Good ship Willie Mullins for the UK Trainers' Championship took on some water yesterday as his four raiders failed to meet market expectations, allowing that Djakadam didn't get the chance to show what he could do.
That the trainer went across the water for more Saturday prizes is a signal that he wants to win the prize and I wonder if it might have the knock-on effect of making Irish races more open in the coming weeks; certainly both Djakadam and Shaneshill went to England ahead of seemingly obvious targets at Leopardstown next Saturday. It certainly hasn't happened at Punchestown today though where the trainer has four horses trading odds-on.
Punchestown 13:30 - Emily's Flame to burn them off
Balko Des Flos didn't jump well on hurdles debut and his bumper form isn't up to much so he looks a favourite to oppose. At least he has won a race which is more than can be said about Robin Thyme who continually flatters to deceive while Indian Court was barely ahead of some limited rivals last time.
Emily's Flame appeals as a bet win and place. He shaped well on racecourse debut when third to Tombstone in a bumper and again went with promise finishing sixth in a deep maiden hurdle earlier in the month. Given there was almost a year between the runs, there should be improvement to come and in a race where the shorter ones don't set an exacting standard he can go well.
Punchestown 14:30 - Take the solid Mall Dini against the field
This Pertemps Qualifier has numbers with 16 runners but no real depth. Oscar Sam deserves to be favourite in his bid for a four-timer but a 12lbs hike for last time is a worry as is the trip; he looked fast thus far and has impressed with a high cruising speed while his trainer has voiced concerned about him getting three miles on heavy ground.
Mall Dini brings one of the best pieces of recent form into the race having finished fourth in a similar race over Christmas. He conceded first run to the winner and runner-up that day and is improving run-to-run so looks solid in a race where most are regressive or going up and down on the spot.
Punchestown 15:00 - Mozoltov the danger to Felix
He may be one of his trainer's lesser lights, relatively speaking, but Felix Yonger has become very likeable in winning five of his last six starts and sets the standard here. Heavy ground is not ideal but he should get away with it.
That sort of surface is no issue for Mozoltov - he's 1213131112 with heavy in the description - and it's fair to expect him to be near his best here as he's having his third run off a long absence. His last run in the Dan Moore was promising and he got a moderate ride; despite his mount staying further, David Mullins was slow to ask for his effort when he made a mistake at the second last and was always playing catch-up thereafter, finishing well but with running to give. He's well-treated by the race conditions and can give his stablemate most to think about.
Punchestown 15:30 - Rory is worth falling for
Love Rory is a specialist in the strictest sense of the term, showing his best form only when granted a particular set of conditions, but he gets them this afternoon. His figures over the cross-country course at Punchestown read:071112 and while his run at Cheltenham last time appears disappointing, he failed to show his form there previously and at most other tracks too. That he has been bought be JP McManus since his last run can only be seen as positive and he rates a decent bet at 3.7511/4.
Of the rest, Uncle Junior surely wants further while the temperamental Cantlow faces a massive task to win on cross-country debut, these races tending to come down to those with previous experience. That he is without a win since November 2013 is another concern.
1 Point Back Emily's Flame @ 10.09/1 or bigger in the Punchestown 13:30
1 Point Place Back Emily's Flame @ 2.68/5 or bigger in the Punchestown 13:30
1 Point Back Mall Dini @ 8.07/1 or bigger in the Punchestown 14:30
1 Point Place Back Mall Dini @ 2.56/4 or bigger in the Punchestown 14:30
1 Point Place Back Mozoltov @ 2.111/10 or bigger in the Punchestown 15:00
2.5 Points Back Love Rory @ 3.7511/4 or bigger in the Punchestown 15:30