Monday, we start at Naas which hosted the traditional pre -Punchestown card. The five furlong maiden race was an interesting race with Aidan O'Brien claiming yet another winner in the shape of Roly Poly who just held on by a short head from Gone to Russia under Wayne Lordan. I don't think Lordan will want to see this race again, I thought he was very poor in the finish here with more assistance from the saddle Gone to Russia would surely have won. The Woodlands Stakes witnessed a good battle between Fort Del Oro who swept through late on to pick up Monsieur Joe who only gave best in the last 50 yards. I reckon both of these horses can do well in these 5 furlong races in Ireland The other remarkable feature was 4 trainers had doubles on the night Jessica Harrington, Eddie Lynam, Aidan O'Brien and Ger Lyons. There was a card at Tramore also, to be fair it was very average. There was a double for Davey Russell the first leg of which was Bye Bye O Bye who as predicted in last weeks blog turned out under the penalty and won at 11/10. The mares bumper went to Willie and Patrick Mullins as Toast just held on to win by a neck from Inchiquin High.
At Ayr there was a double for Kieren Fallon aboard Mo Henry and Annoymous lady, it was also part of a treble for Irish trainer Adrian Keatley. Kieren Fallon will always divide opinion , I am delighted he is back I hope it goes well for him this season. There was another winner for Keith Dalgleish with Sattelac, Dalgleish has his stable flying just now. At Southwell there was a treble for jockey John Egan and a double for trainer Roy Bowring. There was nothing of note at Chelmsford. At Windsor there was a double for Jamie Spencer another jockey who I am glad is still around. At Wolverhampton there was a double for Cathy Gannon. The second leg Figurante made it three winners at three different tracks for Jamie Osborne on the day.
Tuesday, the next five days blogs will focus on the action at Punchestown. I was in attendance on Tuesday .The atmosphere as always was superb as well as the racing. The festival started with the ladies cup over the banks. The race went to Wish Ye Didnt for Enda Bolger and Nina Carberry who controlled the race superbly from the front to win by an eased down 9 lengths. Enniskillen who normally racks up a couple of runs at the festival was a gallant second. The Evening Herald novice hurdle saw the appearance of the mighty and till this point undefeated Yorkhill. The race did not go to script with Yorkhill beaten a long way out. I thought Willie Mullins was going to collect at one point as Petit Mouchoir who has improved all season, got to the front inside the last furlong. The Jessica Harrington trained Don't touch it got the better of the battle with Petit Mouchoir to win by a half length. Don't touch it has plenty of ability ,it will be interesting to see what this horse does next. As for Yorkhill I would put a line through it , I reckon it was one race too many for Yorkhill. I also reckon this was his last race over hurdles and it will be fences now for Yorkhill. The two mile handicap hurdle went to Tempo Mac for Gordon Elliott to almost total silence at 25/1, Ancient Sands and To Choose filled the places. The two horses that caught my eye were the fourth and fifth horses Bamako Moriviere who had little luck in running but stayed on really well for fourth. I also thought Shanpallas who was fifth ran a cracker, this horse will be of serious interest back over fences. I would say a Galway plate or a race like that.
The feature race on Day 1 was The Boylesports Champion chase over 2 miles. The race featured Vautour who was sent off 4/9 favourite stepping back to two miles. The race itself saw Special Tiara blaze along but he was a spent force before two out. Gods Own took it up and in truth the result was never in doubt from that point on. Vautour ran a flat race and only claimed second close home outstaying, Simonsig who traveled well however the the time on the sidelines has clearly taken its toll. Gods Own was a very good winner who has had an excellent season, fourth in the Queen mother , winning at Aintree and winning at Punchestown. As for Vautour his season has been a shambles as far as I am concerned for a horse of Vautours ability to end up with the Ryanair chase at the end of the season is underwhelming to be kind. I hope that the Mullins team who make very mistakes sit down and get Vautours campaign right from the start next season. Vautour is still young but he deserved better then this season. The Land Rover bumper is always a puzzle this year the punters latched on to Jenkins for Nicky Henderson who they sent off 8/11 fav . It was all going to plan until Couer De Lion (66/1-22/1) swept by Jenkins close home to win by a half length for Robert Tyner. Brelade ran a nice race in fourth. The Growise Champion Novice chase looked a good contest on paper and so it proved. The race went to Zabana who was gaining compensation for that farce of a start at Cheltenham. Zabana got the better of Outlander who (surely cant wait for his summer holidays) in a good race. Zabana could easily make up into a King George horse with good ground being vital to him. Rule the World ran well after his national heroics. Southfield Royale and Noble endeavor ran no race at all. It is back to the drawing board for them. The concluding bumper went to Cilaos emery for Willie and Patrick Mullins who got the better of Someday , they both look decent horses.
Wednesday, it was day 2 of the Punchestown festival. I was on the back foot after day one. The first race was the Martinstown Series Final .This race remarkably went to Shamiran for a third time he just held off the well backed fav Go Darsi Go, Shannak ran well in third as did Candlestick in fourth the three of these horses can win again. The Louis Fitzgerald hurdle went to Woodland Opera for Jessica Harrington who dropped off the pace after a mistake two out. Woodland Opera stayed on strongly to see off Val De Ferbert and Baden. Woodland Opera who Jessica Harrington reported afterwards had a wind operation prior to this race will go on from here. I have to say even though, I backed Woodland Opera wind operations should appear in the racing post and race cards as it is important information for the sports customers punters. The Grade one ,three mile hurdle was up next. This was a really good race Acapella Bourgeois took them along at a good gallop and only backed out of it on the approach to the last. Sandymount Duke was always on the scene but could only manage third. Bellshill and Coney Island fought out the finish. Bellshill who performed with great credit last season and early this season won the day from Coney Island by a half length. I think they are both horses to take forward. The Gold Cup was up next with Djakadam, Don Poli and Cue card renewing acquaintances again , however none of them would win it. The race went to Carlingford Lough who is remarkably undefeated at Punchestown. Road to Riches had gone a good gallop , with Cue Card already cooked Road To Riches crashed out at the second last when in with a right shout. Djakadam took over but was soon challenged by Carlingford Lough who won by 4 and a half lengths with Don Poli back in third , Cue Card was a flat fourth. The fall out from this race for me is Carlingford Lough will continue to be dangerous in Ireland. The race was one too many for Djakadam and Cue Card , surprisingly Don Poli bucked his trend of not performing to his level at Punchestown running with credit here.
The champion bumper was to witness history as Katie Walsh bagged her first grade 1 aboard Blow By Blow who fought all comers off in very courageous fashion. The final challenger was Moon Racer the champion bumper winner in 2015 at Cheltenham who on comeback ran a cracker. Bacardys ran well in third . This was a real good bumper with only Aspen Colorado not firing . I had seen Blow by Blow in the flesh at Navan and Fairyhouse I had liked him and had noted him as a potential Albert Bartlett horse for Cheltenham 2017 who could be a little under the radar that's gone now. Blow By Blow may even be better then that so we will have to see. The Guinness handicap chase went in very taking fashion to Irish Cavalier who dropped considerably in grade here, tanked through the race much like he did in the Paddy Power at Cheltenham in November. The second was the admirable Colms Dream who has had some season for Karl Thornton, Pairofbrowneyes ran a very good race in third. The mares bumper went to Augusta Kate who having run at the 3 big festivals got her turn here. The well backed Forge Meadow was second . The Nipper disgraced herself by depositing Nina on the turf and running out. The Nipper is not one for the mortgage money although talented has shown bad temperament traits the last twice now.
Thursday, it was day 3 of Punchestown. The JLT handicap hurdle started things off. It was a good race it went to Elusive Ivy who is a grand horse it was a win for trainer Gavin Cromwell saw off the Brock inn by 3 parts of a length. Pakman was up for third with Seeyouallincoppers a fast finishing fourth. It was a great race for our members who were advised a 1pt each way on Elusive Ivy at 20/1, a 1pt each way The Brock inn 16/1 and a 1pt each way , Seeyouallincoppers at 12/1. I got a lot of messages from members saying they had done the reverse exactas and tricasts. The Exacta paid €255 not a bad start to anyone's day. The two mile handicap chase saw many of the horses who took part in the Grand Annual at Cheltenham try again. Rock The World took them along at a great gallop, however at the back of the last the strong travelling Bright New Dawn picked up Rock The World and won by a length. Bright New Dawn has always threatened to do this on decent ground. Sizing Codelco ran an OK race in third. The La Touche Cup is a race I love, Josies orders was a significant non runner. The race went to Quantitativeeasing who controlled it from the front with a very well judged ride from Mark Walsh. Cantlow ran on late but could not get to Quantitativeeasing , Ballyboker Bridge ran well in third he loves it here. It was another winner for our members on the day.
The Ladbrokes stayers hurdle saw Alpha des obeaux try to grab his grade 1 win, it was not to be the race went to One Track Mind who was up on the pace with Jennies Jewel for much of the race. They looked set to fight it out with Shaneshill coming through but falling at the last under Ruby Walsh. I am not convinced Shaneshill would have won . One Track Mind knuckled down well to hold Jennies Jewel by 2 and a half lengths. Diamond King looked a non stayer in fourth, If in doubt never really got a blow in. The 3 mile handicap hurdle produced a dramatic finish with Cup Final getting up right on the line to nail Jury Duty. I reckon if Jack Kennedy had his time again he may have hung on to jury Duty a little longer but that's racing. It was hard luck for our members who had Jury Duty backed at 10/1. Burgas ran well in third and is a horse to watch. The Ryanair novice chase went to the wonderful Douvan. I have said it before this horse is the horse of a generation in my view, Douvan jumped superb the other horses tried hard but the could not live with him. Douvan has the racing world at his feet, I would love to see Douvan trained for a Cheltenham Gold Cup. The race was a good race for our members who had The Game Changer (without Douvan) at 2/1 (2pts win). The mares novice hurdle saw a blistering display from Missy tata who won really easy by 9 lengths from a promising looking Ria D'etel. I really liked Missy Tata earlier in the season this horse has a massive engine , I have no doubt she will make up into a very decent horse next season. The bumper saw a really smart performance from Invitation Only who has had comparisons with Yorkhill. This was a good display and with Sunni May in third who has collateral form with Blow By Blow this race looks a solid benchmark. I would say Invitation Only will be trained for the Neptune hurdle.
Friday, day 4 at Punchestown. The KFM hunter chase got us started , it went for the third time to Shin A Vee who was really well backed (4/1 -2/1) our members were on at 4/1 . Shin A Vee ran out a 5 and half length winner over Enniskillen who ran well for the second time at this years festival. The 2 miles 5 furlong Novice handicap chase looked a good contest on paper. The race had early drama as favourite Marlbrook went wrong at the first fence and had to pull up. The race went to Avant Tout for Willie Mullins and Paul Townend who was a really impressive winner on the day from Mr Diablo and Pairofbrowneyes who placed for the second time at this years festival. I would love to see Avant Tout go for the Paddy Power Gold cup at Cheltenham in November. Avant tout was a second winner on the day for our members. The mares handicap chase was up next , this went Definite Ruby for Gordon Elliott landing some nice bets in the process (20/1 - 8/1). Definite Ruby held off Padraigs Joy and Cresswell Breeze in a very good finish. The Betdaq chapion hurdle saw Vroum Vroum Mag go back to two miles in a grade 1 . The defining moment of this race was when Ruby Walsh rushed Vroum Vroum Mag after the third hurdle . This was a really good tactical move by Ruby Walsh , he then dictated the terms to Identity thief , Vroum Vroum Mag never relinquished the lead again in the contest. Identity Thief tried very hard but could not get by Vroum Vroum Mag who won by just over a length, My Tent Or Yours stuck on well for third. Vroum Vroum Mag was well backed from (7/4 - 4/6) , this may have come from Willie Mullins view expressed after the race that before Cheltenham Vroum Vroum Mag had been working better then Annie Power. Vroum Vroum Mag has plenty of options going for her in the future. A brilliant mare.
It was ladies day in Punchestown on Friday, the theme continued on the track as Jer's Girl followed up on her Fairyhouse win to bolt in by 10 lengths. Jer's Girl was very well backed (2/1 - 11/8) it was another great day for Gavin Cromwell. Jer's Girl looks the real deal even allowing for the weight she was getting this was top drawer. It was a race to forget for Willie Mullins as his charge A Toi Phil tried to run out , he now looks untrustworthy and is in danger of blowing his undoubted talent. Thomas Hobson and Lift the latch may have better days in handicaps. OO Seven looks like he will make a nice novice chaser. The two mile novice hurdle was next it saw a clash of two Willie Mullins horses Bello Conti who had run well at Cheltenham and Aintree behind Yorkhill. The other horse was Koshari who had been the subject of very positive bulletins earlier in the season. Koshari as the 4 year old was getting ten pounds from Bello Conti, Koshari made it count running out an impressive winner. It was another winner for our members on the day who had a (1pt each way) at 7/2. The bumper saw a win for Philip Hobbs and Jp McManus with Jamie Codd doing the steering. Monalee and Monbeg Notorious ran well in second and third. Some Neck looks like he needs hurdles and a trip. The last race was the champion hunter chase it of course featured On The Fringe who was looking for a fifth win in the race and a second consecutive (Cheltenham, Aintree, Punchestown) festival hat trick. On The Fringe of course delivered as he always does , travelling superbly while jumping really well . Marito and Mendip Express gave it all they had , however On The Fringe is just too good. as a young racing fann I often wondered would I see a hunter chaser as good as Elegant Lord. I have now and its On the Fringe, Nina Carberry's delight was wonderful to see after the race tremendous scenes.
Saturday, we start at Newmarket. The Jockey club stakes saw the return of Jack Hobbs. The race did not pan out well for Jack Hobbs, pulling up after appearing to wobble. John Gosden reported he would be checked over but it was a mystery to the trainer as Jack Hobbs had been working well prior to this race. The feature race was the Qipco 2000 Guineas the first classic of the UK flat season. Air Force Blue was all the rage for Aidan O'Brien going off a 4/5 shot. The backers of Air Force Blue knew their fate early on as ,Air Force Blue was never going , trailing in 12th of 13 . Aidan O'Brien suggested after the race he may have trained Air Force Blue too hard . I am not so sure being a War Front it may be a great two year old season is as good as it gets for Air Force Blue time will tell. The race was another triumph for the resurgent Frankie Dettori who steered Galileo Gold to glory to give 35 year old trainer Hugo Palmer a first UK classic success. Palmer has been making his way since 2011 , he is a trainer who's star is very much in the ascendancy.The owners the Qatar based Al Shaqab racing have once again shown that they will give the traditional powerhouses of Coolmore and Godolphin lots to think about.
At Punchestown it was day 5 of the festival. The opening race saw Enda Bolger bid for a clean sweep in the banks races for the week. Quantitativeeasing was looking to back up his la touche glory from Thursday, he had to settle for second on this occasion. The race went to Mtada Supreme who gave Peter Maher another winner over the banks following stalwarts (Big Shu & Ballyboker Bridge) . The next race was the 3 miles 6 furlongs handicap chase. The race went to the brilliant Harry Fry who had Fletchers Flyer ready to go for this valuable prize. Fletchers Flyer was given a brilliant ride by Noel Fehily , holding off Forever Gold by 2 and a half lengths. Forever Gold was the subject of a real punt (10-1 - 5-1) it was hard luck for our members we also had Folsom Blue in the frame who ran with great credit again. Sizing Coal and Thunder and Roses both showed a return to form in third and fifth. The mares champion hurdle went to Willie Mullins but not to the expected winner Limini. Whiteout won at Punchestown for the second consecutive festival seeing Limini off by 4 and half lengths. Whiteout was on the front end dictating the race , Ruby was very confident on Limini but it was misplaced. Limini jumped poorly and could not do it when push came to shove. Where Limini goes from here I am not sure . Slowmotion ran flat, Keppols queen ran well in third. Whiteout was a worthy winner , she will probably pay her way on the flat in the summer as well.
The champion four year old hurdle went much more to script that man Mullins again with a 1-2 again. Apple's Jade was electric here putting the field to the sword in very taking style. Ivanovich Gorbatov attempted to stay with Apples Jade this time following his Aintree annihilation , however he could not do it a well beaten off third by 10 lengths. Let's dance ran on well for second beaten nine lengths. Let's dance has been smartly campaigned retaining maiden status meaning she is a novice for next season. The winner Apple's Jade looks a very special racehorse despite 8/1 quotes for the champion hurdle I do not see her as that type of horse. Whatever route Apple's Jade takes she is a serious racehorse. The Pat Taffe handicap chase was competitive on the face of it however it was the subject of a Willie Mullins punt as Pleasant Company was backed at all rates from (10-1 - 4-1) just holding off Regal Encore. Pleasant Company could be an English Hennessy type if he could get in to the race. The Coral handicap hurdle was very competitive it went to the creatively campaigned Anibale Fly for Tony Martin. This horse went into everyone's notebook on 28-2-16 after a "eye catching run" at Leopardstown when finishing fourth. I would go as far to say this case was much more worthy of pursuit then the recent Noble Emperor fiasco. Anibale Fly won well here by 3 lengths and clearly has lots of ability , the Galway hurdle would be a logical target. As far those in behind The Romford Pele who was second could be of interest back in the UK over fences in one of those summer handicaps. Jimmy Two Times and Bentelimar are solid and will get a turn. The most interesting horse is without doubt Bamako Moriviere racing for the second time with credit this week. I have no doubt Bamako Moriviere will pick a handicap hurdle up in the near future. Desoto County is frustrating and it looks fences for him now. The concluding bumper went to Stretchingthetruth who destroyed the field by 6 lengths hard held. Stretchingthetruth landed some nice bets (7/2- 13-8) , Noel Meade has a nice horse on his hands for next season. The Punchestown Festival was a tremendous success illustrating the strength of Irish Jump racing superbly. I also thought it was tremendous to see the attendance figures reach 114,000 passing the 100,000 for the first time. A great attendance of 30,035 on the Saturday. Punchestown are pretty good and getting tickets into the local community this adds to it. I think other Irish racecourses should follow Punchestown's lead. We have a tremendous product spread its gospel please Horse Racing Ireland.
I will focus on Newmarket, where it was 1,000 Guineas day . Minding went to post as a red hot favourite. It was to be a great triumph for Minding and all associated with Ballydoyle. Minding tracked the pace at the 2 furlong mark Ryan Moore said go and a jet propelled Minding put the contest to bed by 3 and a half lengths. Ballydoyle had a troubled passage and ran on for second . Alice Springs made it a 1-2-3 for Coolmore and Aidan O' Brien. Minding will surely go on to better things from here , she looks a top class filly. Luminere was very disappointing, Luminere had been the subject of very bullish comments by Mark Johnston. Luminere appeared a non stayer in my eyes, it was reported that Luminere will return to sprinting.The other horse that caught my eye at Newmarket was Swiss Range who won the Pretty Polly in commanding style by 3 lengths, Swiss Range looks a very nice filly also.