Wednesday’s feature race, the Coral Punchestown Gold Cup, has a very similar look to Tuesday’s feature race, in that Willie Mullins looks set to dominate.
The bookmakers have narrowed this down to a match up between Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Al Boum Photo and Aintree Bowl winner Kemboy, but in doing so, they might just be underestimated Bellshill, who won this race last season.
It was interesting that he was the choice of Ruby Walsh in the Gold Cup because his Cheltenham record is very poor, and as it transpired things didn’t go to plan and he was pulled up early. Prior to that he was a good winner of the Irish Gold Cup, when he got up to beat Road To Respect, and he must have gave Walsh a good vibe there and back at home, because Al Boum Photo and Kemboy had really good and progressive profiles going into Cheltenham.
I think the course is the main angle into Bellshill. His form at Cheltenham reads 003P while his form at Punchestown is 111, remarkably all those wins were achieved in Grade 1 company at this festival. As he was pulled up early at Cheltenham, he comes here fresher than his main two rivals and surely a lot more fresher than he was coming into this race last season, when he managed to win despite coming off the back of gruelling Irish Grand National. At 11/2, he looks more than a fair price.
The Irish Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle features the top three from its Cheltenham equivalent, the Albert Bartlett Novice Hurdle. Add in the promising Carefully Selected and you’ve got another very good renewal of this contest.
Minella Indo is favourite but I thought at 3/1 he might still be underestimated, possibly because he was allowed go off 50/1 at Cheltenham. He fairly tanked into the lead there however, on what was just his third ever start over hurdles, and he conclusively reversed Clonmel form with Allaho. That Willie Mullins runner is open to progression as well but there is no real reason he should go back in front of Minella Indo, who may have more to contend with from Commander Of Fleet, returning to the scene of his Goffs Land Rover Bumper win.
Class Conti could be an absolute blot in the Guinness Handicap Chase but he’ll have to be very good off a mark of 147 to beat Sizing Granite, the winner of this race two seasons ago off a mark of 146. Colin Tizzard’s chaser had been highly tried this season, but that was mostly down to the fact he ran so well in last season’s Punchestown Gold Cup, only beaten 11 lengths by Bellshill, which put him up to a mark of 156 and so pushed connections to try him in a higher class. He is back down to a mark of 144 now, and showed his well being when chasing home Born Survivor at Ayr two weeks ago, which should leave him cherry ripe now.
Earlier, Conron looks underestimated in what is a minefield line-up in the Adare Manor Opportunity Series Final Handicap Hurdle. Jessica Harrington’s five-year-old is a dual course winner and on his previous run over hurdles, he was trying to live with Espoir D’Allen at Naas. He has since won really well over two miles on the flat at Clonmel, improving his rating by 14lbs. He has scope to improve from that run now back over hurdles, coming up in trip and with that fitness banked.
Finally, I’m a little surprised Voix Des Tiep isn’t close to favourite for the final of the excellent Connolly’s Red Mills Auction Hurdle Series. He has 6lbs to find with the 138-rated Zero Ten, but he receives 2lbs off that rival, and there is a good chance he is better than his current rating of 132 given how well his Gowran Park maiden hurdle win has worked out, most notably through the runner-up La Tektor, who won at Fairyhouse last week. Besides that Voix Des Tiep looks like he will improve significantly for this two-and-a-half mile trip and at 4/1 or bigger, he looks worth playing.
Conron, 10/1, general, 3:40
Voix Des Tiep, 4/1, general, 4:20
Minella Indo, 3/1, general, 5:30
Bellshill, 11/2, general, 6:05
Sizing Granite, 8/1, William Hill, Ladbrokes, 7:10