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A cracking day at Punchestown starts with a Rated Novice Hurdle where TOP BANDIT can score again for Gordon Elliott and Davy Russell. The five-year-old along with main market rival Crowns Major are both rated 128, but the experience of the older horse might swing victory here against his younger rival. Davy Russell was impressed by his jumping at Cheltenham and here at Punchestown in both victories with the jockey surely playing a waiting game yet again on the son of Kayf Tara.
Crowns Major won a bumper here at Punchestown back in April and followed up with another victory on the flat at Galway in July. The four-year-old was left clear at the second last when winning easily at Cork with Emmett Mullins suggesting a possible tilt at the Royal Bond post-race. Having skipped Fairyhouse, the son of Daiwa Major warrants plenty of respect but might just find the more experience Top Bandit too good in the opener.
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I recently tipped up MACS CHARM when taken out of a Navan handicap hurdle last month with an allergy, so I’m hoping Colm Murphy’s horse can bound back and strike here at Punchestown. The son of Le Fou is lightly raced with only four starts under rules which included a good second when last seen at Wexford in late October. His fourth placed effort in what looked a decent maiden hurdle at Down Royal last December also reads well and he can be competitive off 104 under Brian Hayes.
CHOICE OF WORDS looks the type to improve further for Martin Brassil this season by winning this Listed Mares Novice Hurdle at Punchestown. The six-year-old showed signs of her ability when winning a point-to-point bumper easily here in March before finishing a gallant second to Grangee at the Festival in April. The daughter of Yeats made all in good fashion when scoring on debut over hurdles at Galway in October and can take this step-up in trip and grade in her stride under Darragh O’Keeffe.
A new name will take the John Durkan this year following the wonderful exploits of Min over the past three seasons. Willie Mullins runs seven of the ten runners including Ryanair winner Allaho who is top rated on 174 with Patrick Mullins in the saddle. The Closutton team planned his road to Cheltenham glory perfectly last season and there’s no doubt he’ll be campaigned for another title at the Ryanair next March.
This middle-distance trip is ideal for the seven-year-old but in similar fashion to last year, I’d imagine he’ll need the run. The same could be said for most of the Mullins runners, who will all improve for their seasonal debuts and progress for planned races throughout the season by the champion trainer. This leaves this Grade 1 between ENVOI ALLEN and Fakir Doudairies in my opinion with the Henry De Bromhead runner getting the verdict to shine under Rachael Blackmore.
The expected dominance of racing on Sunday by Willie Mullins could be wrapped up nicely with victory for FERNY HOLLOW on his eagerly awaited return to the racetrack in this Beginners Chase. The six-year-old is back from injury having previously beaten superstars Appreciate It and Bob Olinger last year. The Mullins team has been positive about his return and if he holds a spark of his previous ability, he should take this race with Thedevilscoachman another interesting rival making a move to chasing.
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Sunday Horse Racing tips
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