Punchestown tips for Sunday: Nichols Canyon and Identity Thief irrepressible
Nichols Canyon odds say he’ll retain Morgiana Hurdle for Mullins
Top Irish trainer Willie Mullins has saddled the last five winners of the 2m Morgiana Hurdle, including 2015 victor Nichols Canyon and he is a strong candidate to retain this Grade 1 crown at Punchestown on Sunday (14:20).
A 4 1/2 length third of 12 behind stablemate Annie Power in the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival back in March, Nichols Canyon earlier made all to win both of his career appearances around Punchestown last season.
This six-year-old landed Morgiana Hurdle by half-a-length from another Mullins trained horse in Faugheen, who went to score both the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton and Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown by sizable margins.
Wicklow Brave was third home and went on to incredibly score a Classic on the flat, getting up to deny Order Of St George in the Irish St Leger at The Curragh.
The form of last year’s Morgiana Hurdle is thus very strong indeed, leaving Nichols Canyon in pole position to make a winning seasonal reappearance.
Jer’s Girl to get closest of other Mullins and McManus entries
For punters seeking a forecast bet here, Jer’s Girl succeeded Nichols Canyon as Tattersalls Ireland Champion Novice Hurdle winner at the Punchestown Festival that rounds off the National Hunt season, so she gets the nod.
Still only a four-year-old, the JP McManus owned filly took that title by 10 lengths from O O Seven, a horse that has since come out and won well on his reappearance run at The Open meeting at Cheltenham.
That gives the form a solid look and, prior to that, Jer’s Girl ran out an assertive 13-length victor of the Mares Novice Hurdle Championship Final at Fairyhouse.
Heavyweight owner McManus also has Ivanovich Gorbatov going in his famous green and gold hoops silks here. The JCB Triumph Hurdle winner flopped on his return to action, however, when a 25-length third of four in a two-and-a-half-mile contest at Naas a fortnight ago.
Meanwhile, other Mullins entries Sempre Medici and Simenon look to have plenty to find to challenge the quality of their stablemate Nichols Canyon and the ultra-progressive Jer’s Girl.
Identity Thief bets rightly fancied in Craddockstown Novice Chase
Jockey Brian Cooper and handler Henry de Bromhead team up to saddle worthy favourite Identity Thief, who holds leading claims of capturing the Grade 2 Craddockstown Novice Chase (13:10) over 2m for Gigginstown House Stud.
The six-year-old smashed his chase debut on seasonal reappearance over course and distance, romping home for success by 14 lengths a month ago.
Another huge plus is Identity Thief drops a whopping 8lbs in weight from that win as he steps up from beginners to novice level, leaving him virtually impossible to oppose.
Ball D’arc a fine forecast choice for connections
Gigginstown have two other irons in the fire in this one, and of those a race-fit Ball D’arc looks like passing the post behind Identity Thief for Gordon Elliott.
Three of the last four Craddockstown Novice Chase winners have been five-year-olds, while jockey Ruby Walsh got the leg up on half the victors in as many renewals since 2012.
Although at attractive odds to win, the reason why Ball D’arc is a firm forecast choice here is it took him four attempts to earn victory over fences.
When last sent out at Punchestown, Elliott saddled him over 2m 2f to a runners-up spot, but that trip looked too far, so as demonstrated when winning at Wexford last time out the shorter distance Ball D’arc goes at here should suit.
A Toi Phil to follow up in Florida Pearl Novice Chase
The powerful connections of Gigginstown also hold strong representation in the extended 2m 6f Florida Pearl Novice Chase (13:45), and A Toi Phil looks the value bet among their three entrants.
While Disko from Noel Meade’s stable is the overnight favourite, Elliott and Walsh team up to saddle and climb aboard the selection, who is a French six-year-old gelding that made a flawless debut over fences at Down Royal.
A Toi Phil scored by 4 1/2 lengths after progressing throughout and running assertively in the closing stages.
Disko, by contrast, made a serious error on his chase debut and was more than 30 lengths down behind Jer’s Girl in the Champion Novice Hurdle on his penultimate Punchestown outing.
For those reasons, and in spite of Disko recovering to win his bow over the bigger obstacles, there’s value in taking him on and A Toi Phil is rated just ahead of Nambour, the third Gigginstown contender.
Punchestown tips for Sunday, November 20
13:10 Forecast: Identity Thief and Ball D’arc
13:45 A Toi Phil
14:20 Forecast: Nichols Canyon and Jer’s Girl