Clash of titans is on as Al Boum Photo, Kemboy and Bellshill all go to war in the Coral Punchestown Gold Cup
Supa' stars to clash on Friday as Harrington's stable star Supasundae prepares to take on dual Champion Hurdle winner Buveur D'air following latest forfeit stage
Punchestown is set for one of the clashes of the season with the Cheltenham hero Al Boum Photo and his top class stablemate Kemboy, the two highest rated chasers in Ireland, going head to head in a vintage edition of the Grade 1 Coral Punchestown Gold Cup at Punchestown on Wednesday.
After ending Willie Mullins’ quest to secure Cheltenham Gold Cup glory Al Boum Photo will bid to follow in the footsteps of Kicking King, War Of Attrition and Sizing John by following up in Wednesday’s feature. However, he will have to be at his very best to see off Kemboy who has annihilated his rivals in Grade 1 events at Leopardstown and Aintree on his last two completed starts.
For good measure Mullins is also set to field last year’s winner Bellshill. The high-class Monalee returns to three miles to head a two strong challenge for Henry de Bromhead while Noel Meade relies on the Kerry National winner Snow Falcon and Gordon Elliott runs The Storyteller.
Brian Ellison’s Definitly Red will bid to become the first English-trainer winner of the race since Planet Of Sound prevailed in 2010. Danny Cook takes the mount on Definitly Red who is looking to bounce back from a relatively early exit in the Gold Cup.
"Definitily Red was travelling really well in the Gold Cup at Cheltenham when he was brought down and he's in great form now," Ellison reported on Monday morning. "He is going to Punchestown a fresh horse and he should enjoy the ground the way it is at the moment. We are very hopeful that he could run into a place and I'm hoping for a good run."
Minella Indo, Commander Of Fleet and Allaho, who filled the first three placings in last month’s Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham, renew rivalry in a particularly strong edition of the Grade 1 Irish Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle.
As well as Allaho Willie Mullins fields a fascinating runner in Carefully Selected who was one of the best bumper horses of last season and made a winning debut over hurdles at Limerick last month.
Go Another One, who was fourth in the Champion Bumper here two seasons ago, has done John McConnell proud this season and will bid to make it three black type victories on the spin. The seven-year-old followed up a Grade 3 win at Thurles with a Listed success at Perth last week.
McConnell has once again secured the services of multiple champion jockey Richard Johnson and the trainer is eyeing a fairytale success at his local track.
"I think he is entitled to have a crack at this sort of big race now," McConnell said. "He won very well at Perth and he has come out of that race well. It will be a big ask for him but he's not that far off on ratings and it would be a dream come true for me to have a winner like this at the Punchestown Festival. I went to school in Naas and used to get half days off school to go to Punchestown so it's great to go there now with a horse running in a Grade 1."
A field of ten go to post for the last of Wednesday’s Grade 1s, the Racing Post App Champion I.N.H. Flat Race for the Conyngham Cup.
The field includes two English challengers with Phil Kirby running the recent Ayr winner December Sound while Paul Webber relies on House Island who was a 40/1 winner of a Listed bumper at Newbury last month.
Embittered, who was last seen when finishing third to Envoi Allen in a Grade 2 at Leopardstown, will look to secure a first Punchestown Festival Grade 1 for Joseph O’Brien.
Willie Mullins fields three runners as he looks to win this race for the fifth time in six years and his challenge includes last week’s Fairyhouse winner Golden Spread and Colreevy who will be having just her second outing since winning a Grade 3 at this meeting last year.
Gordon Elliott saddles the Cheltenham fourth Abracadabras while Dermot McLoughlin’s Santa Rossa will look to improve on her third in the Aintree bumper.
Meanwhile, entries for day four of the Punchestown Festival were revealed today with heavy hitters Buveur D'air, Apple's Jade, Benie Des Dieux, Wicklow Brave and Supasundae remaining in the BETDAQ Punchestown Champion Hurdle.
Jessica Harrington said of Supasundae: "I've been delighted with Supasundae since Aintree. He's in very good form and the plan was always to go back to Punchestown after Liverpool.
"He ran at Cheltenham and Aintree last year and won the BETDAQ Champion Hurdle at Punchestown so we know he takes his races well. I only put him in the Champion Hurdle at Punchestown this year so I wouldn't get tempted to run him over three miles! We are looking forward to letting him defend his crown."
Also on Friday, Martin Brassil’s City Island will bid to follow his Cheltenham heroics in the Grade 1 Alanna Homes Champion Novice Hurdle. City Island is among 29 acceptors for the two and a half mile event which also features fellow Cheltenham winner Eglantine Du Seuil, the Grade 1 winner Battleoverdoyen and the exciting maiden hurdle winner Breaken.
The Grade 1 winner Hardline heads the weights for the €100,000 EMS Copiers Novice Handicap Chase while trainer Peter Fahey’s Timeforwest catches the eye in the valuable Hanlon Concrete Irish EBF Glencarrig Lady Mares Handicap Chase as she bids to follow up her recent Grade 3 win at Cork.
A strong English challenge looks likely in the Star Best For Racing Coverage Champion Hunters Chase. The Cheltenham Foxhunters winner Hazel Hill is joined by the Aintree winner Top Wood and last year’s hero Caid Du Berlais. The home defence is headed by Stand Up And Fight, the Aintree second Burning Ambition and Ucello Conti.
The 2019 Punchestown Festival begins on Tuesday with the first race due to go to post at 3.40pm. The five-day fixture boasts record prize money of over €3.2m.
The ground at Punchestown is currently yielding on the Hurdle, Chase and Bumper course and good, good to firm in places on the Cross Country course.