Millar's Method: Four selections for the SBK Bank Holiday Raceday at Punchestown
By Ross MillarLatest Horse Racing Odds
4 February 2024
After a weekend of high-class action at the Dublin Racing Festival the focus stays in Ireland for the bank holiday Monday as SBK sponsors a seven-race card at Punchestown.
Famous for its banks course, the conventional track is the most undulating in Ireland, however the bends are on the sharp side so despite its stiff finish it can often pay to side with a horse that is able to travel through the race. It will come as no surprise to learn that Willie Mullins and Paul Townend lead the way this season with impressive winning percentages of 43% and 59% respectively, with Danny Gilligan a promising 5lb claimer also boasting a strong return of one winner for every four rides at the course this season.
I’ve taken a look through the card and have four selections for you:
Mercurey can land this for the top combination of Mullins and Townend. A tall imposing son of Muhtathir (sire of amongst others Envoi Allen) he has clearly not been easy to train, with just three runs to his name since he made a winning debut at Gowran in January 2022. However, when he has made it to the track he’s shown a good level of form. His hurdle debut at Cork saw him beaten just five-lengths by the 135 rated Arctic Bresil before he returned after a 399 day layoff to finish third over course and distance 22 days ago. On that occasion he travelled powerfully into the race and quickened into contention on the home turn where he briefly posed a threat to the odds-on favourite, before a lack of race fitness saw his effort flatten out. A mistake at the last exaggerated the distance he was eventually beaten.
With that run under his belt he will be hard to beat in this contest and is potentially a horse to follow into the spring.
Mercurey @ 1.62
Shannon Royale might be able to regain the winning thread in first time cheek-pieces and with the assistance of Danny Gilligan. But he has been a weak finisher on more than one occasion (admittedly in some good contests) so I’m happy to look elsewhere.
Chosen Thyme was a touch disappointing on his last start when upped to three-miles at this track but it’s conceivable that the trip stretched his stamina. But he does like to travel close to the pace and while his jumping was moderate last time it was sound when he ran a race full of promise at Clonmel when ultimately well beaten by the talented Chapeau De Soleil but still managing to pull three lengths clear of the third.
The testing ground will prove no problem and with Niall Moore claiming 7lb he’ll get to race off a lightweight. He can prove up to this on his handicap debut.
Chosen Thyme @ 11.0
Shane Nolan hasn’t had a winner for well over two months but I fancy that to change in this mare’s contest where stamina will be essential. Pipers Boreen ran well on her handicap debut at Fairyhouse on her latest start when only finding one too good. She raced prominently and jumped soundly throughout and galloped dourly to the line over the 2m4f trip. Moving to mares only company will suit her well as will this step up in trip on testing ground. Jockey Conor McNamara will be full of confidence with two winners from his last four rides. Her mark of just 92 means she races off a featherweight which I see as a distinct advantage in these stamina-sapping contests.
Pipers Boreen @ 4.3
For a horse with four point-point runs to her name Redzy Rocco turned in a poor jumping performance last time out at this course when finishing fifth over 2m4f. It’s therefore to her credit that despite a litany of jumping errors she was able to finish her race off strongly having found herself on the back foot turning for home, with crucially her two best jumps coming at the final two hurdles.
This race doesn’t look to have as much depth to it as that contest and a step up in trip is certain to see her in a better light. Her point-point win came on soft ground at Cragmore where she saw out the trip strongly.
Aidan Kelly knows her well having ridden her in previous two starts and is good value for his 5lb claim. Unlike a lot of her rivals she is experienced and battle-hardened - in what is sure to be a gruelling race that is a quality that shouldn’t be underestimated.
Redzy Rocco @ 12.0