A 2m Novice Hurdle at Punchestown 12.20 opens the card and Willie Mullins runs Quartz Du Rheu who has under-performed a little in our eyes and comes up against Joseph O’Brien’s Anything Will Do who has been bang in form, winning his last two races.
We’re hoping Quartz Du Rheu will get back on track – but it could be hard for him in this contest.
Andalucia lines up in the 2m 3f handicap hurdle at 13.20 but after a good run in Leopardstown last season, she was disappointing. She still has a bit to prove and I’m not certain that Sunday’s trip will suit her.
The feature race of the day is the Grade One John Durkan Memorial Chase at 13.50.
It’s a very deep race where Willie Mullins’ four runners are headed by last year’s winner Min. The 2m 4f trip around here really suits him and this has been his target for a long while.
He’ll be too fast for Tony Martin’s Anibale Fly (who has been placed in the last two Cheltenham Gold Cups) and Pat Kelly’s former RSA Chase winner Presenting Percy, who finished eighth in the Gold Cup last season after an interrupted campaign.
And Min is just too good for the others.
Breaken makes his debut over fences for us in the 2m Beginners Chase at 14.20. Paul Townend rides and he was a very good winner of a maiden hurdle at Limerick last season before finishing fourth at Punchestown in a novice hurdle.
Our novice chasers have been in great form and hopefully Breaken can keep that run going.
There’s some decent action on Cork’s card also where our first runner there on Sunday is Vis Ta Loi in the Grade 3 Hurdle at 13.35.
He caused a little bit of a surprise when winning at Clonmel and the winning pilot that day, Danny Mullins, rides him again.
The step up in trip to 2m 3f will suit him and I think he’ll go close.
Willie saddles Farid in the 2m handicap hurdle at 14.05 but he has been very disappointing so far. Mark Walsh rides for J P McManus and while this is his first run in a handicap, he has to leave his other runs behind him if he’s going to be competitive.
The 14.35 is the feature race at the Munster track and while there’re only four runners in the Grade 2 Hilly Way Chase over two miles, it’s a tricky-looking contest.
Willie saddles Cilaos Emery and Great Field and despite there being just four runners, there should be plenty of pace on as both Enda Bolger’s Ballyoisin and Great Field like to blaze away in front. The pair may just have too much street smarts for Cilaos Emery who could lack the experience to cope with them.
If it came down to a match between the two trailblazers – I’d be in the Ballyoisin camp.
Another relatively small but select field in the 2m Mares Novice Chase at 15.05 – but it’s very competitive.
Gordon Elliott’s Tintangle side-stepped Fairyhouse last weekend and pitches up here, while Elimay makes her debut over fences for Willie Mullins and Henry de Bromhead’s Sinoria tries to follow up her Thurles win last month.
I was quite taken with Sinoria when she beat Good Thyne Tara by 12 lengths that day.
She looks the one to beat.
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