Preview: Punchestown Day Four

Elliott versus Mullins:

We’re onto day four of the battle of Punchestown and with racing still to come tomorrow it’s today where the title will surely be decided.

Finishing 2nd in all three of the Championship races at the Punchestown festival so far, Willie Mullins has still managed to claw back the deficit to €130k heading into day four. If Mullins takes out today’s Irish Champion Hurdle at 17:30 it looks like he’ll hit the front. Team Mullins attack this one with a brigade of five runners amongst a strong field of 13.

One of the most amazing subplots that could emerge shortly after 17:30 this afternoon is if the nut case novice Labaik decides to jump off. Could he be the one to deliver a 1st trainers title for Gordon Elliott ? Factored into his price of 7/1, Labaik is also 4/6 not to jump off whilst he’s 11/10 to dig heels in for a second time in the one week.

With Davy Russell called upon for experience to help and a red visor applied for the first time, why do I get the feeling up against the big boys, he might want to show off to the lads.

Labaik refusing to co-operate Photo: Racing Post

Punchestown Champion Hurdle (2m) 17:30:

The competitive nature of the headline event on day four of the Punchestown festival probably signifies where we’re at in Irish Racing right now. This one is definitely the largest most competitive renewal of a Champion Hurdle we’ve had in Ireland going back a long way.

My favourite mare in training Vroum Vroum Mag gets the nod from Ruby suggesting she’s once again firing on the gallops of Closutton. Heading into the Cheltenham festival the vibes weren’t wonderful about Mags leading to Walsh choosing stable mate Limini in preference. Last season she landed this receiving the mares allowance (7Ibs) and its very hard to see her out of the three again today.

It must be mentioned what a phenomenal performance it was for Arctic Fire to win the county hurdle off top weight having been off for almost a year. Reports from the Mullins press day told us Willie wasn’t sure if he’d had him ready for Cheltenham and wasn’t even certain to send him. Some feat if he was only half ready. Paul Townend on board again.

Mullins has dominated this race for almost a decade but it could be a relation we’re talking about from 17:30 onwards this evening. David Mullins gets on board BRAIN POWER (11/2) once again following a disappointing result last time out in the Cheltenham Champion Hurdle.


Nicky Henderson made no secret heading into the festival that this fellow had been burning up the gallops of seven barrows, choosing him over Buveur D’Air on his Stan James blog. A progressive handicapper throughout the winter the son of Kalanisi turned up in the Champion Hurdle as the highest rated horse off 162 OR.

Brain Power travelled nearly too well appearing the potential winner approaching the second last. What happened next? He stopped to a walk. Surely he was beaten too far out for that to be a running of a 162 rated animal.

With fast ground to suit today on a track where he shaped well last season he’s worth taking another chance. In the aftermath of the Champion Hurdle it was reported he lost a shoe which seems an acceptable explanation for nearly walking over the finish line.

Champion Hurdle 1-2-3 :

1st Brain Power

2nd Labaik

3rd   Vroum Vroum Mag

Tattersalls Irish Champion Novice (2m 4f) 17:30:

Robbie Power. The man is untouchable at present, what an unbelieve run he’s having in the colours of Ann & Alan Potts. Sizing John, Fox Norton , Sizing Granite power goes for another victory today in the shape of Colin Tizzards Finians Oscar.

Coming from the Irish point to point scene earlier this season, this fellow was all the rage after his Tolworth win at Sandown immediately going favourite for the Neptune. Having an interrupted time of it approaching Cheltenham, he turned up at Aintree where he done the business . For what he’s achieved he looks vulnerable at the prices.

Let’s Dance is the choice of Ruby and she is one that’s completely transformed this season from an average enough juvenile campaign. Even with the female allowance today it’s been a hard season and might prove difficult to back up a festival victory. Not sure she’s the answer.

Death Duty is interesting dropping back in trip, Gordon described him as the best novice he’d ever trained before bombing at the festival. That takes into discussion Don Cossack and No More Heros. On quicker ground again today, Death Duty may turn out to be a mud lark who certainly needs a fence in 2018.

BLEU BERRY (11/1) is the mount of Paul Townend and looks potentially over priced. Having his fifth start over hurdles experience shouldn’t be an issue. On the upward curve , stepping up in trip an extra 4f from  2m on soft/heavy we could see an even brighter animal today.

Other Shoutouts:  

WOODLAND OPERA- (9/2), 4:20

Winner at the Punchestown Festival 2016, this appears to have been the plan all year. Solid runs without landing a blow throughout the winter, this handsome son of Robin Des Champs wasn’t desperately far behind the monster Great Field at Leopardstown.

Now off the mark over fences on a handicap mark of 142 OR. The sounder surface should see Jessica Harrington’s charge to best effect. It’s a big chance to make it a 5th winner of the Punchestown festival 2017 for the Queen of Moone. She’s on fire !

healy racing
Woodland Opera Photo: Pat Healy /

BEYOND THE LAW– (5/1), 7:45

The cash will more than likely come for David Pipes English challenger Warhog but I was impressed by the way Beyond The Law shaped at Navan on only his 2nd start under rules. He appeared the winner in the straight before getting tired and headed by Minellafordollars in the final furlong.

Although Mouse Morris doesn’t usually play a big hand in bumpers he could land his Punchestown festival winner for the man of the moment Alan Potts.

By Barry Doyle 28/04/2017

Best Bets:

Woodland Opera – 9/2 (Paddy Powers) 16:20- 1 pt win

Brain Power – 11/2 (Boylesports) 17:30- 2 pts ew

Beyond The Law – 5/1 (Paddy Powers) 19:15 – 1 pt win