an accumulator, and that gives you cumulative odds of just over 13/2.  And that is without taking Gleneagles or War Envoy or Waterloo Bridge into account.  So 8/1 was big.

In order to get on track for that type of total, you would have wanted two winners last night: Hit It A Bomb or Cymric or Birchwood or Shogun in the Juvenile Turf, Alice Springs or Illuminate or Nemoralia in the Juvenile Fillies’ Turf.  And if War Envoy happened to win the Dirt Mile as well, well that would just be a bonus.

This evening, you would be disappointed if a European horse did not win the Mile and the Turf and the Filly and Mare Turf, and, you never know, Gleneagles could bag the Classic.  In that instance, of course, we would all be Irish again.

Good beginnings

Here is a synopsis of the subsequent exploits of the last six winners of the two-mile-six-and-a-half-furlong beginners’ chase at Galway on bank holiday Monday:

2014 Very Wood – Won Grade 2 Ten Up Chase (although subsequently disqualified), sent off as favourite for the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham.

2013 Don Cossack – Won the Drinmore Chase as a novice, then won the John Durkan Chase last season, the Melling Chase and the Punchestown Gold Cup, and is currently the top-rated chaser in training.

2012 Lyreen Legend – Finished second in the Florida Pearl Chase and in the RSA Chase.

2011 Last Instalment – Won the Florida Pearl Chase and the Topaz Chase and the Dr PJ Moriarty Chase as a novice, won the Hennessy Gold Cup two seasons later.

2011 Jessies Dream – Won the Drinmore Chase, finished second in the RSA Chase.

2010 China Rock – Won the Gowran Park Champion Chase and the Star Best For Racing Chase the following season, then won the Punchestown Gold Cup 18 months later.

Captain Von Trappe was impressive in winning the latest renewal at Galway on Monday, the former pointer making all, jumping well and staying on well to win easily.  He has big shoes to fill, but he is a fine prospect.

Australian mission – it’s all in the name

You know that, nowhere in the world are the names of racehorses more carefully considered than at Ballydoyle.  You know also that, nowhere in the world are long-term plans hatched with a greater depth of thought and attention to detail.

You think that it was a coincidence that a horse named Adelaide won the Group 1 Cox Plate at Moonee Valley last year?

Now do you think that Bondi Beach has a chance in the Melbourne Cup on Tuesday?

© The Irish Field, 31st October 2015