The Grade 1 Morgiana Hurdle takes centre stage at Punchestown on Sunday and the Racing Post’s Robbie Wilders advises a bet in the big one and two others.
Seabank Bistro @ 11/8
If there is a star lurking in the Grade 2 Florida Pearl Novice Chase (1.30) field then I'm sure it's Thedevilscoachman, who scored cosier than the winning margin suggested in a Galway chase on his return.
I fancied Thedevilscoachman to go right to the top over hurdles this season. He didn't look a natural jumper of a fence in two chasing runs last term and relished reverting to hurdles when a fine winner of the Boyne in February.
However, his jumping performance a few weeks ago was much more assured and this looks like the perfect race for him.
I would have him as favourite over Idas Boy and Minella Crooner. Idas Boy was a vastly inferior hurdler than my selection and lacks the same star quality, while this is a stiff task for Minella Crooner's chasing debut.
Willie Mullins held all the aces in the Morgiana Hurdle (2.05) at the start of the week and State Man will probably go off favourite with Paul Townend aboard.
However, Patrick Mullins virtually always rides Sharjah and the nine-year-old, who has landed two of the last four runnings, also has a great shout.
Age will eventually catch up with Sharjah, though, and he makes limited appeal at the prices. I'd sooner side with Teahupoo for Gordon Elliott.
This five-year-old produced one of the standout hurdling performances of last season when scampering away with the Red Mills at Gowran in February but failed to reproduce that effort at Cheltenham in Punchestown when relatively well fancied, although he is worth another chance.
Testing ground is crucial to Teahupoo and conditions were all too quick for him in the spring. The forecast rain here will help and he is only five, so I'd hope we'd see a better model this campaign.
Back him each-way with bet365 for one quarter of the odds at two places.
The final wager of interest at Punchestown is Seabank Bistro in the following maiden hurdle (2.40) for Willie Mullins.
Like Teahupoo, the ground seems crucial to Seabank Bistro and he moved stylishly through heavy going in the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham when a good fourth behind his top-class stablemate Facile Vega in March.
I'm drawing a line through his disappointing effort at Punchestown in the Grade 1 bumper on good to soft after that as things were happening all too quickly, and end-of-season form for young horses is often worth taking with a pinch of salt.
Considering Seabank Bistro ran out a stylish winner of a 2m3f bumper on his debut, I'm expecting staying to be his game and this 2m5½f distance is perfect at this stage of his career.
This five-year-old looks a nice recruit to the division and can land this before stepping up further in trip as the season unfolds.