Mick Fitzgerald: I’m backing Bapaume in the Stayers but it won’t be a walk in the Park

Mick Fitz zips through his Punchestown picks for Thursday as we pass the half-way stage of the five day Festival

Mick Fitzgerald

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There’s two cracking Grade 1 contests on Thursday’s card and the Stayers Hurdle 5.30pm is the first to be decided.

Willie Mullins’ Bapaume finished a good fourth in the Stayers Hurdle at Cheltenham, eighth lengths behind Paisley Park. Ruby Walsh has picked him to try and improve on his fifth-place finish to Faugheen last year, where he was in front of stablemate Bacardys, who lines up again.

Some of the handicap form on offer does not look strong enough this term and even though Bapaume doesn’t get his head in front too often, he can be rewarded with a win here for his consistency.

An each-way alternative is Dortmund Park who was a surprise winner of the 2m 4f Grade One novice contest last year, beating Whiskey Sour by 10 lengths and could out-run his double-digit odds for Gordon Elliott and Davy Russell.

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The 2m Novice Chase at 6.40pm sees Cheltenham’s Arkle Chase winner Voix du Reve take on the JLT Chase Defi Du Seuil.

Both were impressive in victory and while I’m a big fan of Defi Du Seuil I am not convinced he will be as effective over this 2m trip. Any more rain will help him and the faster they go, the better for him, as his stamina will come into play. I’m not going to  desert him but it will depend on how he handles Voix Du Reve and Henry de Bromhead’s Aintree winner Ornua bowling along up front.

There’s a competitive handicap hurdle at 6.05pm. If Three Musketeers can reproduce his Aintree form he will go very close off just 6lbs higher for that Liverpool success. The one that I’m drawn to though is My Sister Sarah for Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh. She was not beaten that far at Fairyhouse, but she is better than she has been showing and with juice in the ground, she can prove it on Thursday.

I rode in the 4m 2f La Touche Cup (4.50pm) a couple of and you have no business in it unless you are on a ‘banks’ specialist. Normal service resumed with Enda Bolger training the first two home in Tuesday’s equivalent and can score here with the veteran Josies Orders. He’s only been out of the first two once in seven attempts at this track and can justify his likely short price.

The handicap chase over 2m at 4.15pm is a chance at redemption for Minds Eye after his dirty run out at Fairyhouse. The cheek-pieces have been fitted to help. He can play a part but his stablemate Moon Over Germany is the one to beat after an impressive rout at Aintree.

Jessica Harrington’s Don’t Touch It is a horse that springs to life at this meeting and I’ll have a little each-way on him.

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In the Mares’ Listed Novice Hurdle at 7.15pm, Gordon Elliott looks to have found the perfect opportunity for Black Tears. She’s run great races at Cheltenham and Fairyhouse and this contest looks a perfect fit. The likely favourite Elfile is the obvious danger for Mullins and Walsh, but th3 2m trip looks sharp enough for her.

The finale at 7.45 is another 2m bumper and The Big Getaway was expected to get the job done last time but was beaten at Navan. It hasn’t been the strongest bumper crop the stable has ever had but he can gain compensation here.

*Odds correct at time of posting

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What do you think?