The expectation coming into Punchestown 2018 was that Elliott versus Mullins would dominate conversation about the meeting; it has - but only to a degree - as trainers' championship was effectively over by Thursday night. As so often in sport, the real stories have emerged from somewhere else completely: the Paul Townend fiasco in the Growise Novice Chase, Samcro and Melon falling independently in the Champion Hurdle and Katie Walsh announcing her retirement after winning on Antey. I suspect Walsh may have exited the stage two weeks back had Baie Des Isles won the Grand National but hers remains a fairytale career and she has been an excellent ambassador for the sport.
Punchestown 14:35 - Darwin can build on early XC promise
Josies Orders rightly heads the betting for the final cross-country chase of the week but he is now without a 'real' win since December 2015 and this trip is a little shorter than ideal; furthermore, he backs up quickly after running on Thursday. Hurricane Darwin makes some appeal dropping back in distance as he seemingly failed to stay in the Cheltenham Cross-Country, making a big move from rear to get onto the heels of the leaders travelling well four out before stamina and some hampering took its toll.
He had shaped with promise on his debut over these obstacles in the P.P. Hogan in February when surprisingly well-backed as few horses take to these fences first time. Ridden with excessive restraint, he came home well and passed four horses in the short straight when not given a hard time and comes here fresher than most.
Punchestown 16:25 - Farclas to confirm Triumph form
Stormy Ireland is an intriguing runner in the Champion Four-Year-Old Hurdle not least because Willie Mullins expressed some disappointment with her run in the Triumph; to my eye, she ran a great race off a 90-day break while too keen and did well to be involved when falling at the last. That promise does seem to be in her price here however and she hardly merits being marginally bigger than the Triumph one-two especially as she had a nasty fall in that race.
Time-figures suggest that Farclas and Mr Adjudicator are clear of the rest and preference is for the former. He seemed to improve past the Mullins horse at Cheltenham for the application of the tongue-tie and was on top at the line. Not only that but he has had less racing than his main rival with seven career starts as against 15 for Mr Adjudicator and rates one of the better bets on the card.
Punchestown 17:00 - Fitness edge can bring Anseanachai on
The marathon chase seems a more competitive race than the Pat Taaffe earlier on the card which is strange as the shorter race is more valuable. The Irish National form is well-represented by Isleofhopendreams and Forever Gold while Augustin seems likely to be suited by this step up in trip. One that looks overpriced down the bottom however is Anseanachai Cliste.
There were positives in what was effectively his first run for his new yard on the Irish National undercard, having unseated early in the Ulster National the previous week, coming up against the back-to-form Paper Lantern but staying on in the manner of one that wanted a longer trip. Already a winner over three-and-a-half-miles, he gets a 5lbs weight pull with that rival and could be able to reverse form now.
Punchestown 17:35 - Step up in trip will suit Low Sun
The two-mile handicap hurdle won by Low Sun at the rescheduled Fairyhouse meeting on April 17th has already worked out at this meeting, True Self and Pravalaguna winning earlier in the week, and could play its part here too. Yaha Fizz should improve for that run which was his first for Gordon Elliott but perhaps we shouldn't ignore the obvious; the winner Low Sun was off a break himself, winning going away and looked like he would get two-and-a-half with how he raced.
An idle sort who is one of the more lightly-raced runners in the field, he ran well her on Tuesday in a race that didn't really draw out his stamina and it is a surprise to see him available at a bigger price than the likes of Joey Sasa, Yaha Fizz and Karalee when he is at least as likely to be suited by the trip and has a more progressive profile. As always in a race like this there are a host of other chances with Early Doors likely to be involved while Agent Boru and Swamp Fox are among those interesting at bigger prices.
2018 P+L: -28.1 points