Friday, June 14, 2024

Tony Keenan preview and best bets for the Punchestown Festival

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Tony Keenan is back with his take on Sunday’s action from Ireland and he’s got an each-way suggestion in the 4.30 at Killarney.

The ground at many Irish tracks has changed quickly in the last week, Leopardstown already good, good to firm in places this morning with a drying day forecast as the track hosts three Group 3 races, none of which are appealing for a bet.

Los Angeles took the step from maiden to Group 1 winner in a single start last backend when landing the Criterium de Saint Cloud in October and should be hard to beat in the Cashel Palace Hotel Derby Trial Stakes at 3:35, his opposition looking weak.

There might be more chance of a big-priced winner in the Al Shira’aa Racing Mutamakina Stakes at 2:25. One Look looked an exciting prospect when winning the Goffs Million on her first start last season but this race will be under very different conditions while her Cork return told us little.

Paddy Twomey puts the tongue-tie on – the trainer is 8/29 for a level-stakes profit of 10.16 points when using it for the first time – and Buttons looks the obvious alternative having shaped well coming from off the pace at this track last month.

Her head carriage was a touch high then, however, and her dam Wonder Of Wonders was temperamental so that is something to monitor. Perhaps Cheeky Wink, who was an eye-catcher at this track last October before winning at Gowran on return can outrun her odds, the drop back to a mile a positive with how she travelled last time.

The Porsche in Support of Breast Cancer Ireland Amethyst Stakes (3:00) is an open affair. Favourite Yosemite Valley won the Gladness last time but that looked a weak contest, the runner-up well-beaten at a short price since, and has to prove he stays the trip while Power Under Me would prefer slower ground.

Again, the interesting ones are among the bigger prices. Fiscal Rules nearly landed a big gamble during the week at Gowran and should be suited by a step up in trip, his trainer no stranger to backing horses up quickly, while Quar Shamar could the one best suited by a steady pace which looks likely on the make-up of the field.

On the whole, perhaps the more interesting races are at Killarney, with the Lakes of Killarney Handicap Hurdle at 2:45 among them.

Encanto Bruno looks a deserving favourite given his excellent record fresh; he has won five of his six starts when returning from a break of two months or more, his sole defeat coming in the 2023 Champion Bumper on unsuitably soft ground.

His trainer seems aware of this aspect of his form cycle and has often mentioned his preference for a sound surface, taking him out of the County Hurdle and the big handicap hurdle at Punchestown last Saturday when the ground turned against him, and he should run well.

That is reflected in his price, however, while the other one I liked, Fiveonefive, has also shortened this morning. He looks to have conditions to suit, his record over two miles on decent ground outside of bumpers and maiden hurdles reading:11631, the sixth coming in a strong Galway handicap hurdle when he was given too much to do.

His recent runs have come under unsuitable conditions but he has often shaped well despite them and furthermore, his trainer Cian Collins seems to have targeted Killarney during his young career, his record at the track 3/18 with 8 places for a small level stakes profit of seven points, and he won this race last year.

The other interesting race at Killarney is the Tote Killarney National at 4:30 where WEST CORK WILDWAY looks a bit overpriced.

Despite being a ten-year-old, he is unexposed over fences with just seven chase starts and has run well to make the frame in a number of strong handicap chases, including the 2022 Pat Taaffe and last year’s Leopardstown Chase and Leinster National, all off marks at least five pounds higher than he races off today.

He missed most of this winter but looked back to form last time over hurdles at Limerick, just his second run of the season, moving through the field on the second circuit to contest the lead in the straight before weakening after the last and finishing fourth, shaping as if the run might still have been needed on heavy ground that was against him in any case.

The drier ground this afternoon, currently good, good to yielding in places, should be much more in his favour, the majority of his better runs coming on a sound surface while this looks the weakest handicap chase he’s contested in a while.

Preview posted at 0915 BST on 12/05/24

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