It’s always hard to know how horses will perform after going to Cheltenham and Aintree and we saw that yesterday with Yorkhill’s defeat in particular. He was never really happy and jumped to his left a fair bit and just seem to run flat when the taps were turned on.
Vautour was cruising going to the third last but just seemed to lack a bit of pace when the race got going in earnest but rallied well after the last to the line.
Hopefully, things go a bit better on Wednesday …
4.20 pm Louis Fitzgerald Hotel H’dle 2m 4f
I’ve no ride in this but Team Mullins start off the day with Gigginstown’s Balko Des Flos that Bryan Cooper rides.
He won a 2m 4f maiden hurdle here over course and distance. Ran well well in the Albertt Bartlett Novices Hurdle over three miles at Cheltenham when fifth to Unowhatimeanharry and followed up when fourth to Ballyoptic at Aintree.
Technically, he’s 7lb ‘wrong’ with Henry de Bromhead’s Supasundee but he should be more at home over this trip.
4.55pm Irish Daily Mirror Novices Hurdle (Grade 1) 3m
Willie Mullins has four in the race and I ride Bellshill. He generally seems to improve from Cheltenham.
He did almost exactly the same in bumpers last year before winning the Grade One Champion bumper at this Festival and I’m hoping that trend continues this year.
He travelled really well at Aintree and ultimately got outstayed by Ballyoptic after being well down the field behind Altior at Cheltenham.
His stablemate Stone Hard has to overcome two bad runs while Gangster and Arkwrisht under-performed at Aintree. Of all the Gigginstown runners, Bryan Cooper has elected to ride General Principle for Gordon Elliott who will appreciate the step up in trip.
It wouldn’t surprise me to see Eddie Harty’s Coney Island step up considerably on a snug win at Fairyhouse in a novice handicap hurdle, but Belshill’s looks my best ride of the day.
5.30pm Bibby Financial Services Gold Cup 3m 1f
The big question is whether we can reverse form with Cue Card who was very impressive at Aintree. I’m sure that performance left connections wondering what might have been had he not tipped up in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
He was probably slightly fresher heading into Aintree as both Djakadam and Don Poli raced right to the line at Cheltenham but they then showed the effects of that at Aintree.
They’ve had a three-week break now and both seem really well but Cue Card could be really well suited on quicker ground and a ‘speed’ track like Punchestown.
If Djakadam reproduces his Gold Cup form he could be a bit of value but we’re living in hope rather than expectation. Don Poli was eight lengths clear of Djakadam in Liverpool but has under-performed both times he’s arrived at Punchestown after running at Cheltenham in the past two seasons so needs to address that.
6.05 ATR Champion Flat Race 2m
Willie has a fleet of runners in this headed by Battleford and Bacardys were second and third at Cheltenham before Bacardys got his revenge at Aintree when leading Battleford home.
Patrick Mullins sticks with Bacardys while both Castello Sforza and Very Much So ran blinders after long absences at Cheltenham, dodged Aintree and don’t have that much ground to make up on their stablemates.
It hasn’t gone right for last year’s Champion Bumper winner Moon Racer who races for the first time since March 2015 while Aidan O’Brien’s Aspen Colorado was ante-post favourite for Cheltenham this year but was ruled out. He may find it harder as a four-year-old against the older horses here.
There’s not a lot between them, they’re all nice horses. I’ll probably just be looking on to see who of Willie’s runners (bar Avenir D’Une Vie & Castello Sforza) I could be riding next year as juvenile hurdlers.