I will be providing daily updates on this blog but, first things first, now that the declarations have been made please click on this link Punchestown Bumper Guide to get my comprehensive and reasonably objective thoughts on each of the runners (plus a prediction).
Some of you may be surprised by the choice of Peter's nephew, Mark, to ride Bay of Freedom and others may have been confused by my tweet yesterday morning stating that Kevin Power was going to ride him; an explanation is necessary.
First of all, we wanted a top rider who doesn't claim for this race and, as I mentioned in the last blog, there are only seven of them; Kevin is one. He initially agreed to ride and was declared and , seeing he practices law, that appeared to be that. However, it would appear that we weren't the only ones with the binding contract and he is now riding Charbel for Tom Mullins. It's frustrating but not surprising given that everyone is trying to get the best riders for their horse.
We had to scramble to get a rider though and Mark was in demand so we 'grabbed' him and are delighted to have him ride. (By the way, Mark knows all of the above in case you're wondering). Anyway, to continue, this is not a case of blatant nepotism; Mark is in the top 15 of riders in terms of wins and has a tremendous record at the Punchestown Festival where he has ridden there winners. He knows the track well and we know there won't be anyone trying harder to win. I know he was impressed with Bay of Freedom's run at Cheltenham considering the position we found ourself in after the start and is, no doubt, looking forward to finding out what he can really do tomorrow.
It is so cold here! I drove down form the airport in sleet and hail and we have snow forecast this morning! It was beautiful (apparently) last week but it has certainly changed and , yours truly, will be looking to buy a warm jacket before racing today. The latest forecasts seem to be indicating continued showers and cold but , if anything, less rain than previously forecast; this could be good news for us. It means that the Clerk of the Course is unlikely to water given that rain is forecast and he will want to avoid any 'false' ground; if that rain doesn't come (or comes in lesses quantities) and with the winds it is likely that ground will be riding pretty good tomorrow. Bay of Freedom will go on softer ground as well but a number of horses in the race have shown their best form on soft ground and they would be inconvenienced more if it were good ground.
Off to the stables this morning - will try and report back before racing (first race 3.40pm)
Just got back from the stables and the horse looks in tremendous condition. His coat is gleaming whereas, at Cheltenham, he still had his winter coat. He was a little fresh early but soon settled down and is all set for the big day. He did a easy canter this morning and it's just a case of keeping him ticking over for 30 hours. Peter got a call from the Racing Post asking for a comment and said something along the lines that we think he's improved since Cheltenham where he had a poor start and that we're hopeful of being in the first three; we'll see what they print!
It's still freezing and I haven't quite decided to buy a coat or try and tough it out; the coat is 6/4 on at the moment. I don't like to think this way but I could buy a coat for what I'm likely to spend on drinks this week. (and if it were Cheltenham I could buy two coats!)
I have just consulted Timeform and they are just not giving Bay of Freedom any respect; he's the lowest rated of all 13 runners with a rating of 111. To put this in perspective four of the runners he beat at Cheltenham are rated higher and not just by a little bit; their ratings are: 114, 115, 123 and 125. It's not just the ones he beat - what about Supasundae? He finished 8 lengths in front of Bay of Freedom at Cheltenham. This would be 8 points on the Timeform scale so his mark should be 119 (if we're 111) ; it's actually 128! Similarly Montana Belle finished 4 lengths in front of Bay of Freedom but has a rating 10 pounds higher - it simply doesn't make sense. When you factor in the improvement Bay of Freedom has made the these ratings can be quickly ignored!
I am going to brave the wet and windy conditions and get off to the course soon. My fancies for today include Mallowney in the Champion Chase, Apache Stronghold to upset Don Poli and a speculative each way bet on Morga at 40/1 in the competitive handicap hurdle.
More to come later.......
Had an unexpected but fun evening last night with Peter and Ber who were out with Peter's sister Siobhan and her husband, Anthony; the owners of Owega Star (who runs on Saturday having emerged very well from his run in the Grand National)
I was asked yesterday if I had ever met Mark Fahey who is riding for us today. This will change by 6pm, but the answer, right now, is no. To be honest with me coming to Ireland 'only' 5-6 times a year it will take many years to meet them all; meeting two in one week is a bit of a bonus.
Once again, we are getting no respect, with the bookies offering 50/1 about us. I found myself wondering if I am totally unable to read form or if the bookmakers know something I don't; it's only just over four hours away so let's just wait and see what happens. I was over at the yard earlier and he is absolutely fine and ready to show a few people what he's made of; there may be a few shocked expressions at 6.10 this evening.
I was thinking about the other owners in the race; they are all either top owners or have paid significant sums for their horses (often both). I doubt if any of them will be rolling up to the Owners Car Park in an Opel Corsa. I don't have a parking label either so it might take some time to convince the attendant that I am actually an owner; (something that would be totally impossible at Cheltenham) convince them I will though!
I won't be showing him my phone either as it's an old Samsung I use in the UK and Ireland. There is nothing smart about it and it still rely on tapping the letters three times to get to the one you want for texting. As a consequence there will be no Tweets until much much later.
I am little too nervous to write much right now. I had a very quick look at the other races but kept finding an excuse to find out some minuscule detail about the horses in the Bumper. As a consequence my selections today were chosen quickly and with little form study; you know what that means don't you? Yes, they will all win! (As an aside , Peter has three other horses running today but I will not be saddling them with my selection - I will invest a supportive Euro though)
Boston Bob 5.30
Bay of Freedom 6.05 (If I didn't own him then it would be Supasundae)
I have no idea when the next entry will be as it depends entirely how the race goes and if outrageous celebrations are in order. In any event, there will be one (hangover notwithstanding) tomorrow morning.
So much for my promises hey? I promise a blog post and it takes until now to write anything! I am not happy with myself. it gets worse: I have to leave now to get up to the course.
Very quickly (the full post mortem will be posted much later): we used slightly different tactics on Bay of Freedom to give him the best chance of running a big race. In the event he probably used up too much energy too son and was only able to stay on at the one pace to finish 7th of the 13 runners. It's pretty amazing to have a horse who ran in two Grade 1 Bumpers over two miles when he was bred to need three miles over fences. That's the plan and I will talk more about it later. For now I am pleased to report that he has come out of the race well and was last seen rolling in the field and is happy. His owner is desperate for a winner but is still continuing to make speculative bets. Todays bets (and horses you should avoid) are:
Pires (e/w) 4.15
Abolitionist (e/w) 6.05
Newsworthy (nap) 7.45