The Punchestown Festival is always one of the highlights of the entire season on either side of the Irish Sea. While it is a sickener not to be riding there this week, I’ll be watching it very closely and hopefully will be seeing some big performances from horses I can look forward to getting back on next season.
The main event of the opening day is the BoyleSports Champion Chase (5.30). Min looks the one to beat based on what he did at Aintree, but he’s been busy enough and Un De Sceaux might just put it up to him.
He comes into this after having just two runs this season and operates very well around this track. Any rain that comes will obviously be a big help to him. I’d have been likely to be on Hell’s Kitchen and while his run in the Queen Mother Champion Chase would give him a squeak, he was disappointing at Aintree last time and needs to bounce back in a big way.
The first Grade 1 of the week is the Herald Champion Novice Hurdle (4.20) and it looks like a cracking race. It is hard to pick holes in what Klassical Dream did at Cheltenham and he is clearly going to be very hard to beat, but I would have really been looking forward to riding the Nicky Henderson-trained Champagne Platinum against him.
Although his two wins over hurdles have been at a much lower level than this, he’s a lovely horse that has the potential to be up to this level. While time will tell whether he’s up to it at this at this stage of his career, we should learn plenty about him in it. Looking further ahead, he’s one to really look forward to over fences in the future.
The other Grade 1 on the day is the Dooley Insurance Group Champion Novice Chase (6.40). Much of the focus is likely to be on Delta Work and A Plus Tard, but I’d give Getabird a great chance.
He was as good as any of these over hurdles and is coming here a fresh horse after skipping options at left-handed tracks with a view to coming here instead. Stepping him up to three miles is an interesting move for him and I think he’ll get the trip. I think he’s coming in under the radar and might just be the one.
Moving onto day two, the big one of the whole week is the Coral Punchestown Gold Cup (6.05). Kemboy has been impressive in his last two wins, but he has had the races run to suit on both occasions. I think Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Al Boum Photo is the one. He really impressed me there and he doesn’t have many miles on the clock this season, so there must be a great chance that he can reproduce his Cheltenham form here. If he can do that, he’ll be very tough to beat.
The Irish Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle (5.30) will focus on the form of the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival with the first three from that all re-opposing here.
However, they all had hard races there and Carefully Selected is the one I’d go for. He has had a very light campaign and has been targeted at this. While his maiden hurdle win wasn’t overly impressive, he showed last year in bumpers that he is a high-class horse. He’d be my pick.
The Grade 1s on day two are rounded off by the Racing Post App Champion INH Flat Race (6.40) and I think it’s fair to say it isn’t a vintage renewal of the race. The one I’d side with is the Dermot McLoughlin-trained Santa Rossa. She raced too freely when third at Aintree and if she settles better, she could well show enough improvement to get seriously involved in this.
The main event on day three is the Ladbrokes Champion Stayers Hurdle (5.30) and it is a hard one to weigh up before declarations as a fair few of the leading contenders could potentially run elsewhere during the week.
If Laurina turns up here, I think she could be the one. To me, she looks to be crying out for a longer trip in her races and physically she is the stamp of a stayer. I’d be really interested in her if she runs.
The other Grade 1 on the card is the Ryanair Novice Chase (6.40) and this is one of the races I would have been most looking forward to all week. It promises to see a big clash between Duc Des Genievres and Defi Du Seuil, with the unexposed but exciting Chacun Pour Soi lurking in the background.
I’ve enjoyed a really good partnership with Defi Du Seuil all season and have been really impressed by him. He has got better with each and every start and was very good in the JLT Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. I think he’ll be fine back over this shorter trip.
This track and that there looks to be plenty of pace in the race will all be a help to him. I’d be hopeful that he can round off what has been a great season for him by winning here. It should be a great race.