CeeBee previews the Champion Novice Hurdle and has selections of Sempre Medici and Alpha Des Obeaux.
18.05 Punchestown – 2m4f Champion Novice Hurdle
A small but select field line up here. McKinley is the first to rule out. He was beaten more than 30L at both Cheltenham and Aintree. Outlander was also fairly well brushed aside in Cheltenham and Fairyhouse. His best form, winning at Leopardstown was in a race where others didn’t perform to their best or were running over the wrong trip. Phils Magic was possibly not at his best at Fairyhouse but on what we have seen from him he’ll need to improve plenty. This race revolves around the other three.
Alpha des Obeaux has only one win in 5 starts but importantly it comes over course and distance. His form in defeat is even stronger. Over 2miles here he bumped into Douvan. He got as close as anyone has to that superstar. He then went to Aintree and was in the process of putting it up to Thistlecrack when coming down at the last. Vyta du Roc was well beaten off in 3rd and he had previously finished alongside Nicholls Canyon at Cheltenham. Thistlecrack was the best horse in the 3m novice hurdle here on Wednesday, going down narrowly to Killultagh Vic after meeting trouble in running. It’s good form.
The Neptune was a falsely run affair in Cheltenham and it’s fair to say Nicholls Canyon wasn’t at his very best but the Aintree form of Alpha des Obeaux is arguably stronger. Nicholls Canyon settled better and improved past Parlour Games in Aintree but that was a race that lacked some depth. Bar Parlour Games there wasn’t much else of G1 quality in the race. He has two proper G1 rivals to beat here.
Sempre Medici is no second string here. Not that being a second string has made one jot of difference this week! Willie was very enthusiastic about him after winning in Fairyhouse stressing he would improve and was looking forward to Punchestown with him. In behind him were Identity Thief and Blair Perrone who both ran ok this week but neither really boosted that form. Prior to that he was 6th in the County Hurdle off top weight and an official rating of 144. It seems that Willie running a novice in a handicap does wonders for them, see Killultagh Vic and Arctic Fire as another two examples.
In a week where Mullin’s perceived second strings have been running above themselves in big races I think the trend may continue here. I’m happy to take on Nichols Canyon with his two market rivals. I feel he’s slightly overrated. Last year Faugheen and Vautour took the two G1 novice hurdles here after flawless displays at Cheltenham. Douvan was awesome in both also. Nicholls Canyon isn’t in the same league as those, if he was he’d have won the Neptune, but at 8/11 for a G1 he’s priced similarly here. It’s too short against two decent rivals.