We’ve already had the Cheltenham Festival and the Grand National in the UK. Now attention turns to Ireland for the Punchestown Festival this week.
There are five fantastic days of racing from the Emerald Isle. But to start with, we’re concentrating on Tuesday and Wednesday’s action.
We’ve previewed five of the biggest races from the opening two days, including the Punchestown Gold Cup…
Tuesday 24th April
Getabird was soundly beaten in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham. But he remains unbeaten in five starts across the Irish Sea.
Mullins’ raider returned to action earlier this month with a 12l success at Fairyhouse.
He’ll come up against Supreme Novices’ third Mengli Khan and Henry De Bromhead’s charge Paloma Blue, here.
Vision Des Flos also holds hopes for Colin Tizzard after appearances at Cheltenham and Aintree.
Mullins saddles the top two in the betting for the Champion Chase with Douvan and Min rated as the market leaders.
The latter has better form claims after a pair of runner-up finishes in the Queen Mother Champion Chase and the Melling Chase at Aintree. The raider has also only suffered defeat once in Ireland.
Un De Sceaux will be hoping to lay down a challenge for after finishing second in the Ryanair Chase at Prestbury Park. He looks the best of the rest, which includes Doctor Phoenix and Special Tiara.
There are claims throughout the field in this Grade 1 contest.
Gordon Elliott’s raider Shattered Love looked highly impressive when winning by 7l in the JLT Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham last month.
But that form was turned on its head on April Fools’ Day when the seven-year-old was downed by a length in the Ryanair Gold Cup by Al Boum Photo.
Both contenders line-up again here. And they’ll be joined by Monalee, who beat Al Boum Photo into second in February, and Rathvinden – also a Cheltenham winner.
Finian’s Oscar and perennial runner-up Jury Duty will also want to stake claims in one of the most wide-open races of the Festival.
Wednesday 25th April
4:55pm Irish Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle
Next Destination and Kilbricken Storm head the market for the 3m Grade 1 contest.
The former has won all three starts in Ireland over hurdles, while the latter impressed at Cheltenham by winning the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at odds of 33/1.
That makes the pair difficult to split. Both have won Grade 1 contests, but it’s Mullins’ raider Next Destination who gets the nod on the basis of more consistent form in his home country.
Lackaneen Leader, who was second to Laurina on her last start, will go up against the boys for the first time over an extended trip. She has each-way claims at a handy price.
Delta Work, Ballyward and Blow By Blow will also want to be among the action.
There are seven top-quality races on the card on Wednesday. But it’s the Punchestown Gold Cup that gets the focus of our attention.
Road to Respect looks set to go off as favourite after a creditable fourth in the Cheltenham Gold Cup last month.
Noel Meade’s seven-year-old also won the Christmas Chase at Leopardstown in December and clearly has the quality to justify his place at the top of the market.
Bellshill will go again after a 1l fifth in the Irish Grand National. Djakadam, Irish Gold Cup winner Edwulf and Ladbrokes Trophy Chase victor Total Recall, also hold entries.
Outlander, who has been pulled up in his last two chances, has each-way claims at best if he can stay the 3½m trip.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing