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Punchestown Festival Day 2 Tips: Journey With Me to get back on track

The question on everyone’s lips as we head into the second day of the Punchestown Festival is can Allaho proves as effective back up at 3m in the Gold Cup (17:55) as he has over shorter trips in the last couple of years?

Willie Mullins’ son of No Risk At All was considered very much a staying prospect in his early days but it’s probably fair to say he ended up just a little shy of the top horses over that sort of distance.

Fast forward to March of last year and Allaho provided the most impressive performance of the 2021 Cheltenham Festival when completely dismantling the field in the Ryanair Chase, evoking memories of Denman in the way he pounded his rivals into submission from the front.

A second Ryanair Chase win followed at this year’s Festival and Allaho was almost equally impressive in coming home 14 lengths clear of Janidil, where not even a mistake at the last could halt his momentum.

And now we come to Punchestown, a step back up to 3m and a return to a right-handed track that probably doesn’t play to his strengths despite him posting a winning return here in December.

For me, I’d love to see Allaho post another success as he’s the kind of horse that gets viewers on the edge of their seats with the way he tackles his races, I’m just not convinced he’s going to do it.

As mentioned with some of Tuesday’s races, it’s not always necessary to have a bet to enjoy a horse race, and that’s the case here again.

I’ll be rooting for Allaho and hoping he can get the win but prices in the 15/8 region make little appeal in what is a deep and competitive race.

SBK7/4

EXC2.88

Trainer: W. P. Mullins, Ireland
Jockey: P. Townend
Age: 8
Weight: 11st 10lbs
OR:

Facile Vega to confirm Cheltenham form

There are two more Grade 1 races on Wednesday’s Punchestown card to have a look at and let’s deal first with another one that we won’t be having a bet in before getting on to the day’s better punting races.

The Champion NH Flat Race (18:30) pits the first two from Cheltenham’s Champion Bumper against each other once again, and it’s hard to see American Mike reversing form with Facile Vega, although conditions will be very different this time around.

I’m sure readers won’t need reminding about how foul the weather conditions were at Cheltenham that day, particularly those (like me!) who there and had a full set of clothes and shoes ruined in what has to be one of the wettest days I’ve ever experienced in the 30-odd years I’ve been going racing.

Not that Facile Vega minded the conditions one bit, as he sluiced through the bottomless ground to come home a convincing winner in the gathering gloom after the race had been delayed while a route was plotted around the waterlogged parts of the course.

It’s possible that better ground may see American Mike close the gap somewhat to his old rival but it’s also equally possible that Facile Vega may enjoy the quicker conditions and exert his superiority even further.

Outside of the front two in the betting, nothing makes too much appeal so this is another race we can sit out and look to capitalise on better opportunities in other races on the card.

Take Journey to turn over favourite

The other Grade 1 on the card, the Irish Mirror Novice Hurdle (17:20) does looks worth getting stuck into from a betting perspective, as I’m not completely convinced that The Nice Guy’s form entitles him to be as short as 9/4 against a good field.

He was an impressive winner of the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham but given his SP and jockey booking, that run was clearly a bit of surprise to connections and I’d like to see him back that up again before going in at a shortish price in this sort of race.

The one I’m going to side with is Henry De Bromhead’s Journey With Me, who was in the process of running a fine race behind Sir Gerhard in the Ballymore before coming down at the last.

Timeform have rated him as finishing alongside the runner-up there and that form is up with some of the best novice hurdle efforts around.

Cases can also be made for the likes of Minella Crooner and Minella Cocooner (watch your bets here) but I was really taken with the way Journey With Me won his first two starts over hurdles and the step up to 3m here could bring about a bit of further improvement.

SBK7/1

EXC5.5

Trainer: Henry de Bromhead, Ireland
Jockey: Rachael Blackmore
Age: 6
Weight: 11st 10lbs
OR:

Ganapathi worth another chance

Our other bet on the card comes in the Louis Fitzgerald Hurdle at 16:45, where I’m prepared to give Ganapathi another chance after he disappointed on heavy ground at Cork last time.

Although he has a win to his name under testing conditions, I’m convinced this strong-travelling type is simply a much better horse on decent ground and I’m hoping he can show it this time around.

He’ll obviously need to be at his best to see off Nicky Henderson’s raider Fils D’oudairies, who posted a career-best effort when second to Langer Dan at Aintree last time, but I’m sure Ganapathi is much better than he was able to show at Cork and I’ve had him on my radar for a big Spring prize for some time now.

Along with Ganapathi, Wille Mullins also fields the unexposed Gibraltar, who was returning from the best part of a year off when runner-up last time and should strip fitter with that under his belt.

However, he’ll need to improve on what he’s shown so far to beat the likes of Ganapathi and Fils D’oudairies, and the fact that Paul Townend has overlooked him gives me confidence that we’re on the correct Willie Mullins runner.

SBK10/3

EXC3.95

Trainer: W. P. Mullins, Ireland
Jockey: P. Townend
Age: 6
Weight: 11st 10lbs
OR:

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