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  • Punchestown Champion Novice Chase: Andy Gibson Reviews One Of The Last Grade One Races Of The Season

Punchestown Champion Novice Chase: Andy Gibson reviews one of the last Grade One races of the season

As the curtain falls on another spectacular National Hunt season, racing analyst Andy Gibson has taken the time to pick the bones out of one of the last big races at the recent Punchestown Festival.

Punchestown 18:35 April 25

Dooley Champion Novice Chase (3 miles 60 yards on good/soft)

Six runners went to post for this Grade One renewal, with the 9/4 favourite Journey With Me falling at the 12th obstacle, leaving 7/1 shot Feronily to power home ahead of the rallying Appreciate It.
Andy Gibson takes a closer look at each horse's performance:


It is very difficult to put a mark next to the quality of the form of Feronily here. The runner-up was stepping up to compete over three miles so any comparison between this race and Appreciate It's effort at the Cheltenham Festival is precarious at best.
The runner-up also ran just 16 days ago at Fairyhouse and may have regressed due to that run or was possibly in the best of form because of it. Either is equally likely.
For his part, Feronily can be marked up on account of this being just his second try over fences; furthermore, the runner-up was competing for the sixth time over the larger obstacles and the 15th time under rules.
Conversely, the winner was running for the sixth time under rules and just the fourth over obstacles, and he jumped well compared with most of his rivals and looks a natural chaser based on this one performance.
Things could easily go either way at this early stage of his career, but the majority of pundits will tend towards it being upwards only for this horse from hereon in. This is not always how it happens with any horse trying a new code for just the second time; even when they have performed to a high level as is the case here.
On balance, I would suggest that the percentage call is for him to do well as a chaser; nonetheless, the market will almost inevitably rate him higher than his overall profile merits, at least in the short term.

Appreciate It

For the third race in a row Appreciate It hung badly left and looked less than straightforward in the finish, suggesting that maybe they will find a physical problem with him over the summer.
Perhaps he has an issue with his breathing, but whatever the reasons for him hanging when under pressure, I do hope the Mullins team find something to work on with him.
Paul Townend really talked him up as a chaser earlier this season and intimated that he was close to the top, if not at the top of the pecking order as a novice chaser.

James Du Berlais

I think we have seen enough to know that James Du Berlais is not going to be a top-class chaser. He will certainly have to improve significantly on his novice chase season to be competitive at the highest-level next season.
There is a hint in his profile that whatever he achieves first time out, he may not improve upon thereafter, and he has been beaten here by Appreciate It by a similar margin as in their Cheltenham Festival run behind Stage Star.
Maybe they have both improved similarly for the extra half-mile or regressed at the same rate - either is equally likely.

Classic Getaway

If we took this race in isolation we might conclude that Classic Getaway did not stay this three-mile trip. In a race full of Mullins' runners he was the stable's third string and the owner's second-best hope.
He was very strong in the market and may improve more than most as, like the winner, this was only his second try over fences.

Journey With Me

Journey With Me has now failed to complete the course in two of his five chases and his jumping lacked fluency in at least one of the other three chases.
He made a serious blunder at the ninth fence and was then particularly slow at the next and then, after jumping the 11th fence well he came down at the 12th without appearing to be under any pressure.
He was a bit of a talking horse as a novice hurdler and his reputation and market support has tended to overstate what he has actually achieved on the racecourse.

Sir Gerhard

Sir Gerhard attracted plenty of market support despite having his stamina to prove for this distance.
Not for the first time, he did not jump well enough to get competitive. Although apparently he returned with a cut on his right-hind upper cannon.

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