It’s been a fantastic season so far and it would be great to cap it all with a winner at this week’s Punchestown Festival.
The yard has had a great year and we sit third in the Trainers’ title race. Hopefully we can consolidate our position this week – but it’s going to be very competitive.
We’ll be looking for the horses to hold the form that has served us so well all year and get among the prize money, before the majority are ‘roughed off’ for the summer months.
In many ways you’re like a football manager at this time of year. One season is coming to an end but you’re already building towards the next.
The bumper horses will go novice hurdling, some hurdlers will go novice chasing etc. I have a rough idea of where I’d like to start a few when the new campaign swings around again next autumn.
We’ll have some who will run through the summer months as well as a few runners on the Flat so we’ll be kept busy. But this week is all about Punchestown, while our Champion Chaser Special Tiara heads to Sandown on Saturday.
Monalee runs in the 3m Novices Hurdle 4.55pm on Wednesday after finishing second to Penhill in the Albert Bartlett. He’s in mighty form at home and has had a great season already. It would be brilliant to cap it off with a Grade One win.
It will be hard to turn the tables on Penhill and you’ve also got the Pertemps Final winner Presenting Percy in the field. However, I’m hoping for another big run from Monalee. He’s a chaser in the making and will definitely be going over fences next year, probably starting off over 2m 4f next November. He’s very adaptable ground wise.
The feature race of the day, the Punchestown Gold Cup (5.30pm) has a small, but very select field.
Two Cheltenham Gold Cup winners line up in Coneygree and this year’s champ, Sizing John.
Our Thyestes Chase winner Champagne West finished ninth at the Festival and has a fair bit of ground to make up with Sizing John and Willie Mullins’ Djakadam on that running.
Ideally, we’d love a bit more ease in the ground before the off.
Paloma Blue runs is in the 2m Champion Bumper (6.05pm) and faces just six runners. He won first time out in January and a few winners have come out of that contest since, so that’s a positive.
We may be out of our depth, but we’ll take our chance to see where he stands and the intention is to go novice hurdling next year. He should handle most types of ground.
Devils Bride carries top weight in the 2m 4f H’cap Chase at 6.40pm. He’s only really starting back as he’s a summer horse but the ground should suit and we’re hoping for a nice run even if conceding weight doesn’t make life easy for him.
We’ve a couple of entries on Thursday and King of Brega could run in the JLT Handicap Hurdle 3.40pm.
We also run Sadler’s Risk in the 3m handicap hurdle at 6.05pm. He’s already a course winner, having won a Grade 3 Chase at the Kildare track last October.
He looks on a favourable mark over hurdles, so we’ll give him a shot at this and he’ll continue to race through the summer months.
Ordinary World should run well in the Grade One 2m Ryanair Novice Chase (6.40pm).
He chased home Altior and Cloudy Dream in the Arkle Chase at the Festival and before that was second here to Identity Thief in November and was runner-up to Min at Leopardstown in December. He has solid graded form in the book.
Petit Mouchoir is in good form and the plan is to run him in Friday’s Champion Hurdle (5.30pm).
He ran a cracker to be third to Buveur D’air in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham and came out of the race well.
Good, safe, Festival ground will suit him and we’ll decide on tactics when they make-up of the race is known later in the week. Identity Thief is also entered as he just needs to get a little confidence back after things haven’t quite worked out over fences since Christmas.
Balko Des Flos should take his chance in the 2m 5f Handicap Chase on Friday (4.20pm).
He’s dropping down in grade having finished third to Disko and Our Duke at Leopardstown over Christmas before he tipped up in the JLT Chase that Yorkhill won.
He could be a player on the day and both Three Wise Men and On Fiddlers Green could line up alongside him.
Avenir D’Une Vie will run later on the same card in the novice hurdle at 7.10pm. He’s lightly-raced this season and ran for the first time in 2017 when sixth at at Fairyhouse three weeks ago. That was his first start since winning his maiden hurdle at the Co. Meath track in November.
We’ve a couple of entries at Punchestown on Saturday but Special Tiara will miss the Festival to go to Sandown instead.
He’s in good form after winning the Champion Chase at Cheltenham. He’s a real course specialist and his form is so much better at the Esher track than at Punchestown, where he disappointed last year when sixth of seven to God’s Own.
He beat Sprinter Sacre in Saturday’s contest in 2015 and generally seems happier at the course. The better the ground the better his chance of a repeat win, where he could take on Nicky Henderson’s Altior.