Punchestown preview: Four big stories on day two

Cue Card

Cue Card: is a best-priced 8-13 favouite to follow up his Aintree win

  PICTURE: Getty Images  

DAY one saw short-priced favourites who had run at Cheltenham and Aintree overturned. Will it be more of the same on day two, or will the battle-hardened Cue Card – on his sixth start this season, prove more reliable?

Cue power?

Cue Card’s return to the peak of his powers, at the grand old age of ten, and the heartbreaking end to his £1 million quest, has been one of the stories of the 2015-16 season – and racing fans will get one last chance to see the Charlie Hall, Betfair Chase, King George and Betfred Bowl winner in action in the Bibby Financial Services Ireland Punchestwn Gold Cup before a summer break.

Already at Punchestown we have seen Yorkhill and Vautour suffer defeats at short odds, with the prospect that a long season has at last caught up with them. Could that affect Cue Card as well, or will he stamp his authority as he did Aintree?

BACARDYS and Patrick Mullins (yellow/black) win

Bacardys (right) reversed form with Battleford at Aintree

  PICTURE: John Grossick (racingpost.com/photos)  

Seconds out, round three

At Cheltenham Battleford got the better of Bacardys, when the pair were second and third behind Ballyandy. At Aintree there was a reversal of form within a reversal of form, as both overturned the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained favourite, with Battleford second again, this time to Bacardys.

Punchestown gives the Mullins pair a final chance to establish a pecking order before going novice hurdling next season, but with Mullins-trained runners who raced at Cheltenham and Aintree struggling on day one the attheraces.com Champion INH Flat Race is not between the pair.

Add the Joseph O’Brien-trained (albeit under his father’s licence) one-time Champion Bumper favourite Aspen Colorado and last year’s winner Moon Racer, who has been off the track for the 413 days since, and this is arguably the most competitive Grade 1 of the entire five days.

Later on the card, in the Weatherbys Ireland European Breeders Fund Mares INH Flat Race, Mullins saddles Augusta Kate in a bid to get her head in front at a spring festival at the third time of asking. Warren Greatrex has booked Nina Carberry for Sandown winner The Nipper, who is clearly talented but will be a stern test of even Carberry’s horsemanship after hanging all the way across the track last time. Like Sandown, Punchestown is right-handed.

Killer-crow-360

Killer Crow: was well-supported in the build up to the Cheltenham Festival

  PICTURE: Alain Barr (racingpost.com/photos)  

The handicap good thing

Gordon Elliott’s Killer Crow was one of the big handicap buzz horses for the Cheltenham Festival, before missing the cut for the Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase – by one.

Since then he has finished seventh, beaten 18 and a half lengths, over a trip too far in the Irish National and 19th, beaten out of sight, over fences that did not suit in the Topham, when reportedly bursting a blood vessel.

Back over normal fences, and at a trip more to his liking, he contests the Guinness Handicap Chase – run under conditions almost identical to that Cheltenham handicap for which he was well supported. And all off a 1lb lower mark.

KILLULTAGH VIC RIDDEN BY PAUL TOWNEND

Killultagh Vic: beat Thistlecrack in last year’s Irish Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle

  PICTURE: Caroline Norris (racingpost.com/photos)  

One not to miss

This time last year Killultagh Vic was a Cheltenham handicap winner, Thistlecrack a 25-1 shock result at Aintree and Shaneshill had not quite hit the heights expected since winning the previous year’s Grade 1 bumper. The Irish Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle loked a below-par Grade 1.

The year before Beat That got the better of Don Poli, and in 2013 Morning Assembly was triumphant, with Road To Riches down the field.

It is some honour roll, so underestimate this year’s field at your peril. There may not be a bonafide Grade 1 horse in their ranks – yet – but history suggests several will prove well above average and there may not be a better race this week for populating your Horse Tracker.

 

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