Punchestown preview: Four big stories on day four

Vroum Vroum Mag (Ruby Walsh) wins mares hurdleVroum Vroum Mag (left) wins the David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle in March  PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)  

AS WE come into the final days of the Punchestown festival, some of the last lingering questions of the jumps season will be answered. Here are four likely talking points on day four.

What is Vroum Vroum Mag made of?

Letting Annie Power loose against the males proved the making of her, at least in terms of her legacy. But for her efforts at Cheltenham and Aintree, she might have remained as something of a Quevega tribute act.

With Annie Power not risked at a third festival in six weeks, it is the turn of Vroum Vroum Mag to finally take her chance in open company. Perhaps surprisingly for one that has been mooted for the four-miler and Hennessy in her time, it comes against the two-mile hurdlers in the Betdaq Punchestown Champion Hurdle (5.30).

In a sense, this is the most satisfactory target for all involved: fans may get to see something special, while connections otherwise have a ready-made excuse. One thing is for sure: with Identity Thief and My Tent Or Yours in this field, we will see how Vroum Vroum Mag compares with genuine Champion Hurdle types.

A Toi Phil

A Toi Phil was an impressive winner of a Grade 2 before Cheltenham

  PICTURE: Patrick McCann (racingpost.com/photos  

Will there be redemption for A Toi Phil?

It is easy to forget now, but before Yorkhill was switched to the Neptune at Cheltenham the de facto Mullins first string in that race had been A Toi Phil, after he had run out a deeply impressive winner of the race at Leopardstown that Mullins has won in recent years with the likes of Outlander, Pont Alexandre and Boston Bob.

A Toi Phil was one of many buried under the story of Yorkhill’s stunning success over Yanworth, finishing seventh. That was not his running, though, and with the greatest of respect the competition in the Tattersalls Ireland Champion Novice Hurdle (6.05) would not be at that sort of exalted level.

There is enough in the race to suggest we will see a deserving Grade 1 winner. Thomas Hobson and O O Seven also flopped in the Neptune but, like A Toi Phil, had looked fine prospects before that. Fairyhouse winner Jer’s Girl brings in an extra dimension, too.

Punchestown Festival general view

All bumpers at the Punchestown festival are worth watching

  PICTURE: Patrick McCann (racingpost.com/photos)  

Can the bumper produce another classy winner?

Friday’s bumper, the Racing FX Flat Race (7.10) is a maiden contest worth just over €7,000 to the winner, but the cache of the Punchestown festival means that it has attracted plenty of good winners.

The last couple of winners have even come over from Britain for the prize. Fletchers Flyer (who beat Sub Lieutenant) and Champers On Ice have both represented the race with distinction over hurdles the following season.

This year, the obvious one to look out for is a Mullins runner, Some Neck. It is to the regret of punters that he remains a maiden, as he has gone off favourite for all three of his starts and finished runner-up each time.

Money for Mullins horses in bumpers normally proves indicative, so Some Neck, or perhaps one of his rivals, could well remain a good prospect for next season.

Salsify - Cheltenham - 15.03.2013

Salsify is just one of the threats posed to On The Fringe

  PICTURE: Getty Images  

Can On The Fringe double a treble?

We have seen Punchestown prove a bridge too far for many already – Yorkhill, Vautour and Cue Card among them. On The Fringe has already made light of the festival triple crown, having won at Cheltenham, Aintree and Punchestown last year.

This year he has again completed the first two legs and will be expected to land another treble in the Racing Post Champion Hunters Chase (7.45). Both previous legs proved harder work this time around, though, which casts just a small amount of doubt over the now 11-year-old.

The competition is stiff, too. Marito and Dineur, runner-up at Cheltenham and Aintree respectively, will try again and come into the rematch fresher than On The Fringe. Then there’s the small matter of Paint The Clouds, a bigger Cheltenham eye-catcher than even Pacha Du Polder, and dual champion Salsify.

Getting On The Fringe to complete the treble again could prove a stretch even for trainer Enda Bolger’s considerable talents.


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