There aren’t many runners in Britain on Sunday as the ground continues to dry and the more competitive action comes at Punchestown, as Racing Post tipster Graeme Rodway gives his best bets.
The Grand National Trial Handicap Chase (2.10) is the feature at Punchestown and Champagne Platinum might be capable of bouncing back to form for Enda Bolger.
He was second behind Death Duty in this race last year off a 1lb higher mark and went on to finish eighth in the Irish Grand National itself at Fairyhouse a couple of months afterwards.
Champagne Platinum was racing off a mark 3lb higher than he does here that day and is definitely well handicapped if he can reproduce that form.
However, he has struggled of late. The selection has been beaten at least 33 lengths on all three starts this season, but one came over hurdles and another was in a Banks race.
He therefore has run only once over regulation fences and that was at Ballinrobe last May, so it’s a long time since he faced this sort of test.
He might just be suited by the return to this course and distance and is no forlorn hope now he is returned to normal fences. It’s worth taking a chance on him bouncing back to his best.
The Apple’s Jade Mares Novice Hurdle (2.40) is named after the classy mare trained by Gordon Elliott and he will be keen to win it.
Elliott saddles two runners, but his best chance comes with Harmonya Maker, who has won two of her last three starts and is in good form.
Harmonya Maker sandwiched those two wins at Fairyhouse with a solid third in a 2m31/2f Listed mares’ novice hurdle at this course in December.
She went off 8/15 favourite and couldn't do the business, but the front three were 24 lengths clear of the rest.
It wasn’t a bad run. She proved that when bolting up by 20 lengths in a mares’ event last time, when she had the smart bumper performer Pink In The Park well held in second, and a reproduction of that effort might be good enough for Harmonya Maker to continue her upward progression.
The David Trundley Artist At Punchestown Handicap Hurdle (3.45) looks like a wide-open handicap, but it could pay to stick with Elliott again as he has a big chance with Coventry.
The six-year-old has run two of his best races at this track and his close second over course and distance in October was a superb effort.
A reproduction of that run may be good enough. Coventry followed that with another good third of 16 at Galway next time out and he wasn’t disgraced back at this track over 3m two runs ago.
He was beaten less than nine lengths by the winner Shewearsitwell and stayed on well without troubling the leading principals.
It’s easy to ignore his latest defeat in a red-hot Pertemps Qualifier at Leopardstown over Christmas behind Maxxum as that was a stronger race than this and the return to easier company might do the trick for Coventry. Coming back to this track should also help.