Vicente impresses The Duke as Punchestown looms

After putting Vicente in the betting portfolio for the Grand National, unfortunately I was put off by his fall at Aintree to back him at Ayr in the Scottish Grand National. Bad decision.

Paul Nicholls’s chaser jumped round like I expected he might have done a couple of weeks ago and left me banging my head against the wall in frustration for losing the faith. Such is the life of a punter.

That win for Vicente has put Paul Nicholls in touching distance of Nicky Henderson. He still has an outside chance at the trainers’ title, but basically he would have to win everything this week and hope Nicky draws a total blank.

Hopefully we won’t draw a blank when it comes to the big races at Punchestown and the first Classics of the season at Newmarket next week.

We saw some solid pointers for the latter over the past few days, particularly Eminent in the Craven Stakes and the first two home in the Greenham Stakes, Barney Roy and Dream Castle.

Eminent recorded the fastest time in the Craven for half a century and looks to have solid claims for the 2000 Guineas, but it was Barney Roy who really floated my boat.

The fact the front pair pulled clear in the Greenham suggests they might both be something special. Dream Castle might find his place in sprints later in the season. What is clear is that 2000 Guineas favourite Churchill has some real competition to beat at Newmarket.

I’m looking forward to the first couple of days at Punchestown Festival. Un De Sceaux will be a tough nut to crack in the Champion Chase, but Fox Norton and God’s Own will give it a good go.

Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Sizing John will look to cap a memorable season for his team in the Punchestown Gold Cup.

It will be fascinating to see whether Coneygree can show his talent again. After numerous injuries and setbacks, it will be some training performance if he won. At the prices though, Djakadam looks decent value and I’m willing to chance that he could reverse the form on the previous Cheltenham Gold Cup champions. Good luck and happy punting.

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