Trainers’ Championship – Mullins v Elliott
People are looking at the Grade Ones at Punchestown and thinking that Willie Mullins is going to dominate them. The Champion Chase is probably our strongest chance from the big races, and it’s not inconceivable that Willie might have the first three in that one. That’s not going to get him over the line and pip Gordon Elliott in the Trainers’ Championship, but you can’t rule him out.
I could see Getabird winning, and perhaps Douvan, Min or Un De Sceaux as well. But can you see any of Willie’s beating Monalee?
Next Destination and Ballyward are big runners on the second day. In the Gold Cup he needs a bit of luck, but in the Champion Bumper he holds all the aces. If everything goes to plan, Footpad and Penhill could end up being his fifth and sixth winners of the Festival, with Bacardys a possible seventh. Then you’re left with Benie Des Dieux versus Apple’s Jade. So, realistically, there are potentially seven, or even eight, winners for Willie.
16:20 Punchestown: Champion Novice Hurdle
Getabird leads a four-horse team for Willie in this one. He was very good at Fairyhouse, atoning for his Cheltenham performance to some extent. He’ll be the one to beat.
But Paloma Blue for Henry de Bromhead may be a fly in the ointment. He ran a blinder in the Supreme Novices Hurdle, and did very well behind Samcro at Leopardstown. The dry ground will also suit Sharjah, who should run better than at Cheltenham. You also have Whiskey Sour who ran well in the County Hurdle.
16:55 Punchestown: Killashee Handicap Hurdle
Looking at this one, you’d have to imagine Ballyoisin is absolutely thrown in off 131.
Meanwhile, Willie has six in this one. Nessun Dorma and True Self will have improved for their run at Fairyhouse, where they both fell at the last. Low Sun was also good at Fairyhouse, and Katie O’Farrell got a great tune out of him. Lagostovegas has plenty of weight, but David Mullins has picked her.
Bunk Off Early has just come back from chasing, which is often difficult, and I wouldn’t be surprised if you saw him again at the weekend. Pietralunga is the final one, and has to improve. She probably wants to go a bit further than this trip.
It’s a similar race to the 2-miler at Fairyhouse, where a couple of these ran. But I think Ballyoisin could be the one to beat.
17:30 Punchestown: Champion Chase
There’s every chance of a Mullins 1-2-3 here, although Special Tiara could be the spoiler.
If you look at the shape of the race, Special Tiara and Un De Sceaux are not going to hang around. The question is: who will be able to keep up?
The only two who I can see doing so are Min and Douvan. It will be hard for the rest of the field to keep up with the Grade One entries in this one.
On slower ground, you might favour Un De Sceaux over Min, but with the ground drying I’d be in the Douvan camp.
18:05 Punchestown: Goffs Land Rover Bumper
Think Positive has already had the benefit of a run, when he finished fourth at Towcester. He’s a half-brother to Samcro, and he goes well at home. Still, when it comes to sales races, Willie’s horses aren’t as tuned up for Bumpers as they normally would be. Willie’s not inclined to turn the screw with them that young, especially with their whole careers ahead of them.
18:40 Punchestown: Champion Novice Chase
Monalee sets the standard here. He ran a blinder behind Presenting Percy in the RSA Chase at Cheltenham, which looked like the strongest novice chase at the Festival. We ran Al Boum Photo there, who came back and won at Fairyhouse.
Invitation Only has been a little disappointing, but maybe he’ll fancy three miles. Rathvinden was a great winner at Cheltenham, and the second in that one, Ms Parfois, has franked the form by running a blinder at Aintree when finishing second to Terrefort.
So, Al Boum Photo may well be Willie’s strongest, but Monalee will take all the beating.
19:15 Punchestown: 2-mile Bumper
Willie doesn’t have a runner here, so Katie Walsh has jumped ship and is riding for Gordon Elliott, while Patrick Mullins rides for Pat Fahy on Kalum River!
Gordon has a couple of runners here, and Pat Fahy knows the time of day. When he goes for a big-name jockey, he doesn’t tend to be too far away.