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The Willie Mullins-trained MONKFISH has been spectacular in his first season over fences, winning all four starts by a cumulative margin of nearly 25 lengths.
His jumping wasn’t quite as fluent as previously when winning the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham last time, but he still passed the post with 6-and-a-half lengths to spare over his closest pursuer and was almost certainly value for extra. He has already achieved a top-class level of form over fences and remains with potential.
As short as 4/1 in the ante-post betting for next year’s Gold Cup, Monkfish could see his price contract further still if coming out on top in this mouth-watering clash with Envoi Allen – who has slightly more to prove now stepping up to 3m on the back of a fall at Cheltenham.
The Punchestown Gold Cup is one of three Grade 1s on the second day of the meeting, with Minella Indo set to take centre stage as he attempts to follow up his victory in the Cheltenham equivalent.
MINELLA INDO proved better than ever to beat stablemate A Plus Tard at Prestbury Park, bouncing back from a couple of reverses when sent off a short price at Leopardstown. Settled just behind the leaders in the early stages, he was always in a good rhythm and kept on finding after being produced to lead on the home turn, ultimately landing the spoils by a length-and-a-quarter.
That was a top-class performance which identified Minella Indo as one of the best winners of the Gold Cup in the last decade. A repeat of that form will give him obvious claims of completing the Cheltenham/Punchestown Gold Cup double last achieved by Sizing John in 2017.
Willie Mullins has been even more dominant in this race than in the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham, saddling seven of the last nine winners.
This time Mullins can call upon the pair who were separated by just half a length in the Champion Bumper and stand out on ratings again here, Sir Gerhard and KILCRUIT. Kilcruit was sent off a shade of odds at Cheltenham having won both his previous starts for the yard, notably landing the Grade 2 bumper at the Dublin Racing Festival with ridiculous ease under a motionless Patrick Mullins.
However, he didn’t have the race set up for him in quite the same way at Cheltenham, with Sir Gerhard getting first run before Kilcruit stayed on strongly to reduce the deficit to just half a length at the line. There’s clearly very little between the two and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a different outcome should things work out more favourably for Kilcruit this time.
FLOORING PORTER has made remarkable progress this season and is likely to be a red-hot favourite as he seeks his third successive Grade 1 victory in the Champion Stayers Hurdle.
His latest win came in the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, where he never looked like being overhauled under an excellent front-running ride from Danny Mullins, keeping going well to beat Sire du Berlais by three-and-a-quarter lengths. That achievement was even more impressive when you consider that he was beaten in a handicap from a mark of 131 as recently as October.
Flooring Porter’s chief rivals on Thursday are headed by the likes of Sire du Berlais, Beacon Edge and The Storyteller, all horses he has already beaten at least once this season. Still only a six-year-old, he has the potential to dominate this division in Ireland for several years to come.
It’s hard to see anything other than a repeat performance from HONEYSUCKLE in Friday’s feature event given that the majority of the other entries were left trailing behind her to varying degrees at Cheltenham last month.
The Champion Hurdle extended Honeysuckle’s unbeaten record over hurdles to 11 races, and it was undoubtedly her best performance to date – even though her main market rivals weren’t at their best on the day. She gave those who backed her down to a short price hardly a moment’s worry as she ran out a decisive winner after showing the qualities of many a Champion Hurdle winner before her, namely sound jumping and a turn of foot.
This will be Honeysuckle’s first start at Punchestown, but that’s no reason to suspect she might be vulnerable and it’s not as if she is coming here at the end of a busy season.
Tuesday 18:30 Champion Novice Chase – Monkfish
Wednesday 17:55 Punchestown Gold Cup Chase – Minella Indo
Wednesday 18:30 Champion I.N.H. Flat Race – Kilcruit
Thursday 17:25 Champion Stayers Hurdle – Flooring Porter
Friday 17:25 Paddy Power Champion Hurdle – Honeysuckle
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