THE PUNTER'S EYE: Punchestown Tips for Ladies Day on Friday, April 27
15:40 - Kfm Hunters Chase For The Bishopscourt Cup
ALPHA MALE (5/2) can upset Das Mooser who returns after a full year off the track to defend the crown he won so impressively in 2017. He had a similar absence before claiming this race by eight lengths that day, but Alpha Male is battle hardened after a winter between the flags. He chased home Enniskillen at Punchestown in February and that rival had every chance of winning here on Day 1 before falling at Ruby's Double. Alpha Male is yet to win under rules but has shown enough in point-to-points to suggest he can go very well and outbattle Das Mooser here under Barry O'Neil.
16:20 - EMS Copiers Novice Handicap Chase
Kemboy was very impressive in beating Tombstone by eight lengths at Limerick recently, but he'll have to saddle top weight to claim victory here. One that's interesting coming from down the weights is A SIZING NETWORK (11/1) for last year's winning connections of this race, Jessica Harrington and Robbie Power. He'll carry a full stone less than the favourite Kemboy but has enough form in the book to suggest he has a lot more improving to do. He was pulled up on his most recent outing but forgiving him that, he has always been a model of consistency. He won his two runs before that, and was runner-up in the three before that. One of those wins came here at Punchestown late last year when he saw off Static Jack by nine lengths on yielding to soft ground, similar going to that at play on Friday. He could have won that race by 20 lengths, still at his ease, so Puppy Power could be primed to get a sweet tune out of this horse for a yard that always enjoys a few winners at this track.
16:55 - Hanlon Concrete Irish Ebf Glencarraig Lady Francis Flood Mares Handicap Chase
A difficult race to tackle from a punting perspective but I'd take an each-way risk on THANKS FOR TEA (20/1). She hasn't been seen since being pulled up in a race won by Dinaria Des Obeaux at Clonmel last November, but she has one particularly interesting piece of form in the book from last year. Interestingly, late last year, she was just a couple of lengths behind subsequent Aintree Grand National winner Tiger Roll in a race won by A Genie In Abottle. That was on similar ground to today and puts Thanks For Tea in with a chance at the weights.
17:30 - Betdaq 2% Commission Punchestown Champion Hurdle (Grade 1)
This valuable race could well be the one to ultimately decide the Irish trainer's championship battle of Mullins and Elliott and they once again seem to have it between them. Elliott has made the plunge and put future star Samcro in against more experienced rivals for the first time, and after a stellar unbeaten novice campaign, he has to be respected, especially if you consider the trainer himself has called him a 'monster.' Despite that, this is a higher standard to anything he's faced and he will have to take his hurdles a lot faster than he's been expected to up to this point. He could be odds-on come off time, but my money will be with MELON (5/2) for Willie Mullins. He too was a good novice and made the jump up really well. Barring a poor showing in the Irish Champion Hurdle, he's been very good, not least of which when he was just touched off by a neck in the Cheltenham Champion Hurdle behind two-time winner Buveur D'Air. That's the best form in the book and Friday's ground will pose no problems. He can put the first blot on Samcro's copybook and help his trainer to the retention of his champion trainer tag.
18:05 - Profile Systems Champion Novice Hurdle (Grade 1)
There's quite a bit of quality in this race and the likes of Blow By Blow and Duc Des Genievres can recapture their earlier reputations, but PALLASATOR (3/1) is the one to be with after an exceptional performance last time out. He was an easy winner in a race at Fairyhouse over Easter where a host of these were behind him. He stayed on well on the soft to heavy ground to beat Jetz by two lengths, but he did it easily, and could have asserted by more. He's really stepping up to the challenge of hurdles of late having been very good on the flat. He's now won his last two races over timber and looks a really nice prospect for Gordon Elliott.
18:40 - Star Best For Racing Coverage Champion Hunters Chase
Balnaslow was a cosy winner of the equivalent of this race at Aintree recently and wasn't too bad when 7th in the Cheltenham version just a few weeks earlier. However, CAID DU BERLAIS (8/1) was ahead of him at Cheltenham, skipped Aintree, and so comes here fresh. He was a decent servant for Paul Nicholls before switching yards, and in fact, was just 15 lengths behind Presenting Percy in the 2017 Pertemps at Cheltenham. He took to the Foxhunters well at Cheltenham and was just three and a half lengths behind winner Pacha Du Polder that day. He'll come on from that and will handle the ground well.
19:10 - Salessense International Novice Hurdle
This is a race with plenty of unknowns from top yards but I thought VENGEFUL (10/1) could be well above average on his Irish racecourse debut having been acquired from France by Gigginstown. He loomed up to challenge Dis Donc at Thurles and despite lacking the experience, stuck his neck out all the way up the run-in to win. It was an eye-catching display and he will be expected to strip even better now. That form worked out fairly well as Dis Donc went on to beat the likes of Pallasator and Antey at Navan in February. The ground will be no problem and this one can get Gordon Elliott and young Jack Kennedy into the winner's enclosure on Friday.
19:45 - GVA Donal O'Buachalla Property Advisors Flat Race
A tricky contest to end Friday's card but PRESS CONFERENCE (13/2) could be match fit after a couple of good efforts in recent months. In fairness to the horse, he ran into a good one last time out in the shape of Carefully Selected in a flat race at Naas in February. Just four lengths separated them that day as Jessica Harrington's runner chased home the Willie Mullins prospect, but that rival went on to finish second in the Cheltenham Bumper and third in the Punchestown equivalent earlier this week. That puts Press Conference at the very top of the shortlist having been waited with for this race.