SHAMROCK’S PUNCHESTOWN SPECIAL: Race by race preview of every race at this year’s Punchestown Festival and it’s a warm Irish welcome to superstar Sprinter Sacre today.

It’s finally arrived. The day of days.

The five-day Punchestown Festival starts this afternoon at 3.40pm.

Before I get stuck into each and every one of this week’s races, a weather update via @punchestownrace on twitter.

Going Report: Soft, Heavy in Places. No overnight rainfall

Weather Forecast: Mainly dry and mild today. Drizzle…

3:40 Kildare Hunt Club Fr Sean Breen Memorial Chase For The Ladies Perpetual Cup (5yo+, 3m, 15 runners)

The opener usually revolves around Enda Bolger. He has won this three times in the last seven seasons and has a quartet gunning for the prize today. There is that old theory that if a trainer really fancies one, he’ll just have one runner in the race, if he doesn’t he’ll have two…. so when you have four – who knows !! Bolger’s runners include the 2010 winner Zest For Life who looks to be running back into form but better fancied is his Near Perfection who has solid form in point to points but was pulled up on his only start under rules.

It’s a tough start for punters but I’ll have a crack on the BETDAQ place market with LORD HAWKFIELD who could run well after a long break. He was still going well in this race last year before unseating.

SELECTION: Lord Hawkfield (PLACE)

cham4:20 Herald Champion Novice Hurdle (Grade 1) (5yo+, Class 1, 2m, 6 runners)

This has been the launch pad for Brave Inca and Hurricane Fly in the last nine years but, in the past two seasons, a County Hurdle winner and seventh have come on to win it from the Cheltenham Festival.

So no wonder we see this year’s County Hurdle winner Ted Veale here today, though he has a stone to find with the Supreme Novice winner, CHAMPAGNE FEVER.

The front running grey is again hard to get away from. His win at Cheltenham (pictured) set up a fantastic week for Willie Mullins and it could be the same today.I expect him to confirm superiority over the Supreme third Jezki who has just over three lengths to find.

SELECTION: Champagne Fever (WIN)

4:55 Handicap Hurdle (Grade C) (4yo+, 2m, 20 runners)

Eight winners out of 10 have carried 10st 7lb or less, a mould broken by English raider Philip Hobbs last year with Snap Tie, who defends the prize with 11lb more, 4lb worse off with last year’s runner-up, Benash.

Willie Mullins has won it twice since 2006 off 10st and lower, and has cleverly engineered Tasitiocht into the handicap, a couple of pounds above the minimum.

However, I’m keen on the mare SITCOM here – around 18 on BETDAQ. She travelled well to win her maiden hurdle in grand style at Cork and doesn’t look harshly treated off a mark of 122 on her handicap debut. She fits the stats of the lower weights having a good record and I could easily see her grabbing a slice of the action.


5:30 Champion Chase (Grade 1) (5yo+, Class 1, 2m, 5 runners)

nickyhendersonSPRINTER SACRE is back within his comfort zone here for his attempt at 10 chase wins in a row and if you are interested in buying money you’ll be converting at the rate of 7.69 buying you a Euro/Pound on BETDAQ.

He won on the step up to 2m 4f at Aintree but Nicky Henderson’s face as he watched would have landed him a part in an old Hitchcock movie. Frenzy? Spellbound?

Opposing Sprinter Sacre here seems strictly for The Birds, him having already ‘destroyed’ Sizing Europe by 19 lengths in the Champion Chase and you simply cannot find a single reason why that won’t be confirmed today.

How wonderful that he has been allowed to run at the Cheltenham, Aintree and Punchestown Festivals.

Frankel and Black Caviar have been the Mr and Mrs of flat racing. Sprinter is the squire of the jumps.

SELECTION: Sprinter Sacre (WIN !)

6:05 Goffs Land Rover Bumper (4-5yo, 2m, 27 runners)

MOYLE PARK looks one for Willie Mullins here. He has been campaigned with this race in mind and was bought by the Mullins team after his impressive debut success at Leopardstown when in the care of trainer David Kelly. It was a smart performance and Mullins has said: “The ground has come right for him, he’s in very good form, and we’re very hopeful.”

The BETDAQ market signals are positive too and at around 2.90 he is my day one nap.


6:40 Growise Champion Novice Chase (Grade 1) (5yo+, Class 1, 3m 1f, 8 runners)

The race put Sir Des Champs on a pedestal last year but, like Quite De La Roque the previous season, he’s fallen just short of the best since then.

The same applies to many a previous winner: this is not the race from which the great Irish challenge to Cheltenham emerges.

But this year it’s a rerun of the Cheltenham we’ve just had: the NH Chase one-two Back In Focus and Tofino Bay meet again, with their form boosted by the third, Godsmejudge, in Saturday’s Scottish Grand National.

Boston Bob fell when going well enough to give his backers hope of an RSA victory, with Lyreen Legend (second) eventually doing best of the Irish.

HARRY TOPPER, for Kim Bailey, by-passed Cheltenham and unseated at Kelso on his last start but his form is definitely up to this level and he remains a horse capable of further improvement. In an open race he looks one of the more likely winners.

SELECTION: Harry Topper (WIN)

7:15 Finlay Motor Group Flat Race (4yo, 2m, 23 runners)

A couple of runners at huge odds attracting morning interest on BETDAQ are Sharon and Vision Du Coeur – both making their debuts, like the majority of the field.

Of those with form SOME HAWK sets a fair standard but with so many potential dark horses in the race has to be recommended on a win and place basis.


3.40 Lord Hawkfield (PLACE)
4.20 Champagne Fever (WIN)
4.55 Sitcom (WIN and PLACE)
5.30 Sprinter Sacre (WIN !)
6.05 Moyle Park (NAP) (WIN)
6.40 Harry Topper (WIN)
7.15 Some Hawk (WIN and PLACE)

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