PUNCHESTOWN SATURDAY: We’re looking to Punchestown this Saturday, where the eight-race card features the Grade 1 Morgiana Hurdle and the Grade 2 Florida Pearl Novice Chase.

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⭕ Starting the day’s racing off is a 2m½f maiden hurdle (11.40am). Just seven of the 12 runners have any form over hurdles, with numerous having come off the Flat, including Joseph O’Brien’s Harsh, who was third in a tight finish at Listowel over 1m4f last time out on soft ground, and should have a good chance here in similar conditions.  Biggerthanbigtime should be in with a shout at the placings.

⭕ Next is a 2m3½f maiden hurdle (12.13pm). 20 little-exposed four-year-olds come together here, most notably Henry de Bromhead’s Point-to-Point graduate Mossy Fen Park who won his second start at that level by 18 lengths. Based on that performance, he should be the one to beat on Rules debut.  Jhentong Enki could be the each-way pick.

⭕ A beginners’ chase follows over 2m3f (12.48pm). A Grade 1 winner at Punchestown Festival last season, Willie Mullins’ Gaelic Warrior is difficult to look past in this field of quality horses. Having the speed to win over two miles and the stamina to win over three, he should be peerless here, provided he takes to the larger obstacles well on his chase debut. Cool Survivor should be in with a good chance of placing.

⭕ The three-mile Grade 2 Florida Pearl Novice Chase is race four (1.23pm). This is a race with real depth and is a tough call, but Affordable Fury could just have an edge on the others here, having been a close runner-up in the Grade 1 Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham last season and now having won his chase debut on heavy ground. A five-year-old, he has more potential to improve than the likes of Flooring Porter and is better proven at this track and in these conditions.

⭕ A 2m5½f handicap chase is next (1.58pm). Life In The Park’s lack-lustre return in September can be forgiven and he should be able to get back to his consistent placing form, having had a lengthy break and given three pounds by his rider. Ha D’Or, though, a winner over 2m5f last year, should be the one to beat, now back up in trip, and usually goes well fresh.

⭕ The much-anticipated Grade 1 Morgiana Hurdle is race six (2.35pm). Rated nine pounds higher than the next best horse, State Man should be unopposable here, having won this race last season by four lengths and gone on to win a further three Grade 1 races. Stablemate Echoes In Rain could be the one to chase him home as she handles this ground well and was an impressive winner at this track in April in the Punchestown Festival Mares’ Champion Hurdle.

⭕ A novice handicap hurdle follows over 2m½f (3.08pm). Yeats Star won his last start by 13 lengths and carries only a pound more here, so is difficult to oppose in this company. The improving Poets Cottage could be in with a chance of placing and is certainly one to watch moving forwards.

⭕ Wrapping up the day is a 2m½f bumper (3.43pm). Gavin Cromwell’s newcomer I Am Mimi is interesting, coming from the family of top-level French chaser Queen Des Places, and she’s bred to handle these conditions without trouble so should be able to place. Six-year-old last-start winner Scamall Bawn, having two years maturity on most of the field, could be the one to beat again.



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