If you’d told me a few months ago that this race (Punchestown 5.30) would be a thriller without any of Quevega, Annie power or More Of That in the field, I wouldn’t have believed you – but I’d have been wrong.
The decisions by trainers Willie Mullins and Jessica Harrington to pitch former Champion Hurdlers Hurricane Fly and Jezki into this contest on their first runs over 3-miles has added an amazing amount of interest, whilst last year’s winner Jetson, Dedigout, Lieutenant Colonel and Thousand Stars are waiting in the wings if the two main protagonist fall short of stamina.
Quevega’s four victories in the race give the statistics a lop-sided look and, even if you take her out of the equation, there are no really strong pointers in regards to age, trainers or jockeys.
So here’s the lowdown on the main protagonists:
The furthest he’s won over is 20 furlongs, but that was really good form as he beat future World Hurdle winner Solwhit and Voler La Vedette who finished runner-up to Big Bucks a scare in the World Hurdle one year. He looked really impressive that day and he could easily be just as good at 24 furlongs, and dare I say it even better.
As a three-part brother to last year’s winner Jetson, there is plenty of hope that he will stay 24 furlongs, and he stayed on strongly over 20 furlongs to win at Aintree. Hadn’t looked in great form before that, but has won two of three course starts, and been second in the other behind Hurricane Fly. The lack of Barry Geraghty is a negative, but won the Champion Hurdle at last year’s Punchestown Festival.
Ideally looked suited by 20 furlongs on heavy ground and this test may take him out of his comfort zone unless there is plenty of rain.
Won this last year, his second victory over course and distance, but will have to bounce back from very disappointing runs at the Cheltenham and Aintree festivals.
Looked impressive in wins at Fairyhouse and Leopardstown, but boiled over in the preliminaries at the Cheltenham Festival when he was sent off at just 7/1 for the World Hurdle.
Comes here a very fresh horse this year after just one run, and could well be the one to take advantage if the principals don’t stay or aren’t at their best.
I’m surprised to see Lieutenant Colonel priced-up at 10/1 as he’s proven at the trip and definitely has the most scope for improvement, and he warrants a small each-way bet.
Lieutenant colonel 1 point each-way @ 10 (Paddy Power) 1-2-3