THE PUNTER'S EYE: Three horses worth backing this weekend
A strong field lines up for the 13:00 at Punchestown on Saturday where the vote goes with Gordon Elliott and The Storyteller. His recent form with Sutton Manor and Livelovelaugh has worked out very well with both winning subsequent races. The Storyteller accounted for those rivals with very little fuss at Fairyhouse on December 2, pulling clear with ease to score by more than four lengths. Livelovelaugh was a cosy winner at Cork last week, while Sutton Manor picked up a facile victory over Burgas at Down Royal on St. Stephen's Day. The Storyteller could face sturdy opposition here in the shape of Mall Dini but he can certainly mix it with this field.
Also running on Punchestown's Saturday card is Willie Mullins' Carter McKay, a scintillating winner at Gowran Park in November, who runs in the 14:05 contest. Having won two National Hunt flat races in 2016 and early 2017, this horse was one of the favourites for the Champion Bumper at last year's Cheltenham festival. However, he disappointed in a 19-length loss to Fayonagh at Prestbury Park and was a further eight lengths behind the same rival at Punchestown last April. He was off the track for seven months after that as he geared up for a hurdles bow, and he made it a good one, slamming his rivals in a 15-length victory at Gowran. The horse that was a distant third that day, Minellafordollars, has gone out and won since, seriously franking the form of Mullins' novice. There's a lot more to come from this one.
Jessica Harrington and Barry Geraghty can combine for a winner in the 14:35 at Fairyhouse on Sunday as Don't Touch It returns to the track. He was excellent last seasons but fell somewhat off the pace in two starts last August. In the most recent of those, he was 17 lengths behind The Game Changer at Ballinrobe. However, last season he was mightily impressive, not least of which when winning a tough race at the Punchestown festival in April. He had a number of subsequent winners behind him that day, and this trip is more in his line. He had three lengths in hand over Dicosimo at Thurles last February on similar ground and over a similar distance, and despite a break since August, can make a good stab at 2018. It bodes well that Barry Geraghty has opted to ride him over any other JP McManus horses in the race, and Jessica Harrington's yard is in tip-top form.