The middle day of the Punchestown Festival but it is possible that on Day 1 we witnessed not one but two potential equine superstars with Faugheen (6/1 for the 2015 Champion Hurdle) and Forgotten Rules who won the concluding Bumper in the manner of a very special horse.
The latter could run on the flat rather than over jumps but whatever route he takes he is one to keep on the right side of.
The feature event of Day Three of the Punchestown Festival is the World Hurdle with the mare Quevega trying to win the race for a fifth time having created history last month by becoming the first horse in history to win six races at the Cheltenham Festival.
She is 5/6 to achieve such a feat and in receipt of 7lbs from today’s rivals she remains the one to beat but Fingal Bay ( 5.30 13/2 each way BetVictor) must be the recommendation having defied top weight in the Pertemps Final at the Festival and bypassing Aintree in order to wait for this test.
The selection was an exciting novice hurdler who has returned from a long absence in excellent form and confirmed his stamina and battling qualities when beating Southfield Vic, who has subsequently won at Sandown, and connections have always thought he was absolutely out of the top draw.
Quevega is now ten years of age and was anything but impressive when winning the Mares’ event at Cheltenham although she ran as if this return to 3m was what she was looking for.
There were rumours at Punchestown on Tuesday that Quevega was in foal to Beat Hollow. These rumours were not confirmed, or denied, by trainer Willie Mullins although it should be noted that a mare’s performance can often improve in the early months of pregnancy.
At Fishers Cross looked to have found the ideal opportunity at Aintree last time but continually jumped out to his right, a trait he had never shown previously. I am surprised he wasn’t put away for the year, despite having only had five starts, after Aintree and it would be an excellent training performance from Rebecca Curtis to get him back to his best for this afternoon.
The Novice Chase over the minimum trip is an absolute belter with Arkle runner up Champagne Fever (6.40) looking to go one better than at Cheltenham and looking to confirm the form with third horse home Trifolium.
The selection will be upped in trip next term but Willie Mullins will want a Grade 1 win for his grey in his novice season having been beaten on his last two starts. His critics will say he was beaten at this corresponding meeting last year by subsequent Champion Hurdler Jezki but I think 6/4 is a fair price and he can return to winning ways.
The obvious danger is Aintree winner Balder Succes but he has been on the go since September and he will do well to maintain the level of his fluent Aintree success.
The handicaps look very difficult but Sizing Machine (4.15) will love this better ground and can reward each way support for Adrian Lynch and Henry De Bromhead whose Sizing Europe retired on Tuesday after landing an eighth Grade One success in the Champion Chase.
At Ffos Las and with the Peter Bowen stable in better form I hope Dark Glacier (6.15) can take advantage of what looks a very favourable mark in the 3m Handicap Chase as long as there is no more significant rain as his best recent form is on good ground although he has winning form on a soft surface.
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