Take Tiara To Test Vautour’s Resolve
The 2016 Punchestown Festival starts with a bang on Tuesday courtesy of three Grade 1 races, with the headline act coming at 5.30pm in the guise of the BoyleSports Champion Chase.
This superb event boasts an admirable Hall of Fame, with the likes of Newmill, Sizing Europe and Sprinter Sacre all featuring during the last 10 years, and Vautour (2/5) will be looking to add his name come Tuesday teatime.
Vautour And Walsh To Bounce Back?
Willie Mullins has won the Champion Chase twice since 2010, and has had this race in mind ever since his 7yo was a shock faller at Aintree last time, having previously won the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham (2m5f, good). He was travelling powerfully before coming down at Aintree, but both he and Ruby Walsh will be out to put matters right.
There are a number of ticks in Vautour’s favour, with several odds-on shots having landed this race since 2006, but Walsh will need to be at this best on his return from injury, especially as Vautour steps back in trip here. That may be enough doubt for punters to seek each-way value, starting with Special Tiara (5/1).
Tiara Special Value?
Henry De Bromhead’s 9yo is a two-time Grade 1 winner over 2m, and while not on the scoresheet in three outings this term, he has run very well the last twice. The last of those was when beaten just over 3l by the mighty Sprinter Sacre in the Champion Chase at Cheltenham (2m, good).
The fact he bypassed Sandown last weekend suggests connections fancy his chances at Punchestown where he rates good value.
The Brit Challenge
Value also has to be respected amongst the British raiders, as they won this three times since 2008. One of those was trained by Nicky Henderson, who is responsible for Simonsig (9/1) on Tuesday.
The 2013 Arkle winner was a chaser going places before injury forced him onto the sidelines for over two-and-a-half years, but he returned in November to post a second over hurdles behind Bobs Worth. Absent again since, he does have the ability to go well fresh and it would be no surprise if he was there challenging on the home bend.
Tom George also brings over God’s Own (9/1), who arrives off the back of a career best Grade 1 win at Aintree three weeks ago (2m4f, good to soft). Beaten 5l behind Special Tiara when fourth in the Champion Chase at Cheltenham beforehand when keeping on, the step up in trip clearly suited at Aintree. The question is whether stepping back to 2m will prove too sharp, but one thing is for sure, his stamina will kick in if it becomes a test.
Flemenstar To Turn Back Clock?
As for those at double-figure odds, then the old trojan Flemenstar can never be overlooked, especially when priced at 33/1. A Grade 1 winner only in December (2m1f, heavy), he was runner-up in a subsequent Grade 2 over Tuesday’s C&D, and though he’ll need to bounce back from a couple of disappointing runs, he is capable of making the places at good odds.
Vautour stands out like a sore thumb, but the step back in trip has to be a concern. With that in mind, Special Tiara rates the each-way punt, as he’ll give backers a run for their money from the front and may have too much speed for some of these middle-distance performers.
*Prices correct at time of publication.