Watch our JPFestival.com TV Punchestown Preview where the panel plus special guests Geoff Banks, UK’s leading independent bookmaker and Tom Thurgood, Channel 4’s blogger and social media whizz will be discussing the races below. Perhaps more than ever they’ll be loads of stars on show at Punchestown Festival 2013 including Sprinter Sacre. You can watch on your mobile or tablet as well as via YouTube. Please let us know your tips and views by posting in the Comments below. Note: You’ll need to be a Free or Community Member to post a Comment – find out more. Tuesday 23 April 2013 Evening Herald Champion Novice Hurdle (Grade 1) Boylesports.com Champion Chase (Grade 1) Growise Champion Novice Chase (Grade 1) Wednesday 24 April 2013 Irish Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle (Grade 1) Bet Online With TheTote.com Punchestown Gold Cup (Grade 1) Thursday 25 April 2013 Ladbrokes World Series Hurdle (Grade 1) Ryanair Novice Chase (Grade 1) Friday 26 Apr 2013 Rabobank Champion Hurdle (Grade 1) Tattersalls Ireland Champion Novice Hurdle
Could Punchestown Festival 2013 be the greatest of all time? Jump racing superstars are set to gather for a season finale celebration.
Sprinter Sacre is the headline act, but what a supporting cast. Hurricane Fly, Quevega, Sir Des Champs, Long Run and Solwhit to name just a few, are set to make this a week to remember.
One man who has to be followed closely is Irish Champion Trainer, Willie Mullins. His horses are regular visitors to the winners enclosure at Punchestown. Over the last three years he has averaged two winners per day at the festival. This year should be no different.
Conditions are set to be testing during the week, with further showers forecast.
The Willie Mullins team will hope to open their account on the opening day with multiple festival winner Champagne Fever. He renews rivalry with Jezki in the Champion Novice Hurdle. Jessica Harrington’s horse came out on top in the Royal Bond back in December, but Champagne Fever got his revenge at Prestbury Park.
This is a tough one to call. I’m of the opinion that Jezki will improve for his Cheltenham run. He is however a speed horse and it is likely that Ruby will adopt similar tactics to those in March, forcing the pace, trying to draw the sting out of his opponents. Soft ground should favour his horse. I fancy a gutsy win for Champagne Fever. But only just.
The star attraction on the opening day is the magnificent Sprinter Sacre. It is wonderful that Irish race fans will get the chance to see him ‘up-close’ in the flesh. At this stage it is unclear as to who will oppose, but the result is inevitable. Simply sit back and admire equine royalty.
The Champion Novice Chase looks likely to see Back In Focus taking on RSA runner-up Lyreen Legend. The staying novice chase division has lacked an outstanding horse this season, so a surprise result is a strong possibility. The field could include Dedigout who has been second and first in his two previous Punchestown Festivals. I’m willing to take a chance that he can ‘out-battle’ his more fancied rivals.
Willie Mullins will be hoping for multiple winners on Wednesday. Call The Police and Briar Hill are two that I strongly fancy. He has no fewer than five horses capable of winning the 3m novice hurdle. But the horse he would most like to see win on Wednesday is Sir Des Champs.
The Punchestown Gold Cup looks a cracker. The Gigginstown team are double-handed with First Lieutenant joining Sir Des Champs.Nicky Henderson sends over the King George winner Long Run, and Captain Chris represents the Hobbs team. There’s also a chance that Sizing Europe will swerve Sprinter Sacre and go for this instead.
Sir Des Champs is my choice to win the race, but I fancy Captain Chris to go very close. Philip Hobbs has a great record at the Punchestown Festival and his horse is far better going right-handed.
Malt Master can give Nicky Henderson and JP McManus a win in the opener on Thursday. He was second at this Festival last season. I fancy Dylan Ross in the 2m handicap chase, whilst Big Shu can confirm himself as the ‘Cross-Country King’ by winning the La Touche Cup.
All this acts as a tasty hors d’oeuvre with a stunning main course to come. The World Hurdle could be the race of the week. The new staying sensation Solwhit takes on the ‘Queen of Punchestown’, Quevega. The two Cheltenham Festival heroes clash in a stunning head-to-head. Solwhit has had a hectic period, winning at Cheltenham and then at Aintree. He will have to be at his very best to have a chance against Willie Mullins star mare. I take the fresher Quevega to edge it in a thriller.
Twinlight can make it another day to remember for Willie Mullins by winning the Ryanair Novices’ Chase.
The winners are set to continue for Ireland’s top trainer on Friday. The ground is set to quash any hope of a Rock On Ruby win in the Champion Hurdle. He needs quick ground if he is to have any chance against the great Hurricane Fly. Another Grade One looks set to go to the Mullins star.
The champion trainer also holds a strong hand in the Champion Novice Hurdle over 2m4f. However, it is the Gigginstown team that appear to have the ‘Ace’ in the pack. Rule The World will be very hard to beat.
The curtain comes down on Saturday, but what a way to finish. Two stars of the future are set to ‘wow’ their audience. Annie Power should storm to victory in the Mares Hurdle, before Our Connor destroys all-comers in the Champion Four Year Old Hurdle.
The Eurythmics were right. Sweet dreams are made of this.
Attheraces.com INH Flat Race, Wednesday and Kildare Post INH Flat Race, Thursday
Well touted and heavily backed ahead of making his debut in the bumper that rounded off Kempton’s Racing Plus Chase card in February, a race that the stable won with Riverside Theatre in 2008, Beat That showed plenty of promise in finishing runner-up in a race when the winner was granted a soft lead from flag fall.
Turning in, the son of Milan was still in fourth and moving well but around 20 lengths behind Such A Legend and, though he got to within 3¾ lengths at the line, he and the rest of the field held little chance of reeling in the winner.
The form of the race has taken a couple of knocks, but the third (5 lengths off Beat That) went on to run well in the Grade 2 at Aintree when finishing sixth and the sixth home Henryville won a Plumpton novice hurdle last month.
Nicky Henderson has enjoyed success in bumpers at this fixture in recent years with Royal Rosa, Itsa Dream and Quantitativeeasing springing to mind and this five-year-old could further enhance that record on Wednesday or Thursday evening.
Champion Novice Hurdle, Tuesday
Unbeaten in four starts over hurdles on home soil prior to Cheltenham, Jessie Harrington’s five-year-old travelled really well in the Supreme and, despite a mistake two out, looked a huge threat approaching the last. Another error didn’t help his chance, but he ran on well and now has 2¾ lengths to find with Champagne Fever (who has other possible engagements through the week) assuming the pair renew rivalry.
The son of Milan had beaten Willie Mullins’ grey in the Royal Bond back in December, when in receipt of 3lbs, and he showed a fine turn of foot that day, so this less demanding track will be in his favour.
With Tony McCoy on the sidelines, it is likely to be either Robbie Power or Barry Geraghty in the saddle, with the later able to boast a 100% record aboard him. Hopefully Champagne Fever and Rule The World, who brings the Neptune form to the table (possible that he will drop back in trip with Un Atout likely to represent Gigginstown over 2m4f), will line up and make the market for Jezki, who is taken to reverse Supreme form.
Goffs Land Rover Bumper, Tuesday and Kildare Post INH Flat Race, Thursday
Willie Mullins won the valuable Goffs Land Rover Bumper in 2006 and 2008 with Glencove Marina and Quiscover Fontaine and, though he holds an entry on Thursday too, it seems more likely that Moyle Park will make his debut for the trainer in this event on the opening day of the festival.
A winner at Leopardstown on Boxing Day for David Harry Kelly, the son of Flemensfirth cost leading owner Rich Ricci no less than £250,000 at the Cheltenham sales in January and looks a lovely long-term prospect.
The horse he beat on debut, Blackmail, came out and won well next time and, though he failed to shine in the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham, he is well thought of by Tony Martin. The five-year-old ought to have learnt plenty for that experience and connections will no doubt have had this meeting in mind for some time with him.
There will be plenty of unknown quantities in opposition, with lots of un-raced horses entered, plus Charlie Swan’s recent impressive Cork winner The Game Changer is another expected to line-up. He travelled really well for Nina Carberry and looks useful, while points winner Marinero is another name to catch the eye having fetched £72,000 at the Brightwells sale at Cheltenham only last week (bought by Mags Mullins), but Moyle Park looked smart on debut and is one to keep onside.
Irish Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle, Wednesday and Tattersalls Ireland Champion Novice Hurdle, Friday
Only fourth in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle last time, Un Atout looks ready for a step up in trip so it is not surprising to see him only entered in the Grade 1s over 3m on Wednesday and over 2m4f on Friday.
Unbeaten in three starts in Ireland prior to the Festival – one from one in bumpers last term and two easy successes over hurdles gained either side of the New Year – the son of Robin Des Champs moved stylishly throughout, until Champagne Fever, My Tent Or Yours and Jezki turned on the taps between the final two flights.
Beaten 18 lengths in the end, he can be expected to improve significantly once upped in distance and looks the ideal type for Friday’s contest over 2m4f. Willie Mullins has stated that both Un Atout and Pont Alexandre will remain in both races until nearer the time, though it is hard to imagine him upping Un Atout straight to 3m having raced only over the minimum trip to date. In any case, Pont Alexandre’s owner has Ballycasey for the 3-miler so it could be that both are forced to run on Friday
Pont Alexandre’s presence with Ruby Walsh on board will ensure Un Atout is a nice price and he is the horse I am most looking forward to seeing this week.
Stephens Green Hibernian Club Hurdle and Orchid Transport Mares Novice Hurdle, Thursday plus Tattersalls Ireland Champion Novice Hurdle, Friday
Twice a winner in bumpers in France, Upsie made a winning Irish debut at Naas in February, despite doing plenty wrong. The five-year-old was a bit keen and failed to jump with much fluency, but still got the job done in taking fashion and she clearly has plenty of natural ability.
The daughter of La Belafre appeals as the type to improve significantly from that initial experience over hurdles and, if she hurdles more slickly (mistake at the last didn’t stop her last time), she is of interest wherever she turns up this week.
Entered in two races on Thursday, she also holds a Grade 1 entry later in the week, but it would be a surprise if she didn’t line up on day two of the meeting with the mares race looking the obvious target.
If taking on the boys in the opening event, which is a contest restricted to those with just one hurdle success to their name, she will find life tougher but shouldn’t be underestimated. There is plenty of stamina on the dam’s side and she finished strongly on debut, so the extra ½ mile should be an issue.