The Punchestown Festival provides punters with a thumping five days of National Hunt racing and Wednesday’s highlight is undoubtedly the Punchestown Gold Cup.
Last year’s winning trainer Willie Mullins saddles both Boston Bob and On His own, and the former looks the more fancied of the pair with Ruby Walsh up.
Boston Bob has always been highly regarded and, despite looking outpaced in the Ryan Air at the Cheltenham festival, he made amends at Aintree in the Melling Chase. However, the form of that race looks nowhere near as strong as the Cheltenham Gold Cup – and Walsh may well have picked the wrong one. This is no two horse race though and both First Lieutenant and Long Run have claims in a race in which they finished respectively 3rd and 2nd to Sir des Champs in last year’s renewal. The consistent First Lieutenant wears first-time blinkers this time around and, if they improve him just a few pounds, this may be his big day.
First Lieutenant each-way 5/1 or better.
Horse racing – Punchestown – Thursday
World Series Hurdle
Quevega bids for an impressive five-timer in the race, and even-money seems a perfectly acceptable price. At Fishers Cross, Fingal Bay and Bog Warrior should provide some meaningful opposition – but if Quevega is 100% she’ll be too good for them.
Quevega – win
Ryanair Novice Chase
Arkle runner-up Champagne Fever heads the market and will be looking for compensation. Connections must be wondering what might have happened if this horse had run in the Champion Hurdle as his charge defeated both Jezki and My Tent or Yours in last year’s Supreme Novice – and he really should prove too good for the likeable Balder Success and Trifolium.
Champagne Fever – win
Horse racing – Punchestown – Friday
Racing Post Champion Hurdle
Hurricane Fly bids to match Quevega by securing a five-timer at this meeting – but faces by far his toughest task in Champion Hurdle winner Jezki. Surprisingly, the McManus bandwagon hasn’t entered a pace-setter for Jezki – though his younger legs are still taken to outpace The Fly’s on the prevailing good ground. However, should the ground soften – it may be a different story.
Jezki – win
Football – Champions League – Wednesday
Chelsea Vs Athletico Madrid
Jose Mourinho has a habit of over-achieving and Chelsea are poised on the verge of making another Champion’s League Final Appearance. The Blues are a best-priced 10/11 to qualify, 13/10 to win the semi-final in 90 minutes and 5-1 to be crowned champions. The 10/11 looks better value than the 13/10 – whilst they’ll face a tough task in the final against Real Madrid.
Chelsea to make the final 10/11.
Golf – PGA Tour – Wells Fargo Championship (Thursday – Sunday)
Host venue Quail Hollow is a beautiful golf course with the closing four holes usually providing a testing and thrilling finish. There are lots of players with consistent course form, but this year the greens, which have all been re-laid, will be new to all of them. At 7,500 yards the course often crowns a previous major champion (6 from the last eleven winners).The world and his dog has been waiting for Rory McIlroy to notch his first victory of 2014 and this may well be the time to catch him, whilst the other player that catches the eye is Rickie Fowler who, despite playing badly last week, had previously looked to be really getting into the groove with his Butch Harmon remodelled swing. He also claimed his maiden Tour victory here.
Rory McIlroy each-way 8/1 or better
Rickie Fowler each-way 33/1 or better