Irish Eyes: Taking the Mick
Our Irish Eyes column says Mick Jazz is the one to be on in the 'without the favourite' market at Punchestown today.
Gordon Elliott: Trains Mick Jazz
Irish Eyes Selections
Nap: Isleofhopesndreams, 2.00 Punchestown (5/1 general)
Next Best: Mick Jazz, 1.30 Punchestown at 2/1 (betting without fav)
Cilaos Emery is obviously well above average and looks a graded winner in the making ahead of the Listed opener on a cracking card at Punchestown today.
He won his bumper here on good to yielding before putting up a very impressive performance to easily brush aside Joey Sasa on his hurdling debut at Navan on the same going as he will encounter this afternoon.
Joey Sasa proceeded to win his maiden hurdle at the Leopardstown Christmas festival before running third, admittedly well beaten, in a Grade 2 Novice last weekend.
Nonetheless Joey Sasa is a 139-rated hurdler and consequently it's very easy to conclude that Cilaos Emery is, at a minimum, a 145 animal if not better. His form is easily the best on offer with regards to today's contest but all the 10/11 about Cilaos Emery disappeared quite quickly.
Sire Du Berlais is an unknown quantity but was a promoted winner of a four-runner French contest and a quick glance at that form suggests he needs to have improved over a stone to get involved in this, his first run for 264 days.
Entries in all three novice hurdles at Cheltenham suggest he has improved but for the moment Mick Jazz looks the best bet at 5/1 and with ¼ odds (two places only) or, even better, at 2/1 without the favourite.
As a juvenile, he finished second to Top Notch over hurdles, the same Top Notch that proceeded to finish fifth in the Champion Hurdle and of course has won four on the trot over fences this season, including yesterday's Scilly Isles Novices' Chase at Sandown.
Mick Jazz was subsequently sent off 6/1 joint-favourite for the Greatwood Hurdle but he was pulled up with an irregular heartbeat at Cheltenham. Off the track for almost a year, he won his maiden hurdle this season on his first outing for Gordon Elliott before finishing second to stablemate Labaik in a Grade 3 at Navan.
It's difficult to establish just how good a run that was given the winner has since twice refused to race but Mick Jazz went on to finish third in a competitive €100,000 handicap hurdle despite making a mistake and being interfered with.
Realistically, it should be a matter of how far for Cilaos Emery but unless he remains at 4/6 (very unlikely), the experienced novice Mick Jazz rates the next best bet each-way or at the recommended bet of 2/1 in the market without the favourite.
Another ex-English trained hurdler catches the eye in the second race in the shape of Isleofhopendreams who remains well handicapped.
He obviously has soundness issues and having been off the track for more than two years, he ran well on his debut for Willie Mullins when finishing third at Navan a year ago.
He started favourite for his next start but fell at the third hurdle and did not reappear until eight months later when he was an impressive winner of his first chase start, albeit it was a very poor contest. He was only beaten a head then at Leopardstown over the Christmas, four-and-a-half lengths clear of the third, in a race he really should have won given he had been held up and found himself short of room turning into the straight and had to be switched.
He competes off a 6lb higher mark today, or 7lb to be exact given he is running from 1lb out of the handicap, but it's difficult to see that being enough to stop him. He should take all the beating.
The highlight from a viewer's perspective is obviously Douvan and his participation alone should ensure that Punchestown have a decent crowd on what is a beautiful day.
In an unexpected turn of events, Clitandre gets the treble selection this afternoon. At the forecast odds-on, he would have been left alone but given he is currently trading at 13/8 with Skybet, this talented sort is worth including in his bid to ensure he is guarantee a run in the Cheltenham bumper by winning today.