Irish national hunt racecourses don’t come any bigger than Punchestown and, though Wednesday’s card is a far cry from the Punchestown Festival, there are two very interesting races on it.
The first of those is the Quevaga Mares Hurdle in which the highly-touted Laurina will be bidding to enhance her Champion Hurdle claims. The second is the Pertemps Network Group Handicap Hurdle, which many unexposed types are using as a potential prep run for the Cheltenham Festival. Check out our free tips for both races.
Smart Money’s On Coral Quevega Mares Hurdle (2.40)
The Quevega Mares Hurdle is named after the brilliant Willie Mullins trained mare Quevega, who won at an amazing and record-breaking six successive Cheltenham Festivals. That’s why it is not surprising that two high-class Willie Mullins trained mares have won the previous two renewals of this race or that Mullins is using the 2019 renewal to give his Champion Hurdle prospect Laurina her prep run for the Cheltenham Festival.
It will be a big disappointment if the six-year-old doesn’t land very short odds here in her build-up to some bigger targets, but there are one or two horses in here that could give us some major clues to how good she is. One of those is stablemate Stormy Ireland, who was last seen when beaten eight lengths by Espoir D’Allen, another aspiring and improving Champion Hurdle prospect. Should Laurina annihilate Stormy Ireland here, she could easily be disputing Champion Hurdle favouritism come Wednesday evening.
Laurina also faces another useful stablemate in Good Thyne Tara, who should add more substance to the form having been beaten by Stormy Ireland two starts ago.
From a betting perspective, the big-hitters may well arrive at Punchestown armed with wheelbarrows full of cash to back Laurina at any price, but the value could be the Laurina/Stormy Ireland forecast, with Stormy Ireland expected to improve again for the step up to two and a half miles and confirm her form with Good Thyne Tara over the longer distance.
Quevega Mares Hurdle Free Tip:
Forecast Laurina to beat Stormy Ireland @ 2.30 Bet365
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Pertemps Network Group Handicap Hurdle (3.15)
Qualifiers for the Pertemps Network handicap Final at the Cheltenham Festival are always tricky affairs, and any summary probably needs to start with deciding which horses will have this race as a target and which will simply be having a prep race before the likelihood of running in the final at Cheltenham.
Gigginstown Stud, as is often the case, confuse the issue with five possible runners. They include top-weight A Toi Phil who makes his handicap hurdle debut off a much lower mark over hurdles than fences, whilst he also has his burden reduced further by a useful 7lb claimer.
The other four Gigginstown horses are all novice hurdlers that have had between three and six runs over hurdles and are also making their handicap debuts. As the quartet are trained by four different trainers, jockey bookings don’t really offer us any insight into which of them is particularly fancied.
That means the one to be on could be Tin Soldier, who is arguably the most naturally talented horse in the line-up, as he was good enough to get within half a length of Penhill at the 2017 Punchestown Festival. After 452 days off the course, and a move from Willie Mullins to Pat Kelly, he may well need this run. However, he was a big mover in the ante-post market for the Pertemps Final on Tuesday, which suggests he may be fit enough to do himself justice. He could certainly make a mockery of a mark of 144 at some point and, as the booking of Barry Geraghty catches the eye, it could be on Wednesday. It’s also worth remembering that Pat Kelly trained both the 2016 and 2017 Pertemps Network Finals at the Cheltenham Festival, with Presenting Percy winning his prep run and Mall Dini finishing third in his.
Pertemps Network Group Handicap Hurdle Free Tip:
Tin Soldier @ 10.00 Betvictor, Coral