Gigginstown plan to show House Stud strength on home soil at Punchestown Festival
David Metcalf | April 14, 2016
O’Leary looking to crown memorable season at Punchestown
It has been an unforgettable few weeks for Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown House Stud, with Don Cossack winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup, Rogue Angel landing the Irish Grand National and Rule The World capturing the Crabbie’s Grand National at Aintree.
The Gigginstown team are aiming to finish the season on a high closer to home with a powerful squad assembled for the Punchestown Festival.
“It’s been awesome. We’ve had a fantastic time and we would love to crown the season with a few Punchestown winners,” said Eddie O’Leary, Gigginstown’s racing manager.
Gold Cup hero Don Cossack out of Punchestown
Heading the squad should’ve been Don Cossack, but a tendon injury rules hum out, leacing Colin Tizzad horse Cue Card as favourite for Bibby Financial Services Ireland Punchestown Gold Cup on Wednesday, April 27th.
“We don’t hide away and this is the big decider. It will be a hell of race,” said O’Leary prior to pulling Don Cossack out. “All three are probably best on good ground so I hope the going is perfect for them so that they can all shine.
“You had to be really impressed with Cue Card at Aintree, he’s a fantastic horse. Perhaps a flat track and three miles is his cup of tea whereas this race is over three miles and a furlong. We wouldn’t swap our fellow and they wouldn’t swap their’s. With Vautour in there as well it’s just a fabulous race. It’s great for racing and it’s great for Punchestown.”
Don Poli and Road To Riches also in the mix?
Road To Riches, who finished second in the 2m 4f Ryanair Chase at Presbury Park, will also line up while Cheltenham Gold Cup third Don Poli, who finished runner-up to Cue Card at Aintree, is a possible starter.
“Road To Riches definitely runs,” added O’Leary. “That’s more his trip and it’s all about the ground with him. He’ll be there all being well. I don’t know with Don Poli. There’s nowhere else for him to go and he could run.”
Apple’s Jade earmarked for Champion 4YO Hurdle
There was no easier winner at Aintree last week than the Willie Mullins-trained Apple’s Jade, who took the Grade 1 Anniversary Juvenile Hurdle by an amazing 41 lengths. She is set to start in the Grade 1 AES Champion 4YO Hurdle on Saturday, April 30th.
“If you believe what you saw at Aintree then Apple’s Jade is very good but it was hard to believe,” said O’Leary. “She’ll go for the four-year-old race.
“She never ran on the Flat and that was only her fourth ever run at Aintree. She’s a little baby coming through and if she’s OK she’ll run at Punchestown.”
Identity Thief heads to Champion
The Henry de Bromhead-trained Identity Thief is set to start in the Grade 1 Punchestown Champion Hurdle on Friday, April 29th, having finished sixth to Annie Power in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham on his previous start.
“Identity Thief will run,” continued O’Leary. “He missed the second hurdle at Cheltenham and landed on all fours. The race was gone for him after that. He didn’t jump or travel afterwards. We think he’s exciting and we think he’s better than that.
“I’m not saying we’d have beaten Annie Power but on form we should have been ahead of Top Notch, who finished fifth and we should have been up with there with Nichols Canyon, who came third. It was disappointing but he’s very inexperienced, it was only 12 months since he won a bumper.”
Possible double assault on Stayers Hurdle
Gigginstown could be double-handed in the Grade 1 World Series Champion Stayers Hurdle on Thursday, April 28th, with dual Grade 1 winner Lieutenant Colonel bidding to bounce back from a disappointing run when pulled up in the Ryanair World Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Dedigout, a recent third in the Strawberry Hurdle at Fairyhouse’s Irish Grand National meeting over the Easter weekend, might also line up in the World Series Champion Stayers Hurdle and oppose the flawless Colin Tizzard gelding Thistlecrack.
“Lieutenant Colonel will run in the Stayers. It didn’t happen for him at Cheltenham so we’ll see. Dedigout will only run if the ground is soft,” added O’Leary.
Large novice hurdle team which oozes class
Along with their established stars, Gigginstown have a wealth of talented novice hurdlers coming through the ranks.
Many have multiple entries in the 2m Grade 1 Herald Champion Novice Hurdle on Tuesday, April 26th, the 2m 4f Grade 1 Tattersalls Ireland Champion Novice Hurdle on Friday 29th and the 3m Grade 1 Irish Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle on Wednesday 27th.
“We haven’t decided which races they will all go for at the moment,” added O’Leary. “But Tombstone is likely to head to the Tattersalls Ireland Champion Novice Hurdle and we deliberately missed Aintree after Cheltenham with him to keep him fresh for Punchestown.
“Nambour will also probably go over two and a half miles but could step up to three miles on better ground. He is a nice horse, he ran really well the last day when second at Fairyhouse. It was his first run back after a wind operation and it was a super run.”
Stone Hard “ready to rock”
Those pencilled in for the Irish Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle include the Willie Mullins-trained Arkwrisht, a Grade 3 winner at Clonmel in February; his stablemate Stone Hard and the Noel Meade-trained A Genie In Abottle, who easily won his only hurdling start at Naas last month.
“Arkwrisht is big and slow and if he’s OK he’ll run. He ran a nice race at Aintree and bounced off that ground there. He probably wasn’t quite good enough but he’s going to make a smashing chaser,” continued O’Leary.
“Stone Hard is ready to rock. He’s another nice horse and he has just had a wind operation. Hopefully that will set him fair because he’s a good horse and it just hasn’t happened for him. He’ll run over three miles.
“A Genie In Abottle won his maiden hurdle in Naas well. He’ll definitely run and he wants at least three miles, he’s a proper chasing type. He’s nice.”
Outlander and Roi Des Francs looking to bounce back
The Willie Mullins-trained Roi Des Francs and the Sandra Hughes-trained Sub Lieutenant are entered in the 3m 1f Grade Growise Champion Novice Chase on Tuesday, April 26th, while Roi Des Francs’ stablemate Outlander is in that race and the 2m Ryanair Novice Chase on Thursday 28th.
Outlander fell when travelling well in the JLT Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham before coming second when favourite at Fairyhouse over Easter.
“Outlander is holding his form pretty well. He’s been busy enough but he’ll go if Willie’s happy with him,” said O’Leary. “He was going well at Cheltenham before falling and then we probably ran him back a bit too soon at Fairyhouse. Roi Des Francs could also go if Willie’s happy and Sub Lieutenant will run, he’s a nice horse.”
Grotesque heads to Bumper
Gigginstown don’t specifically target bumpers but O’Leary feels the Mouse Morris-trained Grotesque, a possible for the Grade 1 attheraces.com Champion INH Flat Race on Wednesday, April 27th, could be a good prospect for the future.
“Bumpers aren’t really our thing but we might run Grotesque, who is a good horse,” added O’Leary. “He was second first time at Leopardstown over Christmas to Bacardys, who went on to win the Aintree bumper.
“He came back and won a race at Gowran that was run very slowly, which wouldn’t have suited him. I think the last bumper winner Mouse trained was 47 years ago so he must be a good horse!”