Punchestown’s John Durkan card finally goes ahead on Monday and Robbie Wilders from the Racing Post provides two selections, including one for the early-season cracker.
The Listed mares’ novice hurdle (1.40) that precedes the John Durkan has unearthed a couple of smart winners in recent years, with 2021 scorer Party Central following up at the Dublin Racing Festival and Punchestown festival, while 2020 victor Skyace bagged a Grade 1 at Fairyhouse later that season.
Party Central represented Gordon Elliott and the Cullentra trainer holds a strong hand again this year with Deeply Superficial and Harmonya Maker.
Both accounted for smart Gavin Cromwell-trained bumper mare Law Ella when scoring comfortably on their hurdling debuts, although Deeply Superficial had just over three lengths in hand over the second, while Harmonya Maker secured a more impressive 18-length verdict. She is the pick under Jack Kennedy.
Admittedly, Deeply Superficial’s maiden hurdle was a slower-run affair and that contributed to the relative winning distances, but Harmonya Maker might know too much for her inexperienced stablemate at this stage.
This five-year-old reached a good level in bumpers last season and produced arguably her most impressive success at Punchestown, showcasing her abundant stamina with a 12-length triumph on heavy ground over 2m2f almost a year ago.
It was little surprise Harmonya Maker relished a step up to 2m4f at Fairyhouse for her hurdles bow and this intermediate trip seems to suit her down to the ground. There is every chance she will make all.
Finally we get to see Gold Cup favourite Galopin Des Champs in the John Durkan (2.10) and he was the best of a vintage crop of novice chasers last season.
This 2m4f trip is optimal for Galopin Des Champs’s seasonal comeback as he possesses plenty of speed, but it is ill advised backing a returning horse with a big campaign ahead at general odds of , particularly one who memorably fell at the last a couple of starts back at the Cheltenham Festival.
He should win, but the value bet in the race is Galopin Des Champs’s stablemate Haut En Couleurs in the To be Placed market.
This isn’t really Fakir D’Oudairies’s time of year and he only ran to a Racing Post Rating of 160 in this last season before stepping forward on our figures with each start.
Fakir D’Oudairies takes a run or two to really hit full stride and I think we’ll see the best of him later in the campaign.
Conversely, Haut En Couleurs boasts a strong record fresh and never bettered the RPR of 155 he recorded on his chasing debut at Leopardstown last Christmas in subsequent runs.
That also happened over hurdles as he regressed slightly after placing on his stable debut for Willie Mullins in the Triumph Hurdle in 2021.
It is worth remembering that Mullins saddled the 1-2-3 in last season’s John Durkan, with a 22/1 shot and 50/1 chance following home Allaho and beating Fakir D’Oudairies.
Haut En Couleurs, who is open to improvement for the move up to this 2m4f distance, rates a value bet at a nice price to complete a one-two for Closutton.