Things We Learned » Punchestown race worth noting again

Punchestown race worth noting again

Once again, the two-mile-six-furlong handicap chase run at Punchestown on John Durkan Chase day could be a race to note.

Last year, the winner Grand Jesture, after disappointing in the Paddy Power Chase on his next run, ran a cracker on his subsequent run to finish second in the Ultima Solutions Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March, while third-placed Foxrock finished second in the Paddy Power on his next run, then won the BoyleSports Handicap Chase back at Leopardstown in January, and followed up by running a cracker to finish a close-up second to Carlingford Lough in the Hennessy Gold Cup.

This year, like last year, the winner and the third could again be the two horses to take out of the race.

The winner, Sumos Novios, travelled like a good horse throughout.  Racing for the first time since February, Liam Burke’s horse was kept wide throughout by Robbie Power, but he still won with more than the four-and-a-half-length winning margin in hand from the talented Empire Of Dirt.

The handicapper has raised him by 8lb to a mark of 132, but he has enough potential, and he won with enough in hand, to take that type of hike in his stride.  This was just his fourth chase and his fifth run under Rules – he has never raced over hurdles – and he has bundles of scope, as long as he can remain sound.  He is obviously a fragile type.  He will be of interest now if he takes his chance in the Paddy Power Chase, a race for which he is currently prices up at 16/1.

Sizing Gold will also be of interest wherever he goes next.  Henry de Bromhead’s horse was racing for the first time since May 2014, but he jumped and travelled well for Jonathan Burke, the winning trainer’s son, keeping on well to take third place.  He should be better with this run under his belt, and a 2lb hike brings him up to a mark of just 135, which is still lower than his rating as a novice.  He has raced just five times over fences, and he is another who can progress from Sunday’s run.

Career-bests all round

Three weeks ago, Cue Card recorded the third highest Timeform rating of his 27-race career when he won the Betfair Chase at Haydock.  Two weeks ago, Smad Place put up the best Timeform rating of his 22-race career in winning the Hennessy Gold Cup.

Then last Sunday at Huntingdon, one week ago, Al Ferof rolled back the years in winning the Peterborough Chase, recording a Timeform figure of 170, the joint highest of his 24-race career.

There is no telling the peaks you can scale when you can untrap those epiglotti.

Staying chasers excel

It is difficult to think of an era in modern times when the strength among staying chasers ran as deep as it does now.  Don Poli won at Aintree on Saturday.  Djakadam won at Punchestown on Sunday and Valseur Lido chased him home.  Nobody has loosened his grip on the 2016 Cheltenham Gold Cup yet.  Nobody has blinked.

Kauto Star and Denman were, of course, giants of the staying chasing division, but they lacked a supporting cast.  Neptune Collonges was in there, but he wasn’t in their class.  Imperial Commander came along when they were both 10, Long Run when they were both 11.  Maybe the Dawn Run/Wayward Lad/Forgive ‘N Forget era came close.  Maybe the Bregawn/Silver Buck era came close.  But maybe not.

Somebody is going to have to blink soon.

Sponsor’s objective

It may be to Timico’s advantage that their name is not widely recognised in racing circles.  There is no real pre-conceived idea as to what they stand for, or precisely what they do, so their identity within racing could actually be the Cheltenham Gold Cup.  If they stick with this long enough, their name could become synonymous with the blue riband of National Hunt racing.

The racing connection comes from Tim Radford, by the way.  Think Somersby.  Think Racing Demon.

It may be that it becomes difficult to say Gold Cup without saying Timico first.  (Be honest, how long did it take before you were comfortable dropping the Diamond thing from the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes?)  And isn’t that the objective of any sponsorship?  The Timico Gold Cup.  Then, once the name is established, you can go figure out what an independent information and communications technology service provider does.

Stewards’ Q and A

1. Did interference take place?

A. Yes.

2. Did it affect the result?

A. Probably.

3. Was there ever any real chance that Special Tiara would get the race in the stewards’ room?

A. No.

4. Has he a chance of getting it on appeal?

A. Absolutely none.

5. Does this mean that the rules of racing will be re-examined?

A. This has happened so many times in the past that, ordinarily, no, no chance, but now that Ruby Walsh has spoken, you just never know.

© The Irish Field, 12th December 2015