Punchestown Festival is only just over a week away and it looks set to be a cracker with Gordon Elliott and Willie Mullins keeping most of their stars fit and fresh for their showdown to win the Irish trainers championship this season.
One of the highlights of the 5 day festival is the prestigious Punchestown Gold Cup and what a race it could potentially be with some superb entries including the Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Sizing John who is 6/4 favourite already. Whilst I absolutely love Sizing John and think he’s seriously classy who could win the blue riband next year as well, he is a short enough price for a festival which seems to produce plenty of shocks.
Taking that into consideration, I have found a good priced horse who bombed out in the Gold Cup in March across the Irish sea but I think will produce his true running here at a track he does seem to perform at. OUTLANDER, trained by Gordon Elliott is a 14/1 shot (Was 16’s the other day with Coral) and looks primed to run a big race at Punchestown with Gordon Elliott mentioning that he never travelled a yard at Cheltenham and probably wasn’t his true running that day. Outlander has never really fired at Prestbury Park, finishing 6th in a Neptune and falling in a JLT at the top of the hill 4 out last season, so it may be that he just doesn’t have much of an appetite for the track. On the other hand, Outlander has won a beginners chase and finished 2nd in the Champion 3 mile novice chase and the John Durkan chase at Punchestown, so does seem to perform well there and his price looks a little on the big side when you weigh everything up.
I’d always thought Outlander wasn’t really a dour stayer but his performances this season has changed my mind on that with his performances in the John Durkan and his win in the Lexus chase at Christmas confirming that he probably needs further then the middle distance form he had on offer in his younger days. His Gold Cup performance came after a break from his Lexus win and he’s entitled to probably improve from that and it’s notable that he produced a solid performance at the end of the season at Punchestown last season where he was beaten by Zabana in the 3 mile novice chase. That would give Zabana a squeak as well but he hasn’t been seen since the Lexus and he had suffered an injury in the run up to Cheltenham and is best watched to see if he turns up as there’s been no noises regarding him lately.
It’s also worth noting that the field may cut up to just a few runners who have solid chances. Sizing John looks a little short even though he’s the most likely winner, Djakadam seems to be better with cut in the ground and you’d have to wonder whether he can win this considering he’s had a few attempts already and it’s worth keeping in mind that horses who ran their heart out at Cheltenham, seemed to struggle at Aintree but the Willie Mullins trained horse has had longer to get over his efforts compared to Aintree runners. You have Coneygree who hasn’t been seen since November and it’s a question mark whether he will ever come back the same horse despite the Bradstocks throwing out their customary bullish remarks and Carlingford Lough is not getting any younger despite winning it last year and being kept back for this. With question marks over the rest with Champagne West (Handicapper in my opinion), Empire of Dirt (Ran at Aintree and was lame after), and most others having other commitments or probably not having much chance at all of winning this, you’d have to see OUTLANDER looks a strong each way bet at 14/1 with firms paying 3 places and we may not even see the full 8 line up so we would be snaffing a little value on the place terms. Everything adds up to a strong run from a horse who jumps, stays and was giving an easy time of it at Cheltenham once his chance went, so he comes into it a fairly fresh horse after his mid winter break too and Gordon Elliott will make sure he’s spot on with his aggressive attempts to win the Irish trainers championship from the master trainer Willie Mullins.
Outlander 2pts e/w @ 14/1 (General)