Paul Ferguson has two today at Punchestown; Quel Esprit in the 17.30 and Fickle Fortune in the 6.05. Compare odds and bet
Willie Mullins has dominated the Punchestown Festival in the past couple of years, but it’s 10 years since he saddled the winner of the newly named TheTote.com Punchestown Gold Cup when Florida Pearl was successful back in 2002.
This evening Quel Esprit (5:30) is his sole runner in the race and the grey can supplement his victory in the Hennessy Gold Cup back in February with a second Grade 1 success under Ruby Walsh.
The eight-year-old was campaigned at a lower level earlier in the season, to restore his confidence from a far from flawless novice campaign, and it seems to have worked the oracle with him winning a couple of minor events over much shorter.
He had his field beaten from some way out in the Hennessy and, if he can jump with the same fluency here, he will be tough to pass on his favoured testing ground.
Rubi Light also relishes these conditions and he looks the main danger, back up in trip after his fifth in the Ryanair Chase. Runner-up to the ill-fated Gold Cup winner Synchronised in the Lexus over Christmas, he still needs to truly convince he stays this trip, which sways things in favour of Quel Esprit.
The selection was forced to miss the Gold Cup through a slight setback, which is obviously a slight concern, but connections wouldn’t be risking him here if they weren’t happy and at 11/4 (Hills) he’s worth supporting.
Mullins will be hoping for a quick-fire Grade 1 double courtesy of Cheltenham winner Champagne Fever in the BetChronicle.com Champion INH Flat Race.
The five-year-old heads what looks a high-class field and the form of his Festival success has already been boosted by the sixth, The New One, who won at Aintree on Grand National day.
The grey and runner-up New Year’s Eve are both respected, but this looks potentially a stronger race than the Cheltenham equivalent, so I’m looking for a bit of each-way value with a fresher horse who has proven soft ground form.
Venture Capital is one for any shortlist, but he looks priced up accordingly, and the value could lie with Fickle Fortune (6:05) who needs to step up massively on all known form, but she could hardly have been anymore impressive on debut.
Noel Meade’s four-year-old filly simply oozed class when beating much weaker opposition than this at Down Royal in February, after which I thought she would head over to Aintree for the Listed mares’ bumper.
She skipped that contest in favour of having a crack at this bigger prize and, with Meade having won this race three times between 2004 and 2007, Nina Carberry’s mount is worth backing each-way.
She was trading at 8/1 with Boylesports and Paddy Power overnight, though I’m hoping she might be available at double figure odds at some point this morning.
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- AL FEROF won Supreme Novices’ Hurdle 10-1
- BENSALEM won Stewart Family Handicap 5-1
- BOBS WORTH won A Bartlett 15-8, 4/4 for year
- CAPTAIN CHRIS won Arkle Trophy 6-1
- FIRST LIEUTENANT won Neptune Investment 7-1
- (plus Grade 1 in Ireland 16-1)
- JAMES DE VASSY won Lanzarote Hurdle 8-1
- LONG RUN won King George 9-2, Gold Cup 7-2
- OSCAR WHISKY won Aintree Hurdle 6-1
- Peddlers Cross (Fighting Fifth Hurdle)
- Medermit (Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase)
- FINIAN’S RAINBOW (Maghull Novices’ Chase)
- WISHFULL THINKING (Manifesto Novices’ Chase)