Posted: 20th Apr 2017
A fascinating finale to the Irish National Hunt season is guaranteed at the Punchestown Festival next week. Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott will fight it out to be crowned Ireland’s champion trainer, while a host of the record breaking number of Irish-trained winners at the Cheltenham Festival will reappear over the five-day meeting.
Entries closed for the opening three days of the Punchestown Festival on Thursday and Jessica Harrington’s stable star Sizing John remains on course for Wednesday’s Coral Punchestown Gold Cup.
The seven-year-old, owned by Alan and Ann Potts, will be bidding to become the first ever horse to complete the Gold Cup treble having already won the Stan James Gold Cup at Leopardstown and the Timico Gold Cup at Cheltenham but Sizing John will have to face the likes of 2015 Gold Cup winner Coneygree, dual Gold Cup runner-up Djakadam and Gordon Elliott’s Outlander.
In form jockey Robbie Power is looking forward to renewing his association with Sizing John. Power said; “With Coneygree coming over for the Coral Gold Cup it is a great clash for Punchestown and Irish racing to have with two of the last three Gold Cup winners meeting here, throw in Djakadam and it’s going to be a fascinating race and hopefully all goes well but I wouldn't swap my lad for anything.”
Willie Mullins will have a gap of around €400,000 to close on Gordon Elliott before the final day of the Punchestown Festival if he is to remain Ireland’s champion trainer for a 10th consecutive season and emphatic Ryanair Chase winner Un De Sceaux will spearhead his team on day one in the BoyleSports Champion Chase.
Last years winner, God’s Own, is one of two entries in the race for Tom George, who will also be represented by Sir Valentino and Colin Tizzard’s Cheltenham and Aintree runner-up, Fox Norton, is the other fascinating British-trained representative.
Tizzard’s Aintree Grade 1 winner Pingshou has been supplemented to the Herald Champion Novice Hurdle on the opening day in what promises to be a vintage renewal of the race where Supreme Novices’ Hurdle first and second Labaik and Melon will renew their rivalry.
Also on the opening day, the Noel Meade-trained Disko, who beat Irish Grand National winner Our Duke earlier in the season, will look to return to winning ways in the Growise Champion Novice Chase.
Gordon Elliott’s Cheltenham Festival winner Fayonagh has options of the Grade 1 Racing Post Champion Bumper or the Grade 3 Weatherbys GSB EBF Mares Flat Race on Wednesday, while Elliott has also included the highly regarded Gigginstown-owned duo of Poli Roi and Samcro in the Grade 1 contest.
Elliott’s exciting novice hurdler, Death Duty and the Cheltenham winners Penhill and Presenting Percy all stood their ground for the Grade 1 Irish Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle.
Ireland’s current leading trainer will decide closer to the time which race Apple’s Jade, runs in but among her options is the Ladbrokes Champion Stayers Hurdle which is set to include the first three horses home from the Cheltenham equivalent.
Winner Nichols Canyon will again take on Lil Rockerfeller and Unowhatimeanharry in a race which Annie Power and Vroum Vroum Mag also still hold entries for.
Champion jockey Ruby Walsh is looking forward to a big week as stable jockey to Willie Mullins.
“Punchestown is my local track I’ve been very lucky in the past and hopefully we can be as lucky next week,” Walsh said. “The hard part for me will be picking the right horse in the Grade 1 races but that is an enviable position to be in. I’d say as good a thrill as I got in the last 15 years was riding Un De Sceaux in Cheltenham last month so I can’t wait to ride him again in the BoyleSports Champion Chase on Tuesday. That was a special performance.”
Links to the full list of entries for the opening three days of the Punchestown Festival can be found here: http://bit.ly/2oP9stz
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