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Dublin: 13°C Sunday 16 May 2021

Mark Your Card: your best bets for Day 2 at Punchestown

There were a couple of shocks on day one in Co Kildare, but Declan Smyth is back for more. Here are his three tips for today’s racing at Punchestown.

Image: ©INPHO/Cathal Noonan

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DAY ONE OF this year’s Punchestown Festival produced an upset with Trifolium being outstayed by Alderwood in the Novice Hurdle; Sizing Europe had to battle hard for his first Champion Chase; and Sir Des Champs survived a massive blunder at the last to win the Novice Chase.

With the ground as testing as it is, there is sure to be more drama over the next few days.


The Grade 1 Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle over 3m (4.55pm) is sure to test the stamina of the 12 runners tomorrow. Ipsos Du Berlais is Davy Russell’s preferred choice; Noel Meade’s charge will relish the going and he has to be respected. Jetson has been very consistent all year, although he has been well beaten by our top novices when running against them.

Sous Les Cieux is the choice of Ruby Walsh from a strong Mullins entry and he too will like the ground. However, he is stepping up to this trip and will also wear blinkers for the first time. Bridget’s Pet is also stepping up in trip for the first time but has decent form behind Lyreen Legend and Jenari in his last two runs. He’ll relish the ground and at an early price of 11/1 makes good each-way appeal.

The favourite Sous Les Cieux doesn’t look value for money to me and I make BRIDGET’S PET the each-way selection.


The Punchestown Gold Cup  (5.30pm) over 3m1f will be a real test of stamina, and Quel Esprit will probably start favourite on the back of three wins including the Hennessy at Leopardstown.

Captain Chris will attract support following his run in the Ryanair at Cheltenham where he was beaten by just six lengths, while Rubi Light was a length behind Captain Chris that day on ground not to his liking. The latter will enjoy tomorrow’s surface and is a course winner having won the John Durkan Chase here over 2m4f on heavy ground last December.

Follow The Plan will have his supporters following his Aintree win while Quantativeeasing is another one capable of a big run. However I’m going to stick with one of my favourite horses and make RUBI LIGHT the selection.


The Champion National Hunt Flat Race (6.05pm) is a Grade 1 full of quality. Twelve runners have been declared and it really is hard to call. Some of you may want to follow the market but that doesn’t always work.

Cheltenham bumper winner Champagne Fever will be all the rage in the betting coming from the Mullins camp. Clonbannon Lad disappointed at Cheltenham and probably didn’t act on the ground having won his previous three starts on testing ground, including a 12-length victory over another of today’s rivals Mozoltov.

Venture Capital won his only start at Fairyhouse in December. His reputation proceeded him that day and he didn’t disappoint. He has since been bought by JP McManus and is not without a chance.

New Years Eve was runner up to Champagne Fever at Cheltenham and his trainer feels it’s worthwhile to come over from England and renew rivalry. He should handle the ground as his half-brother Midnight Game was effective on it.

Summer Star for the Walsh family will also handle the ground having won easily in testing ground at Limerick, but preference is for the Noel Meade trained Fickle Fortune.

This filly won her only start at Down Royal back in February on heavy ground, overcoming interference in the race. While the winning distance was only just over two lengths, the comments described her victory as very easy. She was obviously well regarded before the race, going off at odds-on, and afterwards her trainer described her as very special.

In what is obviously a wide open race, I make FICKLE FORTUNE a sporting selection.

For regular racing updates, follow @whiteflagman on Twitter.

Punchestown wrap: Third time lucky for Sizing Europe

About the author:

Declan Smyth

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