With the National Hunt season edging ever closer, some big names make their first appearances ahead of the fresh jumps campaign this afternoon at Punchestown. Yesterday saw this season’s Champion Hurdle third Zanahiyr make a winning return in a 2m2f Hurdle contest for Gordon Elliott under Jack Kennedy with the duo enjoying a double on the card.
Among the star names in action today at the County Kildare venue are the promising Novice Chaser Hercule Du Seuil, 2021 Gold Cup hero Minella Indo, the winner of the last two cross countries at the Cheltenham Festival, Delta Work, and last year’s Savills Chase winner, Conflated.
Sadly, Champion Bumper winner A Dream To Share has been declared a non-runner in the opening race today with the unbeaten five-year-old having been due to make a hurdling debut.
However, plenty of star power is still on offer with two Grade 3 offerings on the seven-race card. The first of them is for the Novice Chasers at 3:35 with the Willie Mullins-trained Hercule Du Seuil aiming to enhance his impressive overall record of 7 wins from 11 starts.
The JP McManus-owned charge has already plundered a couple of races at this level and looks the one to beat again today, although a couple of rivals will fancy their chances at lowering those famous colors.
John Ryan’s Lucid Dreams has won 4 of his last 6 starts while Senecia turned over Hercule Du Seuil at Ballinrobe in May. Vincent Laurence Halley’s runner did that off level-weights and will be in receipt of 9lbs from the favourite today so there are alternatives out there for those who don’t want to play at short odds in the 3:35 race.
The feature race follows at 4.10 with a whole host of big names taking part in a Grade 3 Chase that will be run over a trip narrowly shy of 3 miles.
Conflated was third in this year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup and returns for the first time since running flat and subsequently being pulled up in the Aintree Bowl won by Shishkin. The 9-year-old’s record when returning from breaks of over 100 days is a concern.
2021 Gold Cup hero Minella Indo has won just once since that famous day at Prestbury Park and that was when the now 10-year-old essentially fell over the line in the Savills New Year’s Day Chase at Tramore. Off the back of that, Minella Indo was pulled up with a circuit still to race in what proved to be a tame defence of his Gold Cup crown.
Delta Work has established himself as an elite cross-country competitor in recent seasons and it’s likely this race is simply being used as a prep for more assaults on such events this season.
With questions hanging over all those big guns, it makes for an intriguing contest.
Today’s card concludes with a Bumper where Willie and Patrick Mullins hold the favourite My Great Mate who won on just his second start at Galway last time out, a win that has since been franked by the second.
Andrew Slattery just missed out in yesterday’s concluding contest with Royal Hollow (2nd) but his Bumper charge this evening Fleur In The Park carries the same colours (Mrs Maragaret O’Rourke) and holds a strong chance after an impressive debut win at Roscommon.
Another trainer who has become a bit of a force in such races is Timothy Doyle with his filly Beauforts Storm winning at Cork during the summer and she will, of course, get weight off the top two in the betting in tonight’s Bumper.