Wicklow is worth an each way punt
Brave call can pay dividends for leader Mullins
There is only going to be one horse on everybody's lips at Punchestown today and that's Samcro.
Gordon Elliott's unbeaten superstar steps out of novice company for the first time this afternoon to take on the big boys in the Champion Hurdle, where he is likely to go off an odds-on shot and rightly so.
Everything he has done has been massively impressive and with consumate ease and he is going to be dining at the top table for his whole career.
He has done everything that's been asked of him and has already bagged a pair of Grade Ones this season, including the Neptune at Cheltenham, beating Black Op and Next Destination, who have both come out since and won their own Grade Ones.
The question is, do we want to take odds-on about a novice in open company for the first time?
Probably not, so the value call is to try find one to fill the places at a bigger price, and that one is WICKLOW BRAVE (EW, 5.30).
As we have seen all week, Willie Mullins has his string in top order and he saddles five of the eight runners here, with Melon up there contending with Samcro for favouritism after his Cheltenham Champion Hurdle second.
Wicklow Brave never got involved that day with the heavy ground undoubtedly his undoing, but he can get much closer today and can at least fill the places.
Remember, he won this last season off the back of a poor Cheltenham run and has been mixing it with the big boys on the Flat in the meantime, so the talent is undoubtedly there and at 14/1 he rates excellent each-way value.
The other Grade One of the day doesn't look all that strong with Pallasator heading the betting, and a small investment on DEBUCHET (6.05) is recommended.
Mags Mullins thinks the world of this lad who, despite finishing ninth, wasn't all that far behind Summerville Boy in the Supreme at Cheltenham.
He is still getting the hang of things over hurdles, having had just three runs, two of which came in the hottest contests, and he could easily take this if Danny Mullins can hold on to him and produce him late.
Another one at a big price who can run well is A RATED (4.20) on his first run for the top-class Henry de Bromhead. This smart seven-year-old picked up a couple of Beginners' Chases at the back end of the summer last year before failing to fire in a Grade Three behind Death Duty in October.
Since then, he has made the switch to one of the best trainers around and could very easily be well treated off a mark of 143.
De Bromhead also takes a very valuable 5lbs off A Rated's back with Dylan Robinson in the plate and he should be bang there.
The only Irish trainer to win the Salessense International Novice Hurdle in the last 10 years is Willie Mullins (Philip Hobbs and Nicky Henderson have both taken it too) and he saddles three this evening, with DEAL D'ESTRUVAL (7.10) given another chance.
He looks well treated by the conditions despite a below-par run at Cheltenham, and he can strike another blow in the trainers' championship race for his handler.
Prior to Cheltenham he looked on the up, but we can forgive a horse one poor run and he had previously only given way to a blot on the handicap and ridiculously well-backed Off You Go in the Coral Hurdle at Leopardstown.
3.40 ALPHA MALE
4.20 A RATED
4.55 BONNY KATE
5.30 WICKLOW BRAVE
7.10 DEAL D’ESTRUVAL
7.45 PRESS CONFERENCE