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Punchestown Festival – Day One Through The Card Selections

Jumps racing is coming to an end for another season, but we’ve still got five fantastic days of racing to look forward to at the Punchestown Festival.

GG Editor Daniel Corbally guides you through his selections & analysis for all 8 races on Day 1 of the Punchestown Festival.

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Odds correct at time of posting – 5pm Monday 24th April

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3.30 Howden Insurance Brokers Mares Novice Hurdle (Listed)

An interesting, yet complicated race to solve. Willie Mullins has claimed five runnings of this race since 2013 and Night And Day could be a significant runner. She made a highly encouraging seasonal debut when running away to land a maiden hurdle by 20 lengths. She was kept away from Cheltenham and made no impression before pulling up at Fairyhouse last time out in a Grade 1 assignment. Henning comes from a useful family that Denis Hogan knows well, but like The Model Kingdom is saddled with 11st 7lbs due to race conditions. This could fall for SHECOULDBEANYTHING (4/1 generally) who has improved all season and ran a blinder to finish sixth in the Mares’ Novice Hurdle at Cheltenham and this trip looks to be her optimum at the moment. A prominent position early-doors should see her in a positive light.

Howden Insurance Brokers Mares Novice Hurdle (Listed Race)

4.15 KPMG Champion Novice Hurdle (Grade 1)

Not quite as tricky to solve as the previous race, as FACILE VEGA (4/6 generally) is a short-price with good reason. He was clearly used incorrectly at Leopardstown and put that right with a strong performance in the Supreme where he was just run out of it by Marine Nationale. With nothing of that quality in here today, Facile Vega looks to have a golden opportunity to go one better than his Cheltenham showing. He should still have the measure of Diverge (3rd) & Il Etait Temps (5th), both of whom were in behind at Cheltenham.

KPMG Champion Novice Hurdle (Grade 1)

4.50 Killashee Hotel Handicap Hurdle 

No shortage of live chances in here and we’re back in racing’s tricky territory! Tekao went off favourite for the Boodles at Cheltenham but was inconvenienced by false starts and the rough and tumble nature of the race, both he & Mark Walsh tried in vain to make ground but they looked to have lost the race a long way from home. He’s in against his elders today and will probably have to improve a little having missed an intended target recently with a dirty scope. Willien Mullins has another hope in the race in the shape of CASH BACK (18/1 generally). He reverted to hurdling this season and ran very well in his three starts this year, finishing behind classy-stablemates, Echoes In Racing & Mister Policeman. Kieran Callaghan should know his partner well at this stage and with an attacking ride can certainly out-run those double figure odds. Merlin Giant represents the ultra shrewd Emmet Mullins and has been placed at the fore of the market having won his last start in impressive fashion and he arrives fresh from that run in December, this may however be a sighter for Galway later in the year given the owners. Brazil is another worthy of inclusion, he took the measure of Gaelic Warrior in last year’s Boodles and although disappointed when last seen over hurdles, he had excuses (two-runner race) and has had a run on the flat recently which should have left him spot on for this assignment.

Killashee Hotel Handicap Hurdle (Grade B)

5.25 William Hill Champion Steeplechase (Grade 1)

ENERGUMENE (1/3 generally) is the star attraction on the opening day and could quite conceivably be shorter than his opening odds of 1/3. He banished any lingering questions about his lack-lustre Clarence House display by scooting-in by double digits to defend his Champion Chase crown. He’s 9lbs clear on ratings from his nearest rival and stablemate, Gentleman De Mee and should have the measure of this field with relative ease. If you’re not a short-odds player, Chacun Pour Soi (33/1) may offer some value in the each-way (2 places) or betting without the favourite markets. The Rich Ricci runner was runner-up in this contest last year and won it in 2021.

William Hill Champion Chase (Grade 1)

6.00 Goffs Defender Bumper 

Not a lot of form to go on here, SPECULATRIX (5/2 generally) arrives on the back of a win and that experience could prove a huge advantage. The No Risk At All mare escapes a penalty given the conditions of the race and also benefits from Harry Swan’s 5lbs claim. Predators Gold represents Willie & Patrick Mullins, and if nothing else commands respect on that basis. He makes his debut in the Gigginstown silks and should be monitored. Farland is another debutante in the field and takes the eye on breeding, he’s a half-brother to Minella Cocooner, and hails from Sean Doyle who knows how to ready one.

6.35 Dooley Insurance Group Champion Novice Steeplechase (Grade 1)

Another Mullins dominated affair in-store here. With Sir Gerhard and Appreciate it snapping at the heels of Journey With Me for favoritism. But this could go to the fresher horse in CLASSIC GETAWAY (9/2 generally). The Cheveley Park owned Getaway gelding was very impressive last time out at Gowran back in November. He took the measure of Minella Cocooner that day and although off since, will likely be primed to the minute by Willie Mullins. He steps up to 3miles for only the second time under rules having won his point over that trip. He won here over this course over hurdles and went close in a handicap at the Festival at this time last year.

Dooley Insurance Group Champion Novice Chase (Grade 1)

7.10 Kildare Hunt Club Cross Country Steeplechase for the Ladies Perpetual Cup

Vital Island was run down after the last in 2021 by Singing Banjo, but put that right when scoring in this contest last year. On the latter occasion he had enough in the tank to fight off Good Bye Sam for the Willie & Patrick Mullins duo. He’s taken out a couple of Points in his last two runs and although now 11 he arguably arrives in better form to this year’s assignment. Jet Fighter has recent form under rules having placed twice in a couple of handicap chases for Brian Ellison before his move to Peter Maher. Since arriving to Maher he’s taken out a point and the trainer knows what it takes to win this having taken the contest in 2012 & 2017. Another master trainer who needs no guides on how to win this is Enda Bolger, he’s landed this prize on less than seven occasions since 2011 and his representative DE NORDENER (11/4 generally) gets the vote. He’s young for this game at only seven years of age and is still relatively unexposed. As you’d expect for a JP McManus runner, Derek O’Connor comes in for the ride and has ridden the selection to win a between the flags and although disappointing last time out, that was his first run since finishing fifth in this contest last year (when 7/4F) and he may have needed that. Hopefully with the cobwebs blown away he can go closer than last year. 

Kildare Hunt Club Cross Country Chase for the Ladies Perpetual Cup

7.45 Oak Lodge Landscapes Flat Race

Master Otis (4th)and Dollar Nolimit (3rd) re-oppose here, so if Speculatrix wins earlier in the card those two would have to take a large chunk of attention. The former has since finished second, in-front of Gabriel Ranger. Dollar Nolimit was warm in the market that day and can certainly improve for the experience. Ankud has been expensive to follow thus far, turned over twice at short odds he would need to find more. Peter Fahey isn’t normally far away from the board in these Festival Bumpers and although he’s not had Downmexicoway too long (won his point in February), he could well come in to the reckoning with third third home boosting that form. However a chance is taken on TOM PEPPER (33/1 generally), a rare National Hunt runner for Kevin Prendergast. The selection is unraced thus far but has plenty of winners on his page; The Abbey, Duck Egg Blue, Blue Petal all won for Kevin Prendergast before moving on with Cristal Breeze also winning for William Haggas. He could put up a bold show at a big price.

Oak Lodge Landscapes Flat Race


3.30 Punchestown – SHECOULDBEANYTHING (4/1 generally)

4.15 Punchestown – FACILE VEGA (4/6 generally)

4.50 Punchestown – CASH BACK (18/1 generally)

5.25 Punchestown – ENERGUMENE (1/3 generally)

6.00 Punchestown – SPECULATRIX (5/2 generally)

6.35 Punchestown – CLASSIC GETAWAY (9/2 generally)

7.10 Punchestown – DE NORDENER (11/4 generally)

7.45 Punchestown – TOM PEPPER (33/1 generally)

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