Paul Townend returns from injury and previews his rides on day one of the Punchestown Festival
It’s great to be back from injury in time to ride at the Punchestown Festival.
I injured my foot in a fall at Fairyhouse on Easter Sunday. The injury took a bit longer to get over than I had hoped and it’s been fairly hectic since getting treatment, but thankfully I got a lot of support and it’s paid off. I rode work in Willie’s [Mullins] the last couple of mornings and everything feels good.
It was very hard to be sitting on the sidelines through the Grand National festival, but the Punchestown Festival is such a huge week and a very important fixture and I am very glad to be back to take part in it.
I’ve missed plenty of winners through being off and Rachael [Blackmore] has closed the gap in the jockeys’ championship but I’ve a better chance of winning it now I am fit again. My priority is to win my races this week. If I can do that, the championship will take care of itself.
I have three brilliant rides to look forward to on the first day. If they weren’t enough to entice me to do everything I possibly could to get back from injury, I don’t know what could.
I am on Blue Lord (16:15) in the Champion Novice Hurdle. It wasn’t an easy choice between him and Echoes In Rain. I could easily be on the wrong one.
Blue Lord has run well against possibly the two best novice hurdlers in Ireland and England this year in Bob Olinger and Appreciate It. He was second to Bob Olinger and third to Appreciate It and was going to be second in the Supreme Novices’ but for tipping up at the last. That was uncharacteristic of him.
That is solid Grade 1 form, but in saying that Echoes In Rain has done nothing wrong. She has improved every day she has run. Her last run in Fairyhouse was her most impressive and Belfast Banter has gone and franked the form of her win in Naas.
On ratings with the mares’ allowance there isn’t a pound between them so it’ll be a good toss-up between the two.
There is an even bigger stable clash in the Champion Chase in which Chacun Pour Soi meets Allaho.
There is no getting away from the fact that Chacun was disappointing at Cheltenham. He is a horse I love. He gives me a huge feel every day I ride him. He didn’t seem to go through with it at Cheltenham for whatever reason.
I thought he underperformed on the day. Go back to his Leopardstown form and it is rock solid. He was explosive there.
Allaho obviously put in a huge performance when he came back to two and half miles in Cheltenham, but he has to come back another half a mile here and has to prove himself at this trip.
For me Chacun Pour Soi has already done that. Throw in Nube Negra, who finished in front of us in Cheltenham. and we have a real cracker of a race.
The most obvious thing that will happen is that Allaho will go forward again. I will ride Chacun Pour Soi (17:25) like he is the best horse in the race and let the race happen for me because I believe he is a top class two mile chaser.
The Champion Novice Chase could be the race of the season with Monkfish (18:30) and Envoi Allen set to meet. On ratings you can’t rule out Colreevy either. She is getting 7lb, has a rating of 158, she is a Grade 1 winner in Limerick and won at Cheltenham.
But the top two in the market are going to be the showcase horses here. They are possibly the two most exciting horses in racing. It possibly wasn’t expected that they would meet as novices, but they are, and let’s see which way it goes.
Monkfish didn’t show his best at Cheltenham but he still won. I think he might have learned a lot from that. He is back home now.
The De Bromhead team has now had more time with Envoi Allen and got used to him and his ways. That will be a help for them but he is coming off the back of a fall, which is not ideal.
It will be Rachael’s first spin on him on a racecourse. I’m sure she has ridden him a lot at home. I retain all the faith in Monkfish and hopefully we will come out on top.