Punchestown Festival: 5 horses to watch

Beat That

Attheraces.com INH Flat Race, Wednesday and Kildare Post INH Flat Race, Thursday

Well touted and heavily backed ahead of making his debut in the bumper that rounded off Kempton’s Racing Plus Chase card in February, a race that the stable won with Riverside Theatre in 2008, Beat That showed plenty of promise in finishing runner-up in a race when the winner was granted a soft lead from flag fall.

Turning in, the son of Milan was still in fourth and moving well but around 20 lengths behind Such A Legend and, though he got to within 3¾ lengths at the line, he and the rest of the field held little chance of reeling in the winner.

The form of the race has taken a couple of knocks, but the third (5 lengths off Beat That) went on to run well in the Grade 2 at Aintree when finishing sixth and the sixth home Henryville won a Plumpton novice hurdle last month.

Nicky Henderson has enjoyed success in bumpers at this fixture in recent years with Royal Rosa, Itsa Dream and Quantitativeeasing springing to mind and this five-year-old could further enhance that record on Wednesday or Thursday evening.


Champion Novice Hurdle, Tuesday

Unbeaten in four starts over hurdles on home soil prior to Cheltenham, Jessie Harrington’s five-year-old travelled really well in the Supreme and, despite a mistake two out, looked a huge threat approaching the last. Another error didn’t help his chance, but he ran on well and now has 2¾ lengths to find with Champagne Fever (who has other possible engagements through the week) assuming the pair renew rivalry.

The son of Milan had beaten Willie Mullins’ grey in the Royal Bond back in December, when in receipt of 3lbs, and he showed a fine turn of foot that day, so this less demanding track will be in his favour.

With Tony McCoy on the sidelines, it is likely to be either Robbie Power or Barry Geraghty in the saddle, with the later able to boast a 100% record aboard him. Hopefully Champagne Fever and Rule The World, who brings the Neptune form to the table (possible that he will drop back in trip with Un Atout likely to represent Gigginstown over 2m4f), will line up and make the market for Jezki, who is taken to reverse Supreme form.

Moyle Park

Goffs Land Rover Bumper, Tuesday and Kildare Post INH Flat Race, Thursday

Willie Mullins won the valuable Goffs Land Rover Bumper in 2006 and 2008 with Glencove Marina and Quiscover Fontaine and, though he holds an entry on Thursday too, it seems more likely that Moyle Park will make his debut for the trainer in this event on the opening day of the festival.

A winner at Leopardstown on Boxing Day for David Harry Kelly, the son of Flemensfirth cost leading owner Rich Ricci no less than £250,000 at the Cheltenham sales in January and looks a lovely long-term prospect.

The horse he beat on debut, Blackmail, came out and won well next time and, though he failed to shine in the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham, he is well thought of by Tony Martin. The five-year-old ought to have learnt plenty for that experience and connections will no doubt have had this meeting in mind for some time with him.

There will be plenty of unknown quantities in opposition, with lots of un-raced horses entered, plus Charlie Swan’s recent impressive Cork winner The Game Changer is another expected to line-up. He travelled really well for Nina Carberry and looks useful, while points winner Marinero is another name to catch the eye having fetched £72,000 at the Brightwells sale at Cheltenham only last week (bought by Mags Mullins), but Moyle Park looked smart on debut and is one to keep onside.

Un Atout

Irish Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle, Wednesday and Tattersalls Ireland Champion Novice Hurdle, Friday

Only fourth in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle last time, Un Atout looks ready for a step up in trip so it is not surprising to see him only entered in the Grade 1s over 3m on Wednesday and over 2m4f on Friday.

Unbeaten in three starts in Ireland prior to the Festival – one from one in bumpers last term and two easy successes over hurdles gained either side of the New Year – the son of Robin Des Champs moved stylishly throughout, until Champagne Fever, My Tent Or Yours and Jezki turned on the taps between the final two flights.

Beaten 18 lengths in the end, he can be expected to improve significantly once upped in distance and looks the ideal type for Friday’s contest over 2m4f. Willie Mullins has stated that both Un Atout and Pont Alexandre will remain in both races until nearer the time, though it is hard to imagine him upping Un Atout straight to 3m having raced only over the minimum trip to date. In any case, Pont Alexandre’s owner has Ballycasey for the 3-miler so it could be that both are forced to run on Friday

Pont Alexandre’s presence with Ruby Walsh on board will ensure Un Atout is a nice price and he is the horse I am most looking forward to seeing this week.


Stephens Green Hibernian Club Hurdle and Orchid Transport Mares Novice Hurdle, Thursday plus Tattersalls Ireland Champion Novice Hurdle, Friday

Twice a winner in bumpers in France, Upsie made a winning Irish debut at Naas in February, despite doing plenty wrong. The five-year-old was a bit keen and failed to jump with much fluency, but still got the job done in taking fashion and she clearly has plenty of natural ability.

The daughter of La Belafre appeals as the type to improve significantly from that initial experience over hurdles and, if she hurdles more slickly (mistake at the last didn’t stop her last time), she is of interest wherever she turns up this week.

Entered in two races on Thursday, she also holds a Grade 1 entry later in the week, but it would be a surprise if she didn’t line up on day two of the meeting with the mares race looking the obvious target.

If taking on the boys in the opening event, which is a contest restricted to those with just one hurdle success to their name, she will find life tougher but shouldn’t be underestimated. There is plenty of stamina on the dam’s side and she finished strongly on debut, so the extra ½ mile should be an issue.