Liverpool FC: Christmas Crack Me Up Challenge
There is more great racing to look forward to in Ireland on Sunday – and I’ve picked out my best bets for what looks like an extremely promising card at Punchestown.
Named in honour of the man dubbed “King of the Banks”, the PP Hogan Memorial remembers a great exponent of the cross-country discipline, and a man largely responsible for JP McManus’s early forays into the sport, so it’s no surprise that McManus is mob-handed here. Josies Orders sports the white cap and will be a big fancy, but marginal preference is for last year’s winner Auvergnat who remains open to progress given how raw he was last season, and has the advantage of Donie McInerney’s invaluable 5lb claim.
He fell at Cheltenham last time, but it was a similar story a year ago when he took an x-rated fall while loose at the same track, and he’s had longer to recover this time around. Blue Templar is the other McManus horse who is worth noting, and the seven-year-old was moving ominously well when slipping up here last spring. The Milan gelding is trained by Enda Bolger, another who owes his success in and out of the saddle to PP Hogan, and is a half-brother to Asian Maze and Quantitativeasing.
Rather a disappointing turnout for this listed event, and Another Barney should be able to extend his winning run, having scored between the flags prior to making a successful hurdling bow at Naas last month. That form gives him every chance in this field, and he looks certain to build on it given the style of victory. Jessica Harrington’s team continues in fine form, and Another Barney can add another win in the increasingly familiar black, white and pink colours of Robcour.
I’d prefer to see better ground conditions for Danse Away, but Tom Nagle’s charge did well enough on heavy last time out to suggest he would soon be cashing in on a lenient handicap mark over hurdles. The point winner showed decent form in good-ground bumpers last spring, but hadn’t come close to that in the mud over hurdles until a much-improved second over shorter here less than a fortnight ago. He’s been dropped further by the handicapper, and is the type to run up a sequence when getting in the groove, so shouldn’t be missed despite slight reservations over conditions.