Punchestown puts focus on quality as Gigginstown dominate again
Punchestown racing manager Richie Galway admitted it is not ideal to see Gigginstown responsible for 13 of the 19 entries in the pair of Grade 2s on the Sunday's card but stressed that he prefers to see quality over quantity.
The Grade 2 Craddockstown Novice Chase attracted eight entries at Tuesday's five-day stage but all bar two of those are owned by Gigginstown, including the likely odds-on favourite Identity Thief, so a small field looks a strong possibility.
It is a similar story in the Grade 2 Florida Pearl Novice Chase with RSA Chase ante-post favourite Alpha Des Obeaux spearheading a seven-strong entry from Gigginstown. Of the remaining four, Jetstream Jack and Space Cadet are trained by Gordon Elliott but he might be unwilling to pitch either in against stablemates Lieutenant Colonel, Ball D'Arc or A Toi Phil, who are all owned by Gigginstown, so another small field looks on the cards.
Gigginstown's dominance is becoming a recurring theme as they had three of the seven runners in the JNwine.com Champion Chase at Down Royal this month, three of the seven runners in the Grade 2 Titanic Belfast Chase on the same card and two of the four runners in the WKD Hurdle the previous afternoon.
“It is obviously not ideal to see so few entries that are not owned by Gigginstown in the Grade 2s but it has been a difficult autumn for trainers and a lot of stables are behind in terms of fitness," said Galway.
"They have been waiting for the rain. Fortunately for us, Gigginstown have never been afraid to pitch their horses in against each other, so I hope that will be the case of Sunday."
He added: “I am a big believer in quality over quantity. The Morgiana has never benefited from big fields. It seems that people want to see a star like Faugheen or Annie Power rather than a big field. There is going to be high-quality action on Sunday no matter what way you look at it and I am really looking forward to the weekend.”
Aidan McGarry, owner relations manager with Horse Racing Ireland, believes the big guns like Gigginstown can still be taken on by the smaller stables and highlighted a pair of recent Grade 2s victories to back up his belief.
“The small man can still compete,” said McGarry. “Just look at Arctic Skipper winning the Fortria at Navan last Sunday for Vincent Halley and Colin Kidd's Rashaan winning the WKD Hurdle at Down Royal. Two big wins from small yards.
“With regard to the two novice chases on Sunday, I would point to two factors. Gigginstown always have a lot of high-class novice chasers is factor number one and factor number two is that so many yards have been held up by the weather. Put the two together and you are left with what has happened on Sunday."
Gigginstown's numbers game
Galway Plate 8 of 22 runners
Kerry National 6 of 18 runners
Munster National 5 of the 18 runners
Irish Daily Star Chase 2 of 6 runners
JNwine.com Champion Chase 3 of 7 runners
Titanic Belfast Chase 3 of 7 runners
WKD Hurdle 2 of 4 runners
Poplar Square Chase 2 of 5 runners
Clonmel Oil Chase 2 of 7 runners