GAVIN CROMWELL: An exciting week lies ahead for Gavin and his team, with a number of horses heading to the Punchestown Festival, each of whom he previews below.
We’re really looking forward to Punchestown this year and you only have to look at the calibre of horses set to run to know what it means to trainers both in Ireland and over in England. The prize money is fantastic and it’s set to be a great five days. We’ve got some nice chances, including two in the Grade Ones, and here are my thoughts on them.
We get proceedings underway with You Say Nothing in the two-mile handicap hurdle (3.40pm). He won a couple of races for us back-to-back earlier in the season and the handicapper probably has a good grip of him now. He’s off 117 and based on his run at Fairyhouse last time, that might be a mark that’s slightly above him. I’d still expect him to run a nice race, though.
Oscar Thyne kicks things off on Wednesday in the handicap hurdle (3.40pm). He won over fences the last day and we’re going back over hurdles here in what looks a hugely competitive race. There are no less than 25 runners, so it’s going to be no mean feat to win it. He’s in good form, but you feel you probably need to be ahead of your mark to win this and we’re not quite sure he is unfortunately.
We run both Vintage Processco and Calthor in the Red Mills Final (4.15pm). The former hung very badly the last day and we found a niggle or two in the aftermath which we’ve ironed out. He’s done some good work since and he should run well. Calthor won nicely the last day and this step up in trip should suit so we’re quietly confident he could run a big race.
We’re really looking forward to running Vanillier in the Grade 1 Irish Mirror Novice Hurdle (5.20pm). This has always been the plan since he won the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham where he put up a really impressive performance. We’ve trained him for this since and he comes into it in super form. It’s a pretty interesting race with the Coral Cup winner and Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle winner in there, but our lad is in great form and we’d like to think he has a favourite’s chance. He’s very straightforward and he just keeps galloping, so we’re hopeful he’ll put up a bold show with Johnny [Moore] back in the plate.
On to Thursday and Five Helmets is our first runner in the handicap hurdle (3.40pm). He’s won his last two and it might just be that he’s quite high in the weights now. Hopefully, he can progress again, but it’s no easy feat in a race as competitive as this.
Next up is Flooring Porter in the Champion Stayers Hurdle (5.25pm). He’s looking for his third Grade 1 of the year having won at both Leopardstown and Cheltenham and we’re looking forward to hopefully making it a hat-trick. He probably had a harder race at Cheltenham than Vanillier did just because of the way he runs. He puts a lot in which can be a bit taxing on a horse, but he takes his races in well and he’s in really good shape ahead of his run here, so we won’t have any complaints on that front.
The only slight concern is that he’s been going for a fair while this season now, but he’s shown us nothing at home to suggest he isn’t fully fit and he’s proven the ability he has already. We didn’t even intend to let him make the running at Navan three starts back, but he pushed his way to the front and absolutely loved it. He’s a much better horse when he can dictate things from the outset and others just can’t live with him. He’s goes such a good gallop and doesn’t relent, which, over three miles is virtually impossible to keep up with.
He only cost 5k and he was unsold through the ring and a number of prospective owners passed him up too – we even tried to get him sold on Facebook and Twitter! Eventually the Flooring Porter Syndicate lads came in and bought him and what a purchase he’s proved to be!
Jukebox Jive goes in the three-mile Grade B handicap hurdle (6.00pm). He wouldn’t want the ground any quicker than it currently is as he prefers to get his toe in. He’s still feeling the effects of his 13-length win at Navan for which he went up 16 pounds and he’s probably high enough in the weights now.
If Darver Star does run then it will be in the Champion Hurdle (5.25pm). Things just haven’t quite gone to plan over fences this season and we’re just going to try him back over hurdles now. Nothing came to light at Cheltenham and it might have just been that he got a bit spooked when the horse fell in front of him. He was third in a Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham and second in the Irish equivalent, so it’s not like he doesn’t have form over the smaller obstacles. Maybe he just isn’t quite the Grade 1 horse over fences that we thought he was.
Ilikedwayurthinkin will go for the Grade B handicap hurdle (5.05pm) on Saturday. He’s been running okay over fences, but we’re going to try him back over hurdles here. It’s a big pot and we’ll see how he gets on.