Punchestown Festival Betting

Punchestown Day 5 Tips: Epatante to prove too classy

Punchestown
Epatante looks sure to take all the beating at Punchestown on Saturday

"Powering into contention under a waiting ride, Nicky Henderson's mare weaved through to challenge and was back on the bridle by the last"

Mark Milligan looks at the final day of the Punchestown Festival, where he has a pair of selections, including a former Cheltenham Gold Cup winner who could be well handicapped...

The final day of the Punchestown Festival may struggle to earn top billing on a day that also sees the flat season get well and truly underway at Newmarket, where the first Classic of the season takes place, but we still have a great card to focus on, including a pair of Grade 1 races.

The first of those, the Coolmore Kew Gardens Irish EBF Mares Champion Hurdle (15:50), will surely see Epatante take the world of beating back against her own sex.

The Fighting Fifth and Christmas Hurdle winner found only Honeysuckle too good in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham last month, before taking the step up in trip to 2m 4f in her stride when defeating Monmiral by 14 lengths in the Aintree Hurdle last time.

Powering into contention under a waiting ride, Nicky Henderson's mare weaved through to challenge and was back on the bridle by the last, likely to have won by clear daylight even if her main challenger Zanahiyr hadn't come to grief at that final flight.

The fact that she's now proven over further than 2m opens up plenty of options for this daughter of No Risk At All, who's unlikely to be turning over Honeysuckle anytime soon. With nothing of that calibre in this field, it will be something of a surprise if Epatante can't follow up her Aintree win.

Of the opposition, it may be Henry De Bromhead's Tellmesomethinggirl who provides the biggest threat.

She was going as well as any when brought down two out in the Mare's Hurdle at Cheltenham, a race that went on to be won by another of this field, Epatante's stable companion Marie's Rock.

Marie's Rock should also be thereabouts once more, though I'd fancy Tellmesomethinggirl to get the better of her for minor honours, albeit hard to see either of them turning over an on-song Epatante.

She may only be even money, but Epatante should be in a different class to this field, and is probably still value at that sort of price, put in at odds-on on the tissue I compile myself.

Exciting Vauban to follow up Triumph win

The other Grade 1 on the card, the Ballymore Champion Four Year Old Hurdle (17:00), gives us a chance to see the extremely exciting Triumph Hurdle winner Vauban in action once again.

Somewhat surprisingly turned over by Pied Piper on his debut at this track in December, the Rich Ricci-owned son of Galiway has made no mistake on his other two starts, latterly when reversing form with his Punchestown conqueror at Cheltenham last time.

A listed winner on the flat, Vauban has plenty of speed and he need that when fluffing the last in the Triumph, though the turn of foot he showed on the run-in marked him out as something special in this sphere.

He'll need to brush up that jumping technique if he's to be a genuine threat to the likes of Honeysuckle and Constituiton Hill in next year's Champion - a route that connections are seemingly looking at - but the sky is very much the limit if he gets his hurdling act together.

Vauban is difficult to oppose here, and he really should get the job done, but at current odds of 1.51/2 we can just sit back and watch him do his thing without needing to get involved from a punting perspective.

Vauban Cheltenham win 1280 x 853.png

Annibale Fly to turn back the clock

He may be into the veteran stage of his career now, but I don't think Annibale Fly is any back number at all, and I'm taking him to run well from a mark of 140 in the 3m 7f handicap chase at 15:10.

Let's not forget that this one was a Cheltenham Gold Cup winner as recently as 2019, and although he hasn't shown much spark throughout the winter, it's worth noting that his whole season was geared around a crack at the Grand National.

Given that, it must have been galling for connections to see Annibale Fly brought down at the third, but that at least means he'll come into this race a fresher horse than most he'll face.

It's also worth noting that Tony Martin's charge ran really well in this very race last year from a 5 lb higher mark. That run came following quite an abject performance in the National itself, where he never really travelled before being pulled up before halfway.

His capacity to bounce back from adversity has been a hallmark of Annibale Fly's career so far and it has to be encouraging that Mark Walsh has chosen to ride him when he would have had the pick of six J P Mc Manus-owned runners in this contest.

We also have the bonus of the Sportsbook paying an extra place in here - four places instead of the usual three - which makes Annibale Fly a very appealing each-way proposition.

Hopefully the old fella can give us a good run for our money before attention well and truly switches back to the flat for the next few months.

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Mark's P/L (Not including Friday)

Staked: 163
Returns: 177.46
P/L: +14.46

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