Punchestown - At The Races

Punchestown Trendspotting

    David Myers looks at the key trends behind Ireland's premier National Hunt festival, from the records of trainers and jockeys at the meeting through to runners from Cheltenham and racing styles of the winners.

Welcome to the 2018 Punchestown Festival Trendspotting Guide in which David Myers will be looking back at past festivals since 2008 in the search of some winner-finding angles.

We’ll look at everything from the fate of the favourites to some of the leading trials, while revealing which sires to look out for over the five days.

But we’ll start with the statistics that are often the first port-of-call for many punters weighing up the meeting, and that’s the overall records of trainers and jockeys.

TRAINERS

Punchestown Festival 2008-2017

Trainer W-R £1 Non-hcp Hcp Chs Hdl NHF
W Mullins109-578+6285-39124-18732-15556-32721-96
Mrs J Harrington24-219+7715-1419-787-5013-1024-67
E Bolger19-96-2219-950-119-950-1--
G Elliott14-160+610-914-695-505-864-24
N Henderson12-89-179-633-263-258-461-18
P Hobbs7-37+195-232-143-153-171-5
T Mullins6-62+23-393-222-132-232-26
N Meade6-186-1295-1081-781-502-883-48
C Murphy6-50+15-271-233-183-210-11
H De Bromhead5-112-775-630-494-490-451-18
P Maher5-53-155-53--5-50--0-3
E O’Grady5-85-544-481-370-325-390-14

WILLIE MULLINS

2017: 9-63 (+£10)
2016: 12-54 (+£10)
2015: 16-72 (+£24)
2014: 9-61 (-£20)
2013: 13-56 (-£9)

A third consecutive profitable meeting at Punchestown in 2017 served another reminder as to why punters have to keep Willie Mullins as part of their betting strategy this week. Considering the popularity of his yard, it’s an incredible feat to record a level stakes profit via all of his runners, though it pays to know which of his to follow in handicaps and non-handicaps, as follows:

Handicaps
6-7yos: 15-94 (+£60)
Maximum of one handicap win: 21-150 (+£54)
Same mark or 1lb higher than last time: 12-63 (+£52)
Ran at Fairyhouse or Cheltenham last time: 12-89 (+£40)

Non-handicaps
Paul Townend and Patrick Mullins: 34-139 (+£63)
4-5yos: 45-171 (+£54)
First or second last time: 48-161 (+£20)
Clear favourites: 54-111 (+£15)

JESSICA HARRINGTON

2017: 5-29 (+£4)
2016: 2-24 (-£1)
2015: 2-21 (+£33)
2014: 6-12 (+£58)
2013: 2-11 (+£13)

Jessica Harrington made it four profitable Punchestown festivals from the last five years in 2017 courtesy of a five-timer, all of whom were ridden by Robbie Power – the duo combined for an overall record of 10-64 (+£67). There was also value to be found via Harrington’s runners that finished third, fourth or fifth last time at 11-53 (+£91).

ENDA BOLGER

2017: 0-10 (-£10)
2016: 3-8 (-£1)
2015: 3-7 (-£1)
2014: 2-11 (-£5)
2013: 1-11 (-£6)

It was a rare blank for Enda Bolger at the 2017 Punchestown festival, and he’ll be keen to get back on the scoreboard, especially with his fancied runners at 5/1 or shorter (18-49 +£13). It’s also a positive sign if Miss Nina Carberry is booked, as she delivered for Bolger here at 13-27 (+£15).

NICKY HENDERSON

2017: 0-4 (-£4)
2016: 1-10 (+£5)
2015: 1-8 (-£2)
2014: 2-12 (£0)
2013: 1-7 (-£6)

Nicky Henderson sent just four runners here a year ago without success, unlike in in 2014 when his 12 runners produced a double – both of whom were ridden by Barry Geraghty. The Henderson/Geraghty partnership also triggered a 10-year record of 8-31 (+£11) at the festival, while Henderson’s runners beaten by 15l or more last time stepped up to deliver at 6-36 (+£14).

GORDON ELLIOTT

2017: 5-57 (-£4)
2016: 4-33 (+£17)
2015: 2-12 (-£3)
2014: 0-15 (-£15)
2013: 2-10 (+£9)

A career best tally of five winners at last year’s festival here was yet another sign of the progress Gordon Elliott has made in recent seasons, while his recent Grand National victory advertised the wellbeing of his yard.

It’s worth bearing in mind, however, that Elliot did send a whopping 57 runners here to achieve the aforementioned five-timer, suggesting selectivity is key. One approach could be to stick with Elliott in Class 1 events where he struck at 10-93 (+£35) – his record in Class 2 or below was just 4-67 (-£29).

Other trainers amongst the winners at this festival include Thomas Mullins, whose 6-8yos (5-33 +£14) should be noted, especially those that arrived via a Grade 2 or Grade 3 race last time (5-19 +£28).

Elsewhere, Colm Murphy’s runners in non-handicaps are worth a second look (5-27 +£7), while Edward O’Grady’s five winners all returned 7/1 or shorter (5-16 +£14) – all of whom came over hurdles.

As for whose runners to look out from the Cheltenham Festival, then take none of those trained by Henry De Bromhead (4-27 +£15), while Philip Hobbs’ in-form runners that made the top two last time delivered at 6-14 (+£27).

Do be wary, however, of Noel Meade’s runners, for while he produced seven winners over the last 10 winners, they did come at a hefty loss of -£129.

JOCKEYS

Punchestown Festival 2008-2017

Jockey W-R £1 Non-hcp Hcp Chs Hdl NHF
R Walsh48-178-1738-12110-5732-15529-107--
Mr P Mullins24-95+4323-891-62-144-1518-66
B Geraghty24-132+6919-895-439-5815-74--
P Townend20-129+2313-737-566-4914-80--
D Russell19-159-4117-1052-545-6214-97--
Miss N Carberry15-107-5615-870-2013-930-152-53
R Power14-117+535-609-579-495-68--
M Walsh9-82-83-326-505-344-48--
Mr J Codd8-52-198-510-12-190-16-32
Ms K Walsh7-92+14-753-173-211-143-57
B Cooper7-108-636-601-483-464-62--
A Lynch6-109-716-600-495-561-53--
R Johnson6-26+314-192-73-103-16--
D Condon6-60+331-295-314-252-35--

RUBY WALSH

2017: 2-20 (-£14)
2016: 3-10 (-£4)
2015: 6-23 (-£8)
2014: 6-19 (-£1)
2013: 8-22 (+£9)

Assuming Ruby Walsh is passed fit to ride following his Cheltenham fall, punters will again look to the popular Irishman to deliver at his home festival where he rode twice as many winners as any other current jockey.

The majority of Walsh’s winners came for Willie Mullins (45-166 -£11), though following him in chases proved more profitable at 19-71 (+£17), while those he rode at 8/1 or shorter struck at 48-156 (+£5). It’s also worth noting that while Walsh’s strike-rate in non-handicaps was 38-121 (-£29), they did show a loss, unlike in handicaps where there was more value at 10-57 (+£11).

BARRY GERAGHTY

2017: Absent
2016: 4-23 (+£16)
2015: Absent
2014: 4-21 (+£28)
2013: 4-13 (+£4)

Barry Geraghty may have missed two of the last three Punchestown festivals, but he demonstrated either side of those absences his capabilities by riding several four-timers.

The fact he also returned a +£69 level stakes profit here during the last 10 years makes Geraghty a jockey to follow throughout the meeting, especially Geraghty’s partnership with Nicky Henderson, which produced a healthy return of 8-31 (+£26), though bigger profits were achieved with runners Geraghty partnered last time out at 15-57 (+£58). He was also a reliable pair of hands in the top races courtesy of a tally of 16-81 (+£57) in Grade 1/Grade 2 events.

DAVY RUSSELL

2017: 0-16 (-£16)
2016: 1-14 (-£9)
2015: 0-8 (-£8)
2014: 4-18 (+£22)
2013: 3-18 (-£1)

Fresh from his success in the Grand National, Davy Russell will be in the mood to improve upon his recent record here where he struck just once from his last 38 rides at the festival (his record for his National-winning trainer Gordon Elliott here is 0-25).

While able in all areas, Russell’s record in non-handicaps and hurdles came out best – in fact by combining those two areas and following Geraghty in non-handicap hurdles returned a record of 13-72 (+£15).

MR PATRICK MULLINS

2017: 4-12 (+£37)
2016: 3-9 (+£2)
2015: 4-10 (+£10)
2014: 1-9 (-£5)
2013: 3-9 (£0)

Having ridden an impressive 19 winners at the festival since 2012, Patrick Mullins has very much become a “go-to” jockey for punters at Punchestown, and the fact he shows a +£42 level stakes profit suggests the bookies still underestimate him.

As for which areas Mullins excelled in, then look out for his rides that arrived from the Cheltenham Festival at 8-20 (+£33), while those that made the top three last time struck for Mullins here at 12-38 (+£35).

MISS NINA CARBERRY

2017: Absent
2016: 3-12 (-£5)
2015: 3-13 (-£7)
2014: 2-12 (-£6)
2013: Absent

Nina Carberry was an absentee at the meeting 12 months ago, but having partnered eight winners in the three previous festivals here, she is expected to be in the winner’s enclosure once more. Carberry’s record for Enda Bolger is one too look out for (13-27 +£15), while her ability in chases (13-39 +£3) reads better than in hurdles and bumpers.

PAUL TOWNEND

2017: 1-22 (-£14)
2016: 4-18 (+£13)
2015: 4-19 (+£16)
2014: 0-16 (-£16)
2013: 1-14 (-£9)

The 2017 Punchestown festival has to go down as a disappointment for Paul Townend with just one winner from 22 rides, unlike his two previous festivals when booting home eight winners. Townend has been utilised well by his trainer, Willie Mullins, as the duo combined for an impressive tally of 18-102 (+40), though his strike-rate was even better over hurdles (14-80, +£25).

Also on the right side of profit was Robbie Power, who registered a memorable six-timer at the 2017 festival – riding three winners apiece for Colin Tizzard and Jessica Harrington. Power’s long-term record for Harrington here also stands at 10-64 (+£67).

Elsewhere, Mark Walsh is a pilot to look out for when given the task of getting a tune out of a runner to have been beaten 5l to 30l at Cheltenham or Fairyhouse last time (6-22 +£32).

MARKET

Favourites

Punchestown Festival 2008-2017

Clear or joint favouritesW-R%£1
Overall122-38732%-41




Non-handicaps108-27939%+1
Handicaps14-10813%-41
Chases47-15930%-23
Hurdles50-15133%-23
Bumpers25-7732%+6

Followers of the favourite may want to concentrate their efforts in non-handicaps, as the market leader racked up a small profitable return at this meeting since 2008. Punters looking for further clues as to when the jolly delivered in non-handicaps, may want to concentrate on the following areas:

Non-Graded/Listed races: 54-160 (+£35)
Willie Mullins: 55-118 (+£31)
5-7yos: 74-167 (+£27)

Second favourites

Punchestown Festival 2008-2017

Second fav (and joint)W-R%£1
Overall61-38316%-63




Non-handicaps47-28217%-61
Handicaps14-10114%-2
Chases30-15919%+9
Hurdles24-15416%-42
Bumpers7-7010%-29

Although second favourites produced a poor overall record here, a profit was actually shown via those runners in chases (30-159 +£9), while giving those well beaten last time by over 15-30l another chance, as they bounced back to offer value at 14-64 (+£21).

Big prices

While there will be plenty of opportunities to hit a big-priced winner across the five days of Punchestown, there haven’t been many winners at 20/1 or bigger during the last 10 years. Indeed, with just a strike-rate of 1% (33-2440), punters seeking such riches may need deep pockets. However, one alternative way of trying to hit a nice return is to get involved with a Placepot.

PLACEPOT

Dividends from 2013-2017

Day one: €24; €272; €930; €476; €315 – average: €403
Day two: €143; €496; €139; €110; €1,127 – average: €403
Day three: €104; €287; €4; €839; €44 – average: €256
Day four: €920; €95; €65; €54; €224 – average: €272
Day five: €1,296; €59; €19; €413; €1,668 – average: €691

The biggest payout at the 2017 Punchestown Festival came on day five – a card that has recently been switched from day two. With that in mind, the following analysis provides some pointers surrounding the individual races on day five:

3m Cross Country Chase:

Of the 19 placed runners since 2008…
16 were Irish-bred
15 had no official rating
14 were 5-10yos
13 returned in the 9/2 to 14/1 range
10 were trained by Enda Bolger
Three favourites were placed

3m6f Handicap Chase:

Of the 39 placed runners since 2008…
36 carried 9st10lb to 11st2lb
35 were officially rated 132 or less
33 returned 16/1 or shorter
11 were trained by W Mullins
Four favourites/joint-favs were placed

2m2f (Grade 1) Mares Champion Hurdle:

Of the 23 placed runners since 2008…
20 were Irish or French-bred
19 were non-winners last time
15 ran in a Graded race last time
15 arrived via Fairyhouse, Aintree or Cheltenham last time
Five favourites were placed

2m (Grade 1) Four Year Old Hurdle:

Of the 26 placed runners since 2008…
24 were French or Irish-bred
20 returned 10/1 or shorter
19 arrived Aintree or Cheltenham
18 were officially rated 131 or higher
18 ran in a Grade 1 last time
10 were trained by W Mullins
Three favourites were placed

3m1f (Grade B) Pat Taaffe Handicap Chase:

Of the 32 placed runners since 2009…
27 never ran in a Grade 1 or Grade 2 last time
25 carried 10st13lb or less
23 were 8-9yos
Four favourites were placed

2m4f (Grade B) Handicap Hurdle:

Of the 40 placed runners since 2008…
36 made the top three during last three runs
34 had a maximum of seven handicap runs
31 finished seventh or better last time
30 arrived via Aintree, Cheltenham, Cork or Fairyhouse
23 ran in a Grade 2, Grade 2 or Listed race last time
Willie Mullins had 7 placed

SIRES

The table below lists the leading sires in all races at Punchestown since 2013, including a breakdown of their strike-rate on contrasting ground, plus favoured distances.

Sire Total P/L (£1) 2m-2m2f 2m4f-2m6f 3m-3m1f 3m4f+ Gd/fm Sft/hvy
Oscar35-278+2911-9614-9810-720-114-5014-126
Presenting31-335-16411-12210-1187-732-169-7314-158
Beneficial30-363-13611-14711-1306-611-156-6617-179
Flemensfirth29-293-11110-10913-1256-440-86-3514-162
Milan25-295-1347-10811-1114-531-172-5415-154
Kings Theatre19-193-7410-834-675-40--4-386-69
Westerner17-152-338-796-542-17--3-2313-73
Robin Des Champs16-79-207-417-302-80-12-99-40
Definite Article15-101+485-547-302-131-24-312-28
Stowaway12-112-616-545-501-8--2-167-58
Old Vic11-116-271-283-454-323-91-238-56
Kayf Tara10-100-627-472-311-180-31-146-34
Shantou10-114-582-476-502-140-31-127-62
Network10-47-219-300-100-6--3-86-20

Although Oscar is a sire whose progeny returned a healthy level stakes profit at this track, his numbers have dwindled here in recent years (just 2-49 since 2017), suggesting it could pay to consider other stallions who have produced more winners at Punchestown in recent months…

Last 12 months at Punchestown

Sire W-R £1
Flemensfirth 10-68 (-£12)
Beneficial 8-75 (-£20)
Milan 7-64 (-£5)

Leading the stats here during the last 12 months is Flemensfirth, whose runners remain versatile in terms of both ground and distance, though better ground seem to bring the best out of his stock. Flemensfirth also holds a host of exciting entries for the festival, including the improving, Ballyward, who goes for Wednesday’s Irish Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle over 3m.

Presenting is also enjoying a good 2017/18 jumps season in Graded events at all racecourses…

2017/18 jumps season – Graded races

Sire W-R £1
Flemensfirth 13-105 (-£14)
Saddler Maker 10-35 (-£5)
Oscar 9-77 (+12)
Milan 8-56 (-£7)
Beneficial 8-87 (-£12)

Apart from Presenting, another stallion who sired plenty of Graded winners this season is Saddler Maker, while both Milan and Beneficial are two others who sent out plenty of winners at Punchestown during the last 12 months. Milan has an interesting son in Monbeg Notorious, an improving novice chaser who found the Irish National too far last time, but could bounce back in Tuesday’s Champion Novice Chase over 3m.

PROFILING

Knowing which running style is best suited to Punchestown across the five days may also prove a key in the battle to beat the bookies. The following list is a collection of form comments taken from the last three year’s festivals here, highlighting some interesting patterns.

2017                           
Wins     
Runners per race
Led77 7 8 9 9 10 12
Prominent/tracked pace176 7 7 7 7 7 8 8 10 10 12 13 13 14 15 17 25
Mid division/held up136 9 10 11 12 12 16 18 19 23 24 25 25
2016                           
Wins   
Runners per race
Led75 5 6 7 9 11 12
Prominent/tracked pace176 7 8 9 9 9 10 10 11 11 13 14 15 17 17 25 25
Mid division/held up136 6 11 12 13 15 16 17 21 23 24 24 25
2015WinsRunners per race
Led74 5 6 7 11 16 18
Prominent/tracked pace146 8 8 9 11 13 13 15 21 22 22 24 25 25
Mid division/held up165 8 9 10 10 11 11 13 14 16 17 19 20 25 25

Those up with the pace found it hard to dictate in the bigger, competitive fields, with no front-runner managing to triumph from 21 races featuring 20 runners or more.

Such a poor record for speedy types naturally made way for those ridden more patiently ridden, with 20 of the 32 races with 16 runners or more going to a horse from the rear or held up. Front-runners did fare much better in smaller fields, however, with 19 of the 21 winning front-runners coming in races with 12 runners or less.

The ground also proved a vital factor as to which running style came out best, with drier ground favouring front/prominent runners, while softer ground favoured hold up runners.

Track specialists

While it paid to keep on the right side of runners ridden correctly according to the field size and ground, it can also prove handy to respect those already proven around this right-handed venue. Therefore, take note if any of the following “specialists’” turn up at this year’s fixture…

HorsePunchestown formWin %
Faugheen11112183%
Un De Sceaux111275%
On The Fringe1F1111571%
Jezki1121260%
Sizing John421131157%
Love Rory0011312300227%

(Only horses with three or more course wins that raced this season)

Handicaps

While studying running styles and course specialists is a good way of finding value at the festival, a few more clues are required for dealing with the ultra-competitive handicaps.

One approach is to simply side with trainer, Willie Mullins, whose runners returned an impressive tally of 24-187 (+£55) level stakes profit in handicaps at this meeting – Open Eagle took the 2m4f Handicap Hurdle at 20/1 on the final day in 2017.

Another approach could be to look out for handicappers that arrived via the Fairyhouse Easter festival having been beaten 10l or less, as they gained compensation here at 15-124 (+£34).

FORM

Another clue to finding winners at this year’s five-day festival came courtesy of those to have already run at the three major spring festivals staged prior to Punchestown, namely Cheltenham, Aintree and Fairyhouse. A glance at the list below shows which courses, or a combination of courses, proved most effective…

Spring Festival Form

Cheltenham: 89-557 (16%) -£124
Aintree: 33-323 (10%) -£124
Fairyhouse: 65-943 (7%) -£275

Cheltenham and Aintree: 25-161 (16%) -£21
Cheltenham and Fairyhouse: 12-132 (9%) -£35

With so many qualifiers, it’s not surprising that all three venues provided a level stakes loss, though runners to have run at both Cheltenham and then Aintree returned the best-strike rate and return. As for which specific races provided a clear pointer towards Punchestown, then the list below highlights such key events…

9 Punchestown winners since 2005 came via:
Triumph Hurdle (Chelt): 3rd, 2nd, 2nd, 2nd, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 9th, Fell
Champion Bumper (Chelt): 1st, 7th, 10th, 1st, 2nd, 4th, 4th, 7th, 19th
Cross Country Chase (Chelt): 3rd, 3rd, 1st, 2nd, 5th, 8th, 7th, 11th, 5th

8 winners:
Champion Chase (Chelt): 2nd, 4th, 1st, 1st, 2nd, 2nd, 4th, 6th

7 winners:
Cheltenham Gold Cup (Chelt): 1st, 4th, 2nd, 3rd, 8th, 1st, 1st
Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (Chelt): 5th, 13th, 1st, 3rd, 4th, 10th, 1st
Champion Hurdle (Chelt): 7th, 1st, 4th, 1st, 1st, 3rd, 1st
Mares' Hurdle (Chelt): 1st, 1st, Fell, 1st, 1st, 1st, 1st

6 winners:
Powers Gold Cup (Fairy): 2nd, 4th, 5th, 6th, PU, PU
County Hurdle (Chelt): 2nd, 1st, 12th, PU, 2nd, 7th

5 winners:
Hunter Chse (Fairy): 1st, 2nd, 8th, 9th, BD
3m Nov Hcp Hdle (Fairy): 3rd, 11th, 11th, Slipped, 8th
Arkle Chase (Chelt): 1st, 1st, 1st, 6th, 8th, PU
2m Hcp Hdle (Fairy): 6th, 3rd, 4th, 6th, 10th
Mares Nov Hdle (Fairy): 1st, 2nd, 2nd, 3rd, 5th

4 winners:
Irish Grand National (Fairy): 4th, PU, PU, Unseated
2m1f Hcp Chse (Fairy): 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th
Gr2 2m4f Nov Hdle (Fairy): 2nd, 2nd, 4th, Fell
Neptune Nov Hurdle (Chelt): PU, 2nd, 1st, 9th
Albert Bartlett Nov Hurdle (Chelt): 10th, PU, 4th, 3rd

Several handy clues can be found via the above stats, with Cheltenham’s Glenfarcas Chase (Cross Country Chase) providing nine winners here since 2005, though only one of them actually won at Cheltenham. This year’s renewal looks well up to scratch too, having been won by the subsequent Grand National winner, Tiger Roll.

Cheltenham’s Champion Bumper also provided nine Punchestown winners, as did the Triumph Hurdle, none of whom actually won at Cheltenham – seven finished runner-up, third or fourth at Prestbury Park, including Bapaume in 2017. As for this year’s Triumph Hurdle qualifiers, then runner-up, Mr Adjudicator, looks a solid proposition for the Four Year Old Hurdle on the final day.

Last time out tracks

While Aintree, Cheltenham and Fairyhouse were mentioned as three dominant tracks to have historically provided over 200 Punchestown winners during the last 10 years, there were several alternative courses to have supplied a fair share of Punchestown winners. Others proved worthy of swerving.

Track W-R % £1
Cheltenham91-59515%-140
Fairyhouse79-11487%-348
Aintree33-32410%-125
Punchestown18-2796%-73
Gowran Park15-1878%-9
Cork12-2904%-197
Navan11-1976%-78
Leopardstown11-1736%-33
Limerick11-2774%-142

Cheltenham now leads the table in terms of winners provided at Punchestown during the last 10 years, which may have something to do with runners enjoying a longer break than those from Aintree/Fairyhouse.

Having identified which tracks are most likely to provide a majority of winners at the 2018 Punchestown festival, it’s worth taking a look at where Punchestown winners finished last time.

Last time out W-R % £1
Won102-75214%-199
Runner-up50-5529%-178
Third35-4997%-267
Fourth & fifth51-7677%-201
Sixth to 11th51-11295%-539
12th to 23rd4-3551%-255
Brought down/fell/pulled up27-5145%-220
Unseated6-817%-8

It may come as no surprise to learn that those who made the top two last time fared best at Punchestown – indeed they struck almost twice as often as those that finished third to fifth last time out. However, what may help save a few quid is avoiding runners that finished 12th or worse last time, as they connected just four times from 355 attempts.

As for the aforementioned runners that made the top two last time, then the following list shows which trainers and jockeys proved most profitable with such qualifiers.

First or second last time W-R % £1 stake
W Mullins56-20328%+56
Mrs J Harrington9-5716%+2
P Hobbs6-1443%+27
G Elliott5-4212%+15

There is also a case for combining both methods and following runners that made the top two from Cheltenham at Punchestown, which in hurdles and bumpers here would have returned a record of 23-108 (+£15).

A further x-ray reveals that sticking runners who made the top two from Cheltenham but didn’t run in a novice at Prestbury Park gave a return of 30-83 (+£20), while when it comes to following purely Cheltenham winners here, then stick to those that won with some authority at Cheltenham – those that won by 1-4l followed-up here at 27-65 (+£20), compared to those that won by less than 1l at 3-27 (-£11).