January 24 2016 and Faugheen puts his rivals to the sword with a scintillating 15-length success in the Irish Champion Hurdle. Now, 665 days later, we finally get to see the 2015 Champion Hurdle hero for the first time since that day at Leopardstown. Is he still a ‘machine’? All the signs are that he is, but today at Punchestown is the day we find out. If he is the same horse then the 8/1 recommended in this blog last month for the big one in March will look phenomenal value.
Another antepost bet flagged up before was the 50/1 about Tombstone for the Arkle. Now I have to admit I was worried about this punt after Gordon Elliott’s charge won impressively when stepped up in trip last time out. However, he’s now brought back to two miles to raise hopes that the Arkle could yet be his final destination. Either way, I expect him to build on his win at Down Royal and he’s my Sunday NAP.
Davy Russell rides Tombstone and he’s got a great chance of a quickfire double aboard Presenting Percy, who looked so impressive on his chasing debut at Galway three weeks ago. Shattered Love and Jury Duty are fair opponents but the selection should have too much class.
Moving the attention to Cheltenham, conditions have changed somewhat since I put up Old Guard as a 25/1 fancy for the day’s big handicap, the Greatwood Hurdle. He did win the International on soft back in 2015, so all hope isn’t completely lost, but it’s fair to say that his chances have certainly been lessened by the deluge of rain that hit Prestbury Park on Saturday. One horse that won’t mind the ground however is top weight, The New One. I was keen to find another value bet in the race, with Jenkins and London Prize both a bit short (despite both holding strong claims), and with six places on offer if you look around the double figure price you can get on Nigel Twiston-Davies’ stable star now looks the bet for me. You know he’ll run his race and even if the weight might prevent him from winning, I would be surprised if he didn’t finish in the first six. His place in this race reminds me of Arctic Fire in last season’s County Hurdle, who had to shoulder a similar burden yet class told in the end.
Twiston-Davies also hold claims in the day’s opening race, a competitive handicap hurdle over 2m 5f, with Another Frontier. Favourite Melrose Boy looks the obvious one but at a bigger price the NTD runner is one of the few in the field who will appreciate the soft ground, while he will also have come on for an encouraging fifth at Aintree last month.
1.05 Punchestown – Tombstone 6/4 NAP (and previously advised at 50/1 for the Arkle)
1.15 Cheltenham – Melrose Boy 3/1 & Another Frontier 14/1ew
1.40 Punchestown – Presenting Percy 6/5
2.25 Cheltenham – Fox Norton Evens
3.00 Cheltenham – The New One 16/1ew & Old Guard (previously advised at 25/1)
3.30 Cheltenham – Dame De Compagnie 11/10
Previously advised: Champion Hurdle – Faugheen 8/1