Punchestown hosts an interesting card on Saturday and Robbie Wilders from the Racing Post shares his three best bets.
Hallowed Star @ 6/4
There are quite a few well-fancied shorties at Punchestown on Saturday and Hallowed Star can get the ball rolling in the Craddockstown Novice Chase (1.03).
This is a weak enough Grade 2 and the Shark Hanlon-trained seven-year-old brings the most solid form claims to the table after his impressive 19-length triumph at Galway in October.
Hallowed Star drops in trip but should be speedy enough to handle that and the slower ground that is expected to be on offer at Punchestown should suit.
My selection is unexposed after just two starts over fences and can take this step up in class in his stride, with the other novice chasers making limited appeal.
Gordon Elliott landed this in each of the last two years but the suspicion is his two representatives, Grand Paradis and Mars Harper, are a rung below his best options in the division.
The Goffs Land Rover Bumper at the Punchestown festival tends to work out strongly and I’m expecting the 2022 winner, Absolute Notions, to make a perfect first start over hurdles in the following maiden event (2.38).
Top owners Robcour Racing have since invested in this four-year-old and his six-and-a-half-length triumph at the spring meeting was a taking effort.
Presumably he caught the Gordon Elliott yard by surprise that day as he was sent off a 25/1 chance and the outsider of four representatives, so perhaps he shows a minimal amount on the gallops. However, there is clearly a massive engine there and Elliott’s comments in a recent Racing Post stable tour suggest this novice can take high rank in the division.
Recent winners of that Punchestown bumper include future Grade 1 performers Petit Mouchoir and Commander Of Fleet, and Absolute Notions can take this at the expense of Benaud and Joshua Des Flos, who appeal as the likeliest dangers.
The 2m2f Listed mares’ hurdle (2.13) looks like a straight shootout between Queens Brook and Heaven Help Us, with preference for the former.
Queens Brook comes with risks attached as she does have a knack of throwing in an absolute stinker, but she is a supremely talented mare on her day.
The seven-year-old has been beaten at odds of 6/5, 11/10 and most recently at 4/6, but she always badly needs her first run and I’m expecting big improvement from her comeback third at Limerick in October.
Queens Brook has four and a half lengths to find with Heaven Help Us on that form but is officially rated 9lb higher and was in a different league to her old rival at Cheltenham when she claimed second in the Grade 1 Mares’ Hurdle at last season’s festival.
That is reportedly Queens Brook’s long-term target and she is taken to get her career back on track.
It is also encouraging that this highly rated mare produced her career-best performance on Racing Post Ratings at this course last season. She will surely be fitter this time and is open to a little more improvement this campaign.