I could write this whole piece about Punchestown but I’ve decided to concentrate on three stories – firstly, wonder mare Quevega who through a line with the conquered Voler La Vedette could beat Big Buck’s but unfortunately that battle looks unlikely to happen unless champion trainer Paul Nicholls chooses to bring Big Buck’s to Ireland.
Next Willie Mullins who every year loves to target races at the National Hunt Festival with surgical precision and whose Drive Time won the last race of the fixture to leave him with a tally of 10 successes – just two short of his own record.
And finally a special merit award must go to the ground staff who all week coped with extremely tricky weather conditions and produced herculean efforts to keep the show on the road. Surely it was a case of Punchestown 1 Mother Nature 0.
I mentioned Brendan Duke a couple of weeks’ ago and the Pollardstown trainer believes Headache has a serious shout in Friday evening’s seven-furlong firstname.lastname@example.org Handicap.
He was last seen in action when fourth behind Kateeva over a furlong less at Laytown in September and he runs off a mark of 58 this time, while he has previously proved good enough to score off a rating 7lb higher.
Duke told me at Punchestown: “He’s fit and well after a tough year last year as a lead horse to Roicead. He has enjoyed a good break and is as well as I’ve had him for quite a long time. The draw is important at Dundalk and you really want a low berth but I think that he has an outstanding chance.”
I tipped John Oxx’s Sharestan on his last outing in the Listed Heritage Stakes at Leopardstown last month and even though he got beaten, I feel we were a trifle unlucky as he didn’t get a clear run early in the straight and he came home like a steam train.
Okay I admit that I’m talking through my pocket but he ran a bit green and still flew home when the penny appeared to drop and if he hadn’t been up against a seasoned professional like Famous Name, who has an incredible record at the Dublin track, the head defeat may well have gone the other way.
The Curragh trainer has admitted the pedigree of his Shamardal colt sends out mixed messages as to what his best distance might be but he certainly wasn’t stopping last time and he steps up in trip to 10f in Monday’s EBF Mooresbridge Stakes at his local course.
I think he’ll really enjoy the additional yardage but if he is found wanting, he can always go back to the mile and I still think this fellow could be the real deal.
I have deliberately concentrated on the Irish action this week but of course the English Guineas are also taking place this weekend.
I stayed on The Curragh for Punchestown and was informed that the Oxx team believe Born To Sea will go close in Saturday’s 2,000 Guineas, while Jim Bolger’s Parish Hall is fancied unless the ground is soft.
Fernando Torres has been mercilessly taunted by the boo boys at Liverpool but their venom could come back to haunt them in Saturday’s FA Cup Final at Wembley and I am taking Chelsea to win in 90 minutes.
The Spaniard has scored four goals in his last two games, including a magnificent hat-trick against QPR on Sunday, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him continue in the same vein against his former club. Luis Suarez was also in triple form for the Reds in a comfortable victory over Norwich, but Roberto Di Matteo’s transformation of Chelsea can be maintained.
Friday 7.35pm, Dundalk - Headache
Saturday, 5.15pm - Chelsea to beat Liverpool in 90 minutes
Monday 4.20pm, Curragh - Sharestan