We are set for five days of quality action as the Punchestown Festival rolls into town.
4.15pm Punchestown (Tuesday)
On Tuesday, all eyes will be on SIR GERHARD who will take all the beating . He has oozed class this season, winning the Ballymore Hurdle in facile fashion at the Cheltenham Festival, and on his penultimate start at the Dublin Racing Festival, he pulverised the opposition as they came home in different postcodes.
The one horse to get anywhere near him on both occasions was Three Stripe Life, and subsequently he has gone on to bolt up in Grade 1 company at Aintree. He can land this and possibly then persuade connections that the Champion Hurdle route will be the path to pursue next season.
5.25pm Punchestown (Tuesday)
In terms of two mile contests, the 5.25 really sets the pulse racing. Champion Chase hero Energumene will be looking to back up his impressive performance at Prestbury Park by fending off his four rivals, including stablemate and CHACUN POUR SOI.
In many ways the 10-year-old is a little bit of an enigma, but in Ireland he is absolute mustard and he blew the field in this 12 months ago, leaving the mighty Allaho trailing in his wake. He could still have a lot to give.
Envoi Allen, Captain Guinness and Andy Dufresne complete the quintet in what should be a wonderful spectacle.
6.35pm Punchestown (Tuesday)
There is more Grade 1 action at 6.35pm – will Bob Olinger get the job done? I don’t really know to be honest, but the British raider MILLERS BANK could be overpriced for the Alex Hales team.
He ran his rivals ragged in the Grade 1 Manifesto Chase at Aintree, and he can serve it up to the Irish heavyweights in their backyard.
5.55pm Punchestown (Wednesday)
On to Wednesday – and it is all about the Punchestown Gold Cup at 5.55pm. This should be epic stuff – it is a who’s who of top level talent, with Grade 1 winners a plenty on display.
GALVIN produced an underwhelming display when fourth in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, comfortably beaten behind A Plus Tard. I am not sure more patient than usual tactics worked on that occasion, and for a horse with confirmed stamina, I think he could easily bounce back if ridden positively and looks a bet at the prices. Either way, this really is a race to savour.
6.30pm Punchestown (Wednesday)
The Punchestown Champion ‘Bumper’ at 6.30pm will see the rematch between Facile Vega and American Mike; it was easy work in the end for the Willie Mullins representative and if he can back the performance up again here it will be some sight to behold.
5.25pm Punchestown (Thursday)
VANILLIER could be the joker in the pack on Thursday in the Ladbrokes Champion Stayers Hurdle, and will be my each-way play if he lines up.
A horse with lots of ability as we saw when he won last year’s Albert Bartlett – he just doesn’t enjoy fences. Back over smaller obstacles, I can see him running a big race for the Gavin Cromwell team.
I think ELIMAY should have too much in hand her rivals in the Mares’ Chase on Friday (4.50pm) and expect euphoric scenes if Honeysuckle can land the following race on the card in the Irish Champion Hurdle (5.25). With no tomfoolery, she should be able to extend her unblemished record, making it 16 wins from 16 wins. Expect the roof to come off the stand if Rachael Blackmore can guide one of the modern-day greats into the winners enclosure once more.
The meeting comes to an end on Saturday – where a lot of punters will be expecting to see impressive Triumph Hurdle winner Vauban strut his stuff once more. If the weather holds up and we have drying ground by the end of the week, I think he could end up going off at prohibitive odds for most punters.
It should be a thrilling week, buckle up and enjoy!
* Betting odds correct at the time of publication. All odds subject to changes.