Twelve Cracking Punchestown Grade 1's
The Punchestown Festival is Ireland's Premier National Hunt Meeting and it traditionally brings together all the best Irish Jumps horses for five days of fantastic action. The 2018 Punchestown Festival looks sure to be even more competitive than usual as Gordon Elliott and Willie Mullins have every fit horse in their yards entered as they fight the final battle in the war for the 2017/18 Irish National Hunt Trainers Championship.
Herald Champion Novice Hurdle (Tuesday 4.20)
Willie Mullins has won three of the last four renewals with Faugheen, Douvan, and Cilaos Emery, and Mullins will be hoping Getabird gives him a flying start to the meeting as he tries to claw back Gordon Elliott's €500,000 lead in the trainer's title. Drying ground could be against him though, and he doesn't look a value-bet having been beaten by Mengli Khan and Paloma Blue at the Cheltenham Festival. The latter has been saved for this since and he should like the drying ground.
Herald Champion Novice Hurdle Tip: Paloma Blue
Boylesports Champion Chase (Tuesday 5.30)
With around €270,000 up for grabs in the headline race of the first day of the Punchestown Festival, Willie Mullins looks sure to win the lion's share as he has entered the high-class trio of Douvan, Min, and Un De Sceaux. On ratings, they should finish first, second, and third, especially as they've won 9 of their 10 course starts. The drying ground may have gone against Un De Sceaux. Meanwhile, Paul Townend has chosen to ride Douvan, who should be fresher than Min who ran at Aintree. Always thought to be out of the top-drawer, Douvan can hopefully make amends for his fall in last month's Champion Chase.
Boylesports Champion Chase Tip: Douvan
Growise Champion Novice Chase (Tuesday 6.40)
Monalee ran a cracking race at the Cheltenham Festival and doesn't face his RSA conqueror Presenting Percy this time. He does have to face another Cheltenham Festival winner in Shattered Love though, but that one has since been beaten at Fairyhouse. That run may just have taken the edge off Gordon Elliott's exciting mare, a comment that also applies to the Willie Mullins trained Al Boum Photo, who beat her that day.
Growise Champion Novice Chase Tip: Monalee
Irish Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle (Wednesday 4.55)
Time may tell that Next Destination ran in a very good renewal of the Neptune Investment Hurdle at this year's Cheltenham Festival. He only finished third but the two in front of him where Samcro and subsequent Aintree winner Black Op. The way he stayed on that day also suggested he would relish this step-up to 3-miles. He only just gets the vote from Kilbricken Storm who proved his stamina for this test with a win over decent yardsticks OK Corral and Santini in the Albert Bartlett at the Cheltenham Festival.
Irish Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle Tip: Next Destination
Coral Punchestown Gold Cup (Wednesday 5.30)
Willie Mullins has four horses entered as he bids to win a fourth Punchestown Gold Cup, and it's interesting that Paul Townend stays loyal to Killultagh Vic after that one was pulled up in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. He could have also ridden Djakdam who has finished runner-up in the last three renewals, Total Recall, or Bellshill, with the latter two from two at Punchestown. However, Killultagh Vic's win over Thistlecrack at a previous Punchestown Festival looks a great piece of form and he has the class to win if his jumping doesn’t fall apart. On all known form, Road To Respect is the horse to beat, but his course form is a worry.
Coral Punchestown Gold Cup Tip: Killultagh Vic
Racing Post Champion I.N.H. Flat Race (Wednesday 6.05)
Relegate led home a 1-2-3 for Willie Mullins in the Cheltenham Bumper and Katie Walsh keeps the ride as the 5-year-old bids for a big festival double. Meanwhile, the second and third Carefully Selected and Tornado Flyer take him on again. However, it was the re-opposing Blackbow that was sent-off the shortest of the Mullins raiders at Cheltenham and, despite finishing fifth behind his stablemates, he may be the value with Patrick Mullins staying loyal to him.
Racing Post Champion I.N.H. Flat Race Tip: Blackbow
Ladbrokes Champion Stayers Hurdle (Thursday 5.30)
Penhill could only finish second in the 3-mile novice race at last year's Punchestown Festival but, with the first having not raced since and the third falling on his only subsequent start, it's hard to gauge the merit of that form. However, the next three horses home where Monalee, Al Boum Photo, and Presenting Percy, which suggests the form was strong. Penhill also looked an improved performer when winning the Stayers Hurdle at this year's Cheltenham Festival on his seasonal debut and he should take some beating here.
Ladbrokes Champion Stayers Hurdle Tip: Penhill
Ryanair Novice Chase (Thursday 6.40)
Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary managed to win the Ryanair Chase at this year's Cheltenham Festival and he'll be hoping that Petit Mouchoir or one of his other entries can make it a double in the Ryanair Novices Chase. However, the slick-jumping Footpad will be tough to beat judged on his unbeaten chasing-campaign. Footpad actually ran in the Stayers Hurdle at the meeting last year but has proved the drop to 2-miles is not a problem over fences.
Ryanair Novice Chase Tip: Footpad
Punchestown Champion Hurdle (Friday 5.30)
Willie Mullins has 7 of the 11 entries for the Punchestown Champion Hurdle and, though one or two of them may run in other races, he should still have a formidable hand. That hand includes Champion Hurdle runner-up Melon as well as last year's winner Wicklow Brave. He also has former Champion Hurdler Faugheen who may have found some form with a bit of sun on his back in recent days. However, this race could hinge on the participation of Samcro, as connections could possibly test the Champion Hurdle waters with a view to it making their minds up as to whether he stays over hurdles next season or goes chasing next season.
Punchestown Champion Hurdle Tip: Samcro (if he runs)
Profile Systems Champion Novice Hurdle (Friday 6.05)
Cheltenham winner Laurina lies in wait if Samcro takes up this option and, as she looked really good at Cheltenham, this is not guaranteed to be an easier option. However, it's another Gordon Elliott trained horse that could provide a mini-surprise as the former group-class Pallasator looked more than useful when winning over a similar trip last time.
Profile Systems Champion Novice Hurdle Tip: Pallasator
Irish Stallion Farms Ebf Annie Power Mares Champion Hurdle (Saturday 3.50)
This should be a rematch between the last two winners of the Cheltenham Mares' Hurdle with this year's winner Benie Des Dieux taking on 2016 winner Apple's Jade. Apple's Jade was odds-on to defend her crown this year but, after Gordon Elliott said he made a mistake when not giving her a prep-run, it's interesting you can get odds-against her. Her best form looks a notch above her rivals, and she's taken to win back-to-back renewals.
Irish Stallion Farms Ebf Annie Power Mares Champion Hurdle Tip: Apple's Jade
Aes Champion Four-Year-Old Hurdle (Saturday 4.20)
Farclas and Mr Adjudicator went into many notebooks when they clocked a two-seconds quicker time than Samcro in February and confirmed that deep impression when finishing first and second in the Triumph Hurdle. Farclas was reversing the February form there and, as he's more lightly-raced, he probably has more improvement to come.
Aes Champion Four-Year-Old Hurdle Tip: Farclas