Elliott versus Mullins:
All the talk leading up to the Punchestown festival has been the locking horns of Gordon Elliott and Willie Mullins at the head of the Irish trainer’s championship. For almost ten seasons this championship was a non-contest with Willie Mullins winning it on the bridle consistently with no real challenger.
Intrigue is gathering and currently the Meath man leads the championship by 382,000 euros in prize money. Ruby Walsh is playing down Willie’s chances of completing ten Irish trainers championships in a row by stating “In golf terms, Willie is six down with seven to play” and believes Mullins victory would be up there with sporting comebacks similar to Istanbul’s Champions League Final in 2005.
Listening to all the reports, podcasts and betting experts you’d be led to believe the title is heading to Co.Meath despite Willie’s last ditch attempts to gun him down, at least that’s what you’d be led to believe. I’m not sure it’s as simple as the betting suggests. Paddy Power price it up 1/5 Gordon, 10/3 Willie.
Last season team Mullins landed nearly 1 million in prize money at the Punchestown festival with Gordon winning just £191,353, a similar result this time around or even just a less exaggerated Mullins domination might be enough to hall Elliott back.
The focus for Willie Mullins last term was without question the U.K trainers title. In attempts to defeat Paul Nicholls in Britain star names such as Yorkhill and Vautour attempted hat-tricks when they lined up at all three Spring festivals eg. Cheltenham, Aintree and Punchestown leading to some flat performances during the third leg of the treble at the Kildare venue.
This year nothing will be left behind and expect the Mullins cavalry to be fresher and ready to run for their life. The Gigginstown removal of horses may not play as big a part a many might expect.
Herald Champion Novice Hurdle (2m) 16:20:
Will the quirky supreme novice winner Labaik jump off? That’s almost as important a question as who actually wins this event. Gordon admitted he was “embarrassed” in bringing this lad to Cheltenham following his bad behaviour at the start having refused to race twice during the current 2016/2017 jumps campaign. This pattern of play is certainly factored into his price of 5/2 making him second favourite, but something is screaming MELON (5/4 general) regardless.
On only Melon’s second start over hurdles to do what he done at Cheltenham was remarkable, with the whole hustle and bustle of the supreme he travelled like the winner for long periods, held just off the pace before moving to the front possibly too soon. The race suited Labaik who arrived on the scene looking like he’d just been dropped into the race when approaching the last flight. Perhaps a galloping track and flatter finish at Punchestown may play more to Melon’s strengths. Ridden more prominently and given more reign, he could get first run and get away. Expect a reverse in form regardless of Labaik’s antics at the start.
Boylesports Champion Chase (2m) 17:30:
This is the type of race in where bookmakers are left vulnerable. A short price favourite along with 8 runners highlight the each way market as opportunity to potentially win big (If the favourite doesn’t fire) whilst insured by the safety of three places.
Un De Sceaux looks the winner for those searching for day one doubles or trebles. The surface will be watered to a level where he should handle it and coming off the back of a sensational performance in the Ryanair back in trip on a galloping track, this should be perfect for him. It’s hard to see Fox Norton being able to produce the same level of form having been to both Cheltenham and Aintree.
A chance is taken on old BALLYCASEY (33/1- Boyles) (EW) who has been a revelation albeit in lesser company when back in trip this season. Rated 158 at 33/1 three places he could certainly outrun the odds coming off a strong pace.
Growise Champion Novice Chase (3m) 18:40 :
Disko is 5/4 favourite and is also sure to be at the heart of the multiples on day one. Leopardstown form with National hero Our Duke and 3rd behind Yorkhill at Cheltenham proves Noel Meade’s stable star to be one of the most exciting novice chasers in the country.
Back up in trip to three miles today stamina has yet to be proven and may turn out to be an issue going forward over 3m, for this reason I’ll oppose him at the prices. ACAPELLA BORGEOUIS (6/1 Powers) is better than he showed at Cheltenham, the way the race panned out in the RSA it didn’t suit him whatsoever. Competition for the lead early and perhaps the undulations of the track played a hindrance more so than the quick ground.
Talking Horses ….
Rapid Escape (7/4 general) – 6:40 Goff’s Land Rover Bumper: Bought for £240,000, hacked up on his point to pointand has been kept for this by Elliott. Plenty of chat for it during the lead up to today and could go off shorter, potentially special.
By Barry Doyle 25/04/2017
Melon & Un De Sceaux – 4/1 (Paddy Powers) – 1pt win double
Ballycasey – 33/1 (Paddy Powers) 17:30 – 1pt ew
Acapella Borgeouis – 6/1 (Paddy Powers) 18:40 – 1pt win
Willie Mullins Irish Trainers Title – 10/3 (Paddy Powers) 1pt win