2020 Moscow Flyer Novices’ Hurdle preview – Elliott’s star can repair reputation with Punchestown win
Brian Healy looks ahead to Sunday's feature race at Punchestown where he gives his runner-by-runner thoughts on the big-race field.
The feature race of Sunday’s jumps card at Punchestown is the Grade Two Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle which goes to post at 2.40pm as the fifth race of a seven-race card at the premier Irish track.
This Grade Two prize boasts a first prize in excess of €26,000 to the winner, and the race boasts several top-class winners throughout its’ history where Willie Mullins has saddled seven winners since it was first run back in 2003 including Vautour, Douvan and Min, as well as Getabird two seasons ago.
A small but select field of just six runners go to post for Sunday’s Irish feature, and Brian Healy takes a runner-by-runner look at the field for the Grade Two highlight.
Willie Mullins doesn’t have a runner in the race this year, but Gordon Elliott turns out ANDY DUFRESNE (8/13, William Hill) on a recovery mission after the Doyen gelding met with a surprising defeat at Navan in December when turned over in the Grade Two Navan Novice Hurdle.
The Meath handler won this race twelve months ago with Felix Desjy, and Andy Dufresne looked a potential star when romping to a wide margin winner over Cobbler’s Way on his hurdles debut at Navan in November on his reappearance from nine months off the track having earlier won a Down Royal bumper in impressive fashion last January.
He had also won between the flags at Borris House, and following on from his successful hurdles debut he was turned over at odds-on when last seen and he was already held when impeded on the run to the line.
Despite that defeat, he could prove a tough nut to crack here as he bids for redemption dropping back to two miles which ought to hold no fears.
Joseph O’Brien meanwhile is double-handed in Sunday’s feature, with Anything Will Do (7/1, William Hill) and Meticulous both lining up for the Owning Hill handler.
The former is on a roll at present, winning his last three starts in good style which includes a defeat of Quartz Du Rheu at this venue in December, and while this represents a big step up in class there could be more to come from the Westerner gelding.
He is 4-5 over hurdles in his career, and while this is certainly tougher than anything he has faced thus far his consistency should ensure he gives a good account.
Meticulous (10/1, William Hill) meanwhile makes his hurdles debut and first start for ten months when turning out on Sunday, and while he faces a very stiff ask to win this at the first time of asking, he can give a good account.
The Fame And Glory gelding has some very useful bumper form in the book, and he was beaten just over one length behind Andy Dufresne’s stablemate Envoi Allen at Leopardstown back in February last year in a Grade Two contest before acquitting himself well in the Champion Bumper at the Cheltenham Festival where he finished eighth.
He hasn’t been seen out since, so there is a strong possibility that he’ll need both this run and the experience; but his smart bumper form can’t be easily overlooked and he could make his presence felt.
Henry de Bromhead saddles once-raced Captain Guinness (11/4, William Hill) who made an impressive introduction to hurdling when scoring at Navan last month, beating Belfast Banter by seven lengths in a big-field event readily, and that form looks very fair with the runner-up looking set to score next time when falling; while the fourth home won next time out.
While the bare form leaves him with a bit to do, he is clearly one open to plenty of improvement and the Arakab geldinng ought to give a good account for his shrewd and in-form stable who has made a habit of collecting big prizes this term.
He could prove to be a very smart prospect on just his second start, but the suspicion is he’ll need to raise his game taking on Gordon Elliott’s star.
John Ryan’s The Little Yank (33/1, William Hill) won twice last October in bumpers, but the Westerner gelding has met with defeat on both his hurdles starts following a short break at Limerick and Cork respectively.
He was beaten eight lengths on his latest start behind Recent Revelations, no match for the winner and looking held when hampered two out. He was clear of the third, but looked more of a stayer and he’ll need to find some significant improvement if he’s to go close here given the level of his form to date.
It is hard meanwhile to make a case for Shanroe (50/1, William Hill) who completes the sextet in this Grade Two prize, and Karl Thornton’s charge was well-beaten when last seen out at Leopardstown when finishing seventh to Mt Leinster and crossing the line almost forty lengths’ adrift.
The Multiplex gelding had won three times in bumpers last summer, and he was yet to be asked for effort when being brought down three hurdles from home on his debut over timber at Catterick in November.
He shaped last time as if a stiffer test might suit, and he has plenty on his plate in this contest where others likely will have too much class and speed for him.
ANDY DUFRESNE (8/13, William Hill) was surprisingly turned over at odds-on last time out when tried in the Grade Two Navan Novices’ Hurdle; but Gordon Elliott’s charge bumped into a smart prospect on that occasion and the Doyen gelding can bounce back here.
He had won impressively over hurdles the time before at the same track on his reappearance, having also won a bumper there last term, and he likely has better to come so is taken to get back on the winning trail with the drop to two miles unlikely to present much of an issue.
He could have too many guns for his five rivals, although Henry de Bromhead’s once-raced Captain Guinness rates a sure-fire improver after a debut win and could the selection something to think about.
Nevertheless, the Elliott runner can get back on the winning trail here and stamp his passport for Cheltenham in the process.