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Punchestown Festival Tips: Back 50/1 Brazos to strike on return to hurdling

Overlooked in market on return to racing under rules

Punchestown 15:40: Brazos 0.5pt e/w 50/1

It’s no surprise that Thanksforthehelp has been supported at the head of the market for the opening handicap hurdle at Punchestown. He caught the eye when he finished second to Frere d’Armes at Huntingdon and was narrowly beaten by Honneur d’Ajonc last time at Wincanton.

He looks likely to be suited by a step up in trip and his opening mark looks on the generous side, but I think he’s about the right price in a race of this quality and it is a little worrying that he looked to shirk it a bit last time under pressure.

An opening mark of 119 underrates Life In The Park’s ability but I’m not convinced he will be seen at his best over this trip having looked short of speed on rules debut at Punchestown over 2m5 1/2 f earlier in the season.

As is often the case I’ve headed to the opposite end of the market for my selection. Brazos was a very good stayer on the flat, winning the 2018 Irish Cesarewitch and reaching a peak rating of 98 in that sphere.

He was switched to hurdles at the end of 2020 and ran respectably over 2m at Limerick when fourth behind Ciel De Neige. He often wore headgear on the flat and, having gone without on hurdling debut, cheekpieces were back on next time as he was stepped up in trip to race over 2m4f at Navan.

Always in a handy position, he went to the front on the long run to three out. He was joined by Clay Rogers at two out before being pushed into a clear lead. Folcano was switched out to challenge and closed on Brazos on the run-in but couldn’t get past and was beaten a nose.

The runner-up is now rated 129 over hurdles while the third is rated 113 and the fourth has won twice over hurdles in Britain since.

Brazos was stepped up in class to a Grade 3 and up in trip to 3m next time. He was handy from the off and stayed there despite some awful jumping at various stages. He jumped three out in a share of the lead and came under pressure after. He was still in contention between the last two hurdles but had nothing left approaching the last and faded quickly to be beaten by 19 lengths.

Brazos had two runs on the flat after that before being switched to race in points this year. Some slow jumping and not quite having the stamina for it cost him on point debut at Tallow when finishing a close third. His jumping cost him victory next time when beaten a neck by A Rated.

He ran awfully last time at Dromahane when racing very awkwardly after a mistake at four out so there may have been something amiss that day.

SBK30/1

EXC44

Trainer: John Joseph Murphy, Ireland
Jockey: E. Walsh
Age: 8
Weight: 11st 10lbs
OR: 119

The ability that Brazos showed over hurdles and on his first two starts in points this season suggests that he could be capable of running well off a mark of 119. The return to a right-handed track may also help him as he edged right over hurdles at times in the past and more markedly when making mistakes.

Given that headgear isn’t declared in Irish points I can’t be certain whether or not he wore cheekpieces on his first or third runs this year. But he certainly didn’t on his second so it may be that he went without them on all three runs and the return of them today will spark him up.

It might be that he follows the Dromahane run with another shocker or that his jumping lets him down but, given the form of his hurdles runs, he’s overpriced and any 33/1 or bigger appeals.

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