Mrs D once made me sit through the 128 hours (or whatever intolerably long time it is) of Lord of the Rings, so it’s with regret that the jewellery thief Bilbo Bagins is fancied to win the opener at 12:25. He was a good length second to Sizing Titanium at The Shire last time and should have ideal conditions once more; new Paddy Power CEO Peter Jackson (not that one), fill your boots. It’s a sign.
Paolo Maldini made 126 appearances for the Italian national side, however it hopefully won’t take that many outings for his near-namesake Mall Dini to break his maiden tag over fences. He’s had eight unsuccessful attempts, but may have to give way once more in the excellent Grade 3 at 13:00. Gordon Elliott’s trio of Dounikos, Mossback and The Storyteller are all exciting prospects, however Invitation Only (the opposite of Timeform’s Cheltenham Preview Evening) got his career back on track in no uncertain terms last time and may yet fulfil his undoubted potential so I’m going with him.
A ‘Who’s Who’ of Irish male amateur riders line up at 13:35, with Derek O’Connor’s mount – Thebarrowman – capable of running a big race at a decent price. He fared about as well as could be expected behind Shattered Love at Leopardstown last month and should be suited by both the drop in grade/testing ground here. His jockey is seeking a hat-trick in the race, too.
The feature at 14:10 is next – the Moscow Flyer Hurdle – and it’s a race won previously by Vautour, Douvan and Min. The next big thing on the Ricci/Mullins conveyer belt of success is Getabird. He’s unbeaten in three starts for the Champion Trainer, and received the Timeform comment “one to follow” in the report for his hurdling bow at the track last month. He looks to have plenty of pace, so the drop in trip isn’t a major problem and he can see off strong challenges from the likes of Mengli Khan. He appeared to have a brain freeze when running out at Leopardstown last month, but has as much ability as temperament. Impressive Gowran winner Carter McKay looks the pick of the rest.
Money for Kesselring in the maiden hurdle at 14:45 would look significant, however Impact Factor sets a decent standard, having recorded a good timefigure when second at Leopardstown last time; the more testing ground here should play to his strengths. He’s no relation to Krypton Factor, who lost his form after being made to do a memory test and obstacle course by Gordon Burns.
Allez Kal finally went into the winner’s enclosure at Limerick last time, getting off the mark at the 13th time of asking. She drops in trip at 15:20 but could prove hard to beat now the penny has finally dropped. Goaheadmakemyday has been more Tim Westwood than Clint Eastwood to date, but took a step back in the right direction when fourth at Fairyhouse on New Year’s Day. Allez Kal here for me.
Finally, the artwork of David Trundley (my favourite is The Saleroom) gets a plug in the catchy-titled bumper at 15:50. There aren’t Manet that can be given a strong chance on the form shown so far, so it’s important to keep an eye out for any Monet for a newcomer. Forecast to be favourite on the Titian is Relegate, who represents Willie Mullins. Munch is made of his record in these races, but the yard have Turner corner of late.
I’m off Toulouse-the housekeeping-Lautrec.
Timeform’s Selections for Punchestown:
12.25 – Bilbo Bagins @ 4/1
13.00 – Invitation Only @ 5/4
13.35 – Thebarrowman @ 13/2
14.10 – Getabird @ 6/4
14.45 – Impact Factor @ 2/1
15.20 – Allez Kal @ 2/1
15.50 – Relegate @ 11/10
*All prices correct at time of posting