City Island scored in terrific style last time out and looks a worthy favourite at 6/4 with William Hill to follow-up in the Grade 1 Champion Novice Hurdle over 2m 4f on day four of the Punchestown Festival this Friday (18:05).
That success came in the Grade 1 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, where this Martin Brassil trained six-year-old made it four from four over the obstacles when beating the highly-regarded Champ by two lengths.
After racing in midfield, the son of Court Cave got hampered when trying to make a move and finding himself short of room three from home.
However, he recovered quickly to be upsides the leaders two from home and, after leading round the home bend, stayed on strongly after the last to score with a bit in hand.
Given how the race panned out, it was a moist taking display and the form has been franked by the runner-up going on to land a Grade 1 at the Aintree Grand National Festival in impressive fashion.
That victory has earned City Island an official rating of 152 – the highest in the line-up. He is clearly a very exciting prospect, and a repeat of his last run is going to make him extremely difficult to beat in the hands of regular pilot Mark Walsh.
Reserve Tank feared most, Sams Profile a lively outsider
The Colin Tizzard trained Reserve Tank, a 4/1 shot with Paddy Power, is an unexposed and progressive sort, so looks the obvious one to give City Island most to think about.
This five-year-old put in a career-best effort last time out when landing the Grade 1 Mersey Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree.
Despite being sent off 20/1, Reserve Tank got the job done in style when overcoming a mistake at the last and staying on strongly to beat Brewin’upastorm by 3 1/4 lengths and had some talented performers in behind.
It was a huge effort and a massive step up on his previous win in a novice hurdle at Kempton when scraping home by a neck.
This strapping son of Jeremy is clearly going the right way, looks the type who should have plenty more to offer, and is rated just 2lb below City Island.
Of those at bigger odds, Sams Profile appeals each-way as he was far from disgraced last time out when fifth to City Island in the Ballymore and now gets the services in the saddle of Davy Russell for the first time. He can be backed at 10/1 with Ladbrokes.
Gardens Of Babylon can cash-in on class drop
Gardens Of Babylon has posted some cracking efforts in defeat of late; so, now eased in grade, looks to hold outstanding claims of resuming winning ways in the 2m SalesSense International Novice Hurdle (19:10).
The Joseph O’Brien trained four-year-old came good at the second time of asking over hurdles when landing a 22-runner contest over course and distance by half-a-length from Surin.
He then went down by a nose to that rival at Fairyhouse, before running very well to finish a staying on six-length second to the ill-fated Sir Erec in Grade 1 at Leopardstown.
Gardens Of Babylon backed that up with a fine 6 3/4 lengths third of 14 to the exciting Pentland Hills in the Grade 1 Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
This son of Camelot went down all guns blazing last time out in a Grade 2 at Fairyhouse when beaten just half-a-length by French Made.
The form of those races sets a very high standard and represents a return to much calmer waters for the JP McManus owned son of Camelot. Underfoot conditions are also ideal, so at 5/2 with Bethard he looks the one to be on.
Cash Back is one of three runners in the race for Willie Mullins, who has already enjoyed tremendous success at the meeting, and looks the pick of the trio judged on his three-quarters of a length second to stable companion Mister Blue Sky last time out in a Grade 2 at Fairyhouse. He is a top-price 6/1 with Betfair.
Notebook had built up a solid profile prior to finding Grade 1 company too hot when 10th of 12 to City Island in the Ballymore at the Cheltenham Festival, so now dropped in class appeals each-way at 28/1 with Boylesports.
De Name Escapes Me appeals each-way
In the 2m 5f handicap chase (16:20), the Noel Meade trained De Name Escapes Me looks weighted to go well now down in trip and makes plenty of each-way appeal at a tasty 9/1 with Coral.
This McManus owned nine-year-old was very impressive when landing a 17-runner Grade B handicap chase at Navan three starts back over 2m 4f.
Although only beating Solomn Grundy by half-a-length, that doesn’t tell the whole story as he scored with tons in hand. After being held-up, he scythed through the pack to take third travelling strongly approaching two from home.
De Name Escapes Me was then pushed along briefly only to find himself short of room when bypassing the omitted last fence. He just needing nudging out under a hands and heels ride to assert close home and win really cheekily.
It was a most taking performance and the front two pulled nine lengths clear of the third home, so that gives the form a solid look.
De Name Escapes Me was then a well-beaten 16th of 27 to Auvergnat at Leopardstown, but something was clearly not right.
He showed that running to be all wrong when fifth of 14 to Pairofbrowneyes last time out in the Leinster National at Naas, when holding every chance two out before fading to be beaten 12 1/2 lengths.
That run showed that he could be competitive off his current mark of 132 and this 2m 5f trip should suit far better, as his last three wins have come over 2m 4f.
Hardline has Grade 1 winning form to his name and looks sure to go well now eased in class. Despite top weight, this Gordon Elliott trained seven-year-old has plenty going for him and can be backed at 7/1 with Betfair.