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Johnny Ward's Irish Angle: Bealach looks well treated at Punchestown

By Johnny Ward
Sat 11 Jan 2020

If you haven't yet caught Lydia Hislop and Patrick Mullins on Racing TV's Road To Cheltenham this week, you are missing out.

As a journalist, there is nothing worse than a former professional sportsman coming along and stealing part, most or all of your patch, so Fran Berry can take a hike. Mullins, who aside from all else is a really talented writer, is another who I won't be making welcome!

Click here to watch the latest episode of the Road To Cheltenham with Lydia Hislop and Patrick Mullins

That said, the record-breaking amateur was compelling listening with Hislop. We also spoke to him for this week's On The Wire podcast. If you haven't tried it yet, the link is below.

It's an historic weekend in Ireland with Donnacha O'Brien beginning his training career. The Dan Moore on Saturday at Fairyhouse is a cracker, whilst we have Carefully Selected, Andy Dufresne and others on Sunday at Punchestown.

Saturday

12.25 Fairyhouse: Takarengo

This is interesting planning by Tom Mullins, running one of his most talented horses thrice in around a fortnight. A very unlucky third on hurdling debut in what was likely a hot Leopardstown maiden, he then tackled his elders in a stronger race again at Cork, and pitching him into a winners' juvenile race here is likely a hint worth taking. I am not sure what Gealach achieved the last day, considering how disappointing the runner-up had already become.

2.10 Fairyhouse: Charlie Stout

This is probably a bit optimistic for Charlie Stout but he is priced accordingly, a little out of the weights, and he jumped superbly well under Eoin O'Connell at Leopardstown, carting into to the lead only to get effectively carried out. Young Conor McNamara and Jonathan Moore have now joined agent Gary Cribbin to make progress in the ranks, McNamara hoping for a lucrative success here. This horse appeals as one to pop up off a strong gallop, though this is a very good renewal.

3.20 Fairyhouse: At The Acorn

Tony Martin struck with a Dundalk winner last month and has a nice contender here in At The Acorn. He caught the eye behind Brex Drago at Fairyhouse and can reverse the form from what was David Splaine's last ride. Phillip Enright rode this Gold Well-bred to finish second in a maiden hurdle less than a year ago. He takes over now.

Sunday

12.30 Punchestown: Chosen Hour

A moderate contest by design. Chosen Hour won just over a year ago at Limerick and followed up hurdling again off 96, his rating going up to 108 in that sphere. That makes hm of interest here and there was plenty to like about his chase debut at Cork. He has a great chance with a clear round under the excellent Sean O'Keeffe.

1.05 Punchestown: Carefully Selected

This horse has a lot of ability. Martin Brassil taking him on with City Island, considering the shambles that was his chase debut, is fascinating in this Grade 2: clearly his reputation is on the line a little. Carefully Selected did a few things wrong on his chase debut but he still won. Paul Townend takes over.

1.35 Punchestown: Roxboro Road

Ted Walsh's gelding was well-backed in the race in which Brex Drago was third and At The Acorn was sixth at Leopardstown. Well-treated on hurdles form, he has little to beat here if things fall into place.

2.10 Punchestown: Cheb De Kerviniou

This 10-year-old is bidding to make up for lost time for Gordon Elliott. He is perhaps more reliable than Biddy The Boss, behind whom he was a game second last time, and Patrick Mullins rides for Gordon Elliott.

2.40 Punchestown: Captain Guinness

This one produced an amazing performance to win a strong maiden hurdle on debut, even with the leader falling at the last. If Andy Dufresne hacks up here, he could well be favourite for the Supreme, as the race lacks depth; however, I see him as a longer-term and longer-distance prospect; the selection may have too much toe. This race has been won by Kicking King, Vautour, Douvan and some other big names.

3.15 Punchestown: Fag An Bealach

"She has a proper pedigree," said Arthur Moore after this one won a bumper by 15 lengths last spring. "She's by Stowaway who is getting heaps of winners; the dam is by Old Vic and she is a half-sister to Niche Market so it is a top-class family." She has contested decent maidens and looks really well-treated here in theory.

3.45 Punchestown: Port Stanley

Well-regarded, this one cut out after travelling strongly on bottomless Limerick terrain at Christmas. This is a much more suitable test, even if it is also a better race.

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