The final jumps festival of the season has arrived and we head to Punchestown for some quality racing over the week ahead.
This is the pinnacle of the Irish jumps season and the raiding party from across the water have increased their numbers in recent seasons.
Nicky Henderson has his largest team to go to battle with this week for many a year.
Our previews this week will be a little snippet on each race as each day is full of graded action and plenty for the punter to get stuck into.
Punchestown Festival Day One
3.40 Kildare Hunt Club Fr Sewan Breen Memorial Chase for the Ladies Perpetual Cup
We start the week over the Cross Country Course in which Enda Bolger is the most feared trainer. This race looks to concern his three runners. The main two owned by JP Mc Manus may be the two to pay most attention to. Blue Templer was second in this race last year and would be my selection to go one better this time around. Youcannotbeserious ridden by Derek O Connor is undoubtedly a classy individual on his form but his stablemate might like the banks a little more than this fella.
4.20 Herald Champion Novice Hurdle (Grade 1)
Klassical Dream winner of the Supreme Novices Hurdle at Cheltenham and Felix Desjy winner of the Grade One Novice at Aintree head the market here. These races after a long season can leave a bit of value lower down the market and for me the horse to side with is Aramon. Those of you who followed my previews at Cheltenham will know this horse has been on my radar for a long time. The ground this week should be perfect for him. He got bogged down in bad ground at Cheltenham and was a little too far off the pace at Aintree. If it turns into a speed test, which I suspect it will, he is definitely the value alternative.
4.55 Kilashee Handicap Hurdle Grade B
The first competitive handicap of the week is the third race on the card and a very intriguing runner down at the foot of the weights is Konitho trained by Joseph O Brien. On his first run for the stable he was very impressive at Naas beating Lethal Steps and Star Max easily. Both the aforementioned horses went on to win after that race to frank the form. Konitho went up in grade twelve days later and ran poorly. He has been freshened up since and gets into this race on a lovely racing weight. Big chance.
5.30 Champion Chase (Grade 1)
The highlight on Day One is the Champion Chase and with all eyes on Min I can see one of his stalemates spoiling the party. Un De Sceaux upset the odds in this race last year when he beat Douvan and I can see the same happening again. Last year, Un De Sceaux went to Cheltenham and then to Fairyhouse but this season he is coming straight from Cheltenham. He will be very fresh. Min on the other hand has been to Cheltenham and Aintree. Paul Townend who is aboard Un De Sceaux might just set his stall out early to see if Min has any chinks in his armour.
6.05 Goffs Land Rover Bumper
This race has thrown up very smart winners over the years and this week we might see another one. The most interesting horse for me in this race is mainly down to the jockey booking. Son Of Camas is trained by Nicky Henderson and he has booked Patrick Mullins to take the ride. We have very little to go on form-wise. This horse will likely be at the forefront of the market but may oblige at a decent price.
6.40 Dooley Insurance Group Champion Novice Chase (Grade 1)
This for me could be the race of the day with A Plus Tard being my selection and nap for Day One. This horse absolutely demolished a very good field at Cheltenham and subsequently went from 144 to 160 in the ratings. The main question of many peoples lips is will he actually get the trip? The way he scampered clear at Cheltenham, there is no doubt in my mind that three mile around Punchestown is right up his street. Rachel Blackmore is having a phenomenal season and this would crown it nicely.
7.15 Sanctuary Sythetics INH Flat Race
Front View is the most interesting runner here after holding Cheltenham bumper aspirations earlier in the season. He went to Gowran first time out and faced Blue Sari in what looked a match race going on the market. Blue Sari bolted clear up the straight to win by eleven lengths and that was one bubble burst. Second time out it was most promising at Navan. Front View got brought down over three furlongs out when he was still going well. It is interesting that connections are back to a bumper and I think it could prove to be a very shrewd move.