Fabulous Further Entries Announced for Punchestown

Jockeys Mark Walsh (L) and Barry Cash (R) exchange reactions following a close finish

Jockeys Mark Walsh (L) and Barry Cash (R) exchange reactions following a close finish

 

– Cheltenham Grade 1 winners Farclas, Footpad, Penhill and Samcro all in mix

 

– Star mares Apple’s Jade and La Bague Roi bidding to bounce back

 

The countdown is underway for the 2018 Punchestown Festival following today’s publication of the Grade 1 entries for the meeting’s final three days.

 

The Festival runs from Tuesday, April 24, to Saturday, April 28, and the five days – with €3,045,000 of prize money on offer – are full of quality from start to finish. Amazingly, no less than 20 of this year’s 28 Cheltenham Festival winners are entered (or expected to be entered) for Punchestown this year.

 

One of those, the Willie Mullins-trained Penhill, is among a high-class 32-strong entry for the €275,000 Grade 1 LADBROKES CHAMPION STAYERS’ HURDLE onThursday, April 26.

 

The seven-year-old won Cheltenham’s Grade 1 Stayers’ Hurdle on his seasonal comeback last month and could meet the runner-up that day, Supasundae, and a mare trained across the Irish Sea, La Bague Au Roi, for whom trainer Warren Greatrex has high hopes.

 

She was a Grade 2 winner at Ascot in January, before running below-par at Cheltenham and she will line up in an event her trainer won in 2016 with One Track Mind.

 

“As long as La Bague Au Roi is fine she’ll definitely go for the Ladbrokes Champion Stayers’ Hurdle,” said Greatrex. “She’s had a wind op since Cheltenham and I think that she now wants three miles.

 

“She looked the winner there, but she was exhausted going to the last and Richard Johnson thought that something was amiss. She had a week off after the wind op, but has done physically well during this quiet time.

 

“I won the race two years ago with One Track Mind and I think that she will win a Grade 1 and I’m hoping that this is the one.”

 

Trainer Gordon Ellliott is well-represented among the entries and Delta Work, winner of the Pertemps Network Final at Cheltenham, could take the step up to Grade 1 company.

 

“We’re seriously considering the three-miler for Delta Work,” said Eddie O’Leary, racing manager to owners Gigginstown House Stud. “Hopefully he’s improving and he ran a great race at Cheltenham when getting up in the photo there.”

 

Jedd O’Keeffe’s stable star Sam Spinner, a Grade 1 winner at Ascot in December who finished fifth at Cheltenham, may also join the line-up.

 

Other entries include the star mares Apple’s Jade and Benie Des Dieux, Faugheen and last year’s winner Unowhatimeanharry, trained in Britain by Harry Fry.

 

All eyes will be on Footpad, 14-length winner of the Grade 1 Arkle Challenge Trophy at Cheltenham, in the Grade 1 RYANAIR NOVICE CHASE, also on Thursday, April 26.

 

Shattered Love, winner of the Grade 1 JLT Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham, is expected to line up while a pair who have been saved for the race are the Pat Fahy-trained Castlegrace Paddy and Optimus Prime, trained by Dan Skelton for the Masterson family, always great supporters of Punchestown.

 

STRONG MULLINS TEAM IN FRIDAY FEATURE

Footpad is Punchestown Festival bound for the Willie Mullins team

Footpad is Punchestown Festival bound for the Willie Mullins team

 

The €275,000 Grade 1 BETDAQ PUNCHESTOWN CHAMPION HURDLE features on Friday, April 27.

 

Melon, who lost out by a neck in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham, is among a strong entry for Willie Mullins that includes last year’s winner Wicklow Brave, the great Faugheen and the improving Coquin Mans, an easy Grade 2 winner at Fairyhouse on Monday.

 

Gordon Elliott’s entry includes Apple’s Jade and Champion Hurdle third Mick Jazz along with the novices Mengli Khan and Samcro.

 

The 2017 BETDAQ Champion Hurdle runner-up My Tent Or Yours is expected to bid to go one better for trainer Nicky Henderson.

 

There is a massive 49-strong entry for the Grade 1 PROFILE SYSTEMS CHAMPION NOVICE HURDLE, also on Friday.

 

Samcro, who has a range of entries, looks likely to go for this 2m 4f event in which his opponents could include the Willie Mullins-trained pair of Getabird and the mare Laurina.

 

The Warren Greatrex-trained Western Ryder could be joining them. “The way the weather in England is at the moment, if it doesn’t stop raining, we’d miss Aintree and go to Punchestown for the Profile Systems Champion Novice Hurdle,” said Greatrex.

 

“He’s in seriously good form and definitely improved since Cheltenham – it’s not normal to see a horse improve for Cheltenham but he has and there is a big performance in him.

 

“He wants two and a half miles and we went back to two at Cheltenham because of the ground. If you look at that race you’ll see he was running a big race before being stopped to a standstill two out and then finishing best of anything.

 

“He’s sort of underperformed this season as I think he’s a very good horse and he has the ability to be competitive in a Grade 1.”

 

HIGH HOPES FOR ELLIOTT DUO ON FINAL DAY

 

There were few more impressive winners at last year’s Punchestown Festival than Apple’s Jade, who won the Grade 1 IRISH STALLION FARMS EBF ANNIE POWER MARES CHAMPION HURDLE by 14 lengths.

 

She will bid to bounce back in this year’s race, run on Saturday, April 28, having finished only third behind Benie Des Dieux and Midnight Tour when 1-2 favourite for the Grade 1 OLBG Mares Hurdle at Cheltenham.

 

“Apple’s Jade just didn’t run her race at Cheltenham and I don’t know why,” said Eddie O’Leary, racing manager to owners Gigginstown House Stud. “We’ve left her in several races at Punchestown but I think she’ll go for the mares’ contest and I hope she bounces back from her last run. It would be nice to finish the season on a high with her.”

 

The novice Laurina, stablemate of Benie Des Dieux, has also been given this option.

 

Gigginstown House Stud and Gordon Elliott also look to field one of the leading contenders for Saturday’s other Grade 1 contest, the AES CHAMPION 4YO HURDLE, in Farclas, winner of the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham.

 

“Although he was a maiden going into Cheltenham, we were hopeful he’d run well and delighted he won the race,” said O’Leary. “He’s been fine since and the plan has always been to come to Punchestown for the AES Champion 4YO Hurdle.”

 

The Cheltenham runner-up Mr Adjudicator could reoppose as well as the Nicky Henderson-trained Apple’s Shakira, who finished fourth when sent off favourite for the juvenile showpiece.

 

Fred Winter Handicap Hurdle winner Veneer Of Charm and runner-up Style De Garde, trained by Henderson for Highclere Thoroughbred Racing, are also entered.

 

Dick O’Sullivan, General Manager of Punchestown Racecourse, commented: “Never in the history of Irish jump racing have we had two such strong stables to match the current firepower of Gordon Elliott and Willie Mullins.

 

“It will be a huge treat for racegoers at the 2018 Punchestown Festival to see so many of their stable stars in action against some strong opposition from both across Ireland and from our friends in Britain, who are such great supporters of Punchestown.

 

“We are counting down the days until Tuesday, April 24, and the start of what is promising to be a simply brilliant week of racing.”

 

To View Entries for Punchestown Days 3,4 & 5 please CLICK HERE

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