After a brief weather enforce hiatus National Hunt racing returns today with Grade 2 and big handicap action at Punchestown, the man with his finger on the pulse, Martin Pennington takes you through the card
12:50 Byerley Babe is taken to open her account over hurdles at the second time of asking. A highly impressive bumper scorer last time out at Thurles having placed in a Maiden Hurdle at the same track on her previous start she was well regarded by those in the pointing fraternity having opened her account at the top class Lemonfield meeting back in March prior to disappointing at trainer Robert Tyner’s local track of Cork when odds-on for a pointers bumper the following month. She’s since been purchased by JP McManus and the owners retained jockey AP McCoy takes the ride for the first time today.
13:20 I expect JP McManus to record an opening race double with impressive Leopardstown Maiden Hurdle scorer Ned Buntline in this feature Grade 2 Novice Hurdle over 2 1/2m. He contested the hot 4yo bumper at that same track last January, since when he’s been an impressive scorer at Naas back in November which was followed by a shock odds-on defeat at the hands of Bright New Dawn at Leopardstown. The trip of 2m is sure to suit and he will have no problems on the ground.
13:50 Robert Tyner’s Dushrembrandt was a dual winner in points last season and he proved that he was a stayer of more than average ability when taking a Cork Novice Hurdle at the first time of asking on yielding ground back in October. He’s since made two further trips to Cork for Grade 3 Novice Hurdles over the same trip, firstly when a disappointing 12 lengths 6th of 9 behind the very useful Our Vinnie and most recently at the start of December when he chased home Gigginstown Stud’s Road To Riches. Dushrembrandt makes his handicap debut here and he is expected to put his reserves of stamina to good use here.
14:20 Sizing Europe took this race for Henry De Bromhead as an odd-favourite last season and it looks likely to be a similar scenario again today. The winner of all three of his starts so far this season, his last defeat in Ireland came back in November 2011 at the hands of Quito De La Roque when tackling a trip that surely stretched his stamina. He’s been kept exclusively to 2 and 2 1/2m Chases in 2012/13 and that has culminated in victory in the Grade 1 Paddy Power Dial-A-Bet Chase over Christmas in which he easily defeated Rubi Light and co. Andrew Lynch again takes the ride as he goes for a repeat victory in this.
14:50 Uncle Junior has been something of a standing dish in cross country and banks races around Europe in recent seasons and he pays a first visit to Punchestown since getting up on the line in the La Touche Cup at the Festival last season, since when he’s run well in Europe’s longest cross country race and won over the cross country course at Cheltenham in November prior to unseating at the same track in December. Since that outing under Patrick Mullins he’s finished down the field back over regulation fences in the Paddy power Handicap Chase at Leopardstown, the trip is likely to be a minimum for him these days but the testing ground should bring his stamina into play and he goes well for Patrick Mullins.
15:20 The prestigious Dan Moore Handicap Chase has been rescheduled and as such is an additional race on today’s bumper card. The in form Tony Martin saddles three time Chase scorer Pires in this and the Generous gelding has scored on his last three starts over fences, a Beginners Chase and two Handicap Chases. The most recent of those successes came at Down Royal in November and though he races off a career high mark (over either Hurdles or Fences) in this there’s reason to believe he should go close. He’s clearly suited to right handed tracks having won at Cork and Down Royal and has an unbeaten two from two record when ridden by today’s jockey Paul Townend.
15:50 The Mouse Morris trained Carry Each Other was beaten 15 lengths by today’s rival Vesper Bell when the pair met here last month but he runs here receiving a full 19lbs from that rival whilst shaping as if today’s step up in trip is likely to suit. Carry Each Other’s best run so far under rules was last time out when stamina was at a premium whilst he was a dual scorer in points at two stayers tracks in Templemore and Leadington. He runs here off a mark of 119 and I expect him to improve for the step into handicaps and step up in trip.
16:20 The Tony Martin trained Shemshal looks a decent prospect on breeding, being an Aga Khan bred son of Dalakhani and the listed winner Shemaka whilst he’s also a full- brother to his breeders Group 2 winning filly Shemiyla. Tony Martin and Alan Berry have already teamed up for a victory in a similar race this season and with the yard being in amongst the winners of late, including with the impressive Blackmail at Leopardstown last weekend Shemshal looks worth siding with against the Mullins favourite who’s been disappointing in two rules runs to date.