Johnny Ward's Irish Angle: Rely on Citizen Al at Punchestown

By Johnny Ward
Fri 11 Jan 2019

Speaking to a leading owner this week, he ventured that racetracks needed to be put under pressure to start watering extensively. And yes, we are almost in mid-January.

It seems possible that we will go an entire National Hunt season in Ireland without proper heavy ground. Obviously that is unlikely, but this has been a shambolic situation for jumps trainers, with Presenting Percy not even running at Christmas because the turf was deemed too quick for him.

It is nearly unheard of for Irish tracks to have to water in January but, ahead of the Dublin Racing Festival, the possibility of Leopardstown turning on the taps may well be realistic.

This is a fairly run-of-the-mill weekend of action in Ireland, the ground probably no help in that regard.

Saturday selections:

12.25 Fairyhouse: Caravation

Caravation was pretty useful in bumpers and notably reliable. I decided it was time to give up on my failing smartphone when, attempting to back the horse to place just before the off at Naas a month ago, it proved impossible to execute the bet.

I was keen to back her to place once it became obvious Luke Dempsey was going to make the running.

In splitting Relegate and Barrington Court, she excelled herself. With Willie Mullins’ runners running so erratically at the moment, Great White Shark can be opposed.

2.10 Fairyhouse: Bel Ami De Sivola at 14-1 with BetVictor and Coral

The son of Network has finished second at Leopardstown but all of his wins, two of them at Fairyhouse, were recorded going right-handed, and he is interesting back over the course and distance of his last triumph.

That was when he beat the somewhat irresolute, if classy, Bon Papa at the Irish National meeting, and rates pretty strong form.

He shaped much better than the bare detail at Leopardstown at Christmas, going from last to second despite being seriously inconvenienced early on by a faller.

Generally, I don’t regard high-class handicap chases as good betting opportunities but this looks an exception.

Sunday selections:

1.45 Punchestown: Market's Field

I remember two summers ago at Wexford, being on a stag, doing less than well on the punting, when this horse won a beginners' chase in which the hot favourite (which I inevitably backed) fell. That was a moderate contest but he jumped well.

He seemed quite well-fancied over hurdles at Limerick and finished placed, but he is a better chaser and there seems a good chance of a couple of horses, or maybe even three, taking each other on. This is not much of a race and the Market's Field’s stamina will come into play.

3.50 Punchestown: Citizen Al

Citizen Al was a winner of a decent mares' maiden hurdle over two miles and six furlongs this summer.

She has not set the world on fire in handicaps, yet her Limerick effort over Christmas promised plenty.

Settled in last place, she moved nicely throughout to an extent, all the while implying the distance put excess emphasis on pace.

She was niggled down the back and was seemingly going to get detached but rattled home. She is interesting now and my best bet of the weekend.

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