I’m conscious I’ve not said anything yet about Graham Lee as the news has hit us all hard. Listen, so much has been said about that man that there is very little to add. He’s a brilliant rider and, more importantly, a gentleman writes DAVY RUSSELL.
We had our battles on the track in the past and I have so much respect for him as a person and as a jockey. His commitment, his fitness, his resilience… not many could make the successful switch from jumps to the flat. To think he partnered more than a thousand national hunt winners, including a Grand National Winner, and managed to switch codes and ride a Gold Cup and Nunthorpe winner. The battles of the past are insignificant though when you think of the road ahead for Graham. I send my love, thoughts and prayers to him and his family.
It seems a bit flippant to be writing about this Sunday’s action at Punchestown, but I know Graham would be keen for the show to go on. Here are my thoughts on the pick of the action…
12.10pm Maiden Hurdle ⭐ STAR PRICES ⭐
All eyes will be on Tullyhill as he makes his hurdling debut. He’s not been seen since chasing home A Dream To Share here in the Champion Bumper. That was a hell of a run and he shaped that day like he’d be suited by this sort of trip. He’ll obviously take some beating, but don’t rule out Gordon’s Shannon Royale giving him a test. He’s fit on the back of two runs and has that bit more experience.
12.45pm Handicap Hurdle ⭐ STAR PRICES ⭐
Gordon saddles a nice one here in Bob Cigar who starts life in handicaps off a mark of 112. He was consistent last campaign and took steps forward on each start. He’s had a nice break and been given time to strengthen up. He should be competitive off that mark. At a bigger price look out for Wa Wa who has already had a couple of runs this season. You can put a line through his latest Galway effort last month and he’s a player here if back to his Leopardstown form from last March.
1.20pm Mares Hurdle (Listed) ⭐ STAR PRICES ⭐
Only the seven runners here, but it looks a nice opportunity for Shecouldbeanything to get back to winning ways. She is a super consistent mare who was a good third in Listowel the last day. She’d previously won nicely in Killarney and a reproduction of that form ought to be good enough.
1.55pm Novice Chase (Grade 2) ⭐ STAR PRICES ⭐
I’m really looking forward to seeing Imagine hopefully take another step forward in this Grade Two contest. He made a real nice start over fences in Fairyhouse where he jumped super. This will obviously require a bit more, but he’s one we have always liked, and this looks like the ideal stepping stone for him.
2.30pm John Durkan Memorial (Grade 1) ⭐ STAR PRICES ⭐
The big race of the days sees the return of Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Galopin Des Champs. He’ll be a warm order to start the season off with a win and on ratings he has at least 10lbs in hand on all of these. My only niggle is the distance is plenty short enough for a horse like him with bundles of stamina. His class should see him though, but speedier horses like Blue Lord may have a bigger chance of an upset than the market implies.
3.00pm Pertemps Handicap Hurdle ⭐ STAR PRICES ⭐
This looks as tricky as you might expect. I’ve a feeling Gabbys Cross will run well from a fair mark. He wasn’t beaten fast by Buddy One in Galway the last day and that lad won so easy in Cheltenham last weekend.
3.35pm Flat race ⭐ STAR PRICES ⭐
Looks an intriguing race with Soir De Garde looking an interesting recruit for the Mullins camp. That said, Prends Garde A Toi is a nice one of Gordon’s and it will be good to see how he gets on first time up.