AUTHOR: Star Sports Content

STAR RACING PREVIEW: Punchestown Festival Day 1 Tuesday

5 days, 40 races and 12 Grade 1 contests – it can only be the Punchestown Festival! The Irish jumps season ends in style with an absolute bonanza of racing featuring the very best Irish horses, jockeys and trainers!

We start with three Grade 1 races, the first sight of the banks of the week and a fiendishly difficult Grade B handicap hurdle for punters to solve.

Ground: The ground is yielding to soft, with 4mm of rain overnight on a fresh track. Horses who like a decent surface should be suited with extra fresh ground for the meeting and no rain in the lead upto racing.

Don’t forget to check out our Davy Russell blog with thoughts on the first day either:

DAVY RUSSELL blog: Punchestown Festival Tuesday

The 2023 Punchestown Festival, Day 1
Punchestown, Kildare
First Race: 3.40pm
Last Race: 7.45pm
All races live on Racing TV HD

3.40 – Howden Insurance Brokers Mares Novice Hurdle (Listed Race) (4yo+)

A competitive and open beginning to the week with plenty of realistic contenders, a few of whom are on comeback missions. That includes Nikini, who was only 12th in the Dawn Run at Cheltenham but had previously made Magical Zoe pull out all the stops at Down Royal with today’s rivals the The Model King and Saylavee behind, and if she’s back to that sort of form here and she’s got a puncher’s chance in an event where there isn’t much separating many on their best form.

Shecouldbeanything ran well in the Dawn Run and looks the one to beat, whilst Night and Day is capable of better than she showed last time but must settle and jump better here.

4.15 – KPMG Champion Novice Hurdle (Grade 1) (5yo+) 2m½f (2m100y)

A rematch between Facile Vega (second), Diverge (third) and Il Etait Temps (fifth) from the Supreme, with Aintree disappointments Found a Fifty and No Looking Back having something to prove here.

Facile Vega is a worthy favourite after his solid second at Cheltenham but Diverge was having only his third run over hurdles there and could be open to improvement, especially around a track where he won by 23 lengths in January. Il Etait Temps didn’t jump with any fluency there when he also found himself poorly positioned at the top of the hill, and a smaller field today – with no obvious front runner – could be just perfect for him here.

There may not be much between the three today depending on how the race is run tactically and whilst Facile Vega is a fair favourite, 8/13 doesn’t make a huge amount of appeal in what should be a fascinating tactical contest.

4.50 – Killashee Hotel Handicap Hurdle (Grade B) (4yo+) (2m½f (2m100y)

A really high quality renewal here. It hasn’t been a great race for favourites but Brazil should relish being back on a sound surface and a mark of 144 is well within his grasp based on his best form, which includes a defeat of Gaelic Warrior in last year’s Boodles at the 2022 Cheltenham Festival and his Grade 3 win at Naas in November. A spin on the flat should have put him 100% for this.

Tekao disappointed in the Boodles when he didn’t settle and he’ll need to be calmer here, and Merlin Giant – an impressive winner of a Grade A handicap at Fairyhouse in December – looks a big threat.

A back to form Path D’Ororux has possibilities off 137 whilst Tax for Max is well handicapped on last year’s third (2lbs lower) and Glan, who won a valuable Fairyhouse handicap last year and was a close fourth in the Galway Hurdle, would be a threat if on a going day (pulled up last time).

5.25 – William Hill Champion Chase (Grade 1) (5yo+) (2m)

The horse to beat is last year’s defending champion, the brilliant Energumene, who romped home at Cheltenham in a weakened race thanks to terribly below par showings from Editeur du Gite and Edwardstone, who had beaten him in the Clarence House Chase the time before when he reportedly was confused by white markings over fences and may have been unsuited by sitting off the pace.

It will take a major effort to stop him and Gentleman De Mee, at his best when front running during the spring, can be the main threat here. He was superb at Aintree last year and after three poor runs, he was back to that level when smashing Blue Lord in the Dublin Chase at Leopardstown in February. He’s not to be underestimated especially on a better surface here than at Cheltenham and could be a very solid forecast option.

Blue Lord was disappointing in the Ryanair and now has something to prove after his bad show there and his flat second in the Dublin Chase. Chacun Pour Soi is past his best, Magic Daze is likely to get taken on upfront, and Rebel Gold is likely to find this too hot.

6.00 – Goffs Defender Bumper (4-5yo) 2m½f (2m100y)

Some useful types have won this in the past so it’s worth getting the notebook out. Speculatrix, a previous winner, is now a non-runner which means we have just two horses with previous experience in the field.

It’s understandable that the favourite is the well-bred Predators Gold, for Patrick and Willie Mullins – whilst it has paid to keep a close eye on Gordon Elliott’s runners in the past (especially at bigger prices), so Weseekherthere, Brennus Lescribaa, Western Fold, No Turn Unstoned and Tactical Affair can’t be ruled out.

Farland (Derek O’Connor), Milo Lises (Jody Townend) and Weseekherthere (John Gleeson) have fascinating jockey bookings for those who pay particular attention to certain riders in these events.

6.35 – Dooley Insurance Group Champion Novice Chase (Grade 1) (5yo+) (3m½f (3m60y)

A fascinating contest with each one of the six having some sort of realistic chance. Sir Gerhard and Appreciate It are the highest rated in here, but both had hard races in the Powers Gold Cup after their Cheltenham Festival exertions and Sir Gerhard didn’t look as if he wanted to go back to 3 miles. Appreciate It jumped and hung left at Fairyhouse and could do without that here, and both could be worth taking on.

Journey With Me has made a better chaser than hurdler this season and should go well but perhaps the one here is Classic Getaway, who was going better than Journey With Me when Henry de Bromhead’s charge fell on their chasing debut, which Classic Getaway won in style from stablemate Minella Cocooner, who had finished runner up at last season’s Cheltenham and Punchestown Festivals.

The way he finished that day suggests that he’ll improve for the trip, and whilst it’s a slight worry that he’s not run since then, he does arrive fresh and with every possibility to improve here.

Feronily is perhaps the most interesting contender here. This is only his sixth lifetime start and second one over fences, and he was thrown into an open Grade 3 on debut, performing with credit to finish second to the very useful Bachasson at Cork. He could improve hugely here and must be respected.

James Du Berlais has disappointed in Grade 1 company over fences after an impressive chasing win. He’s better than he’s shown the last twice but must settle better here and has already run at Cheltenham and Fairyhouse.

7.10 – Kildare Hunt Club Cross Country Chase for the Ladies Perpetual Cup (5yo+) 3m1f (Cross Country)

The form says it’ll be hard to beat Vital Island, who loves the banks, won this last year and has won two open points over banks courses. Enda Bolger’s De Nordener was ffith behind Vital Island here last year and has been aimed at this since, and it’s likely he can get closer with another year on his back.

Old Style Humor could have improvement to come thanks to first time cheekpieces and the rest have a lot to find.

7.45 – Oak Lodge Landscapes Flat Race (4yo) 2m½f (2m100y)

Form watchers should keep an eye on the Goffs Bumper as Dollar Nolimit was a good third on debut behind Speculatrix, favourite for that event, and a big run could see his price coming down markedly. He looks best of those who have run already whilst Downmexicoway, an impressive point winner at Belharbour who has seen that form boosted since, could be best of the newcomers here and could be the bet.

The Champion Bumper winning pair of John Kiely and John Gleeson team up here with Joyeux Vivo who must be respected, and Ninth Loch (Willie and Patrick Mullins) and Rainbow Lily (Elliott and Codd) have strong prospects on paper.



BACK Nikini 1 pt win in 3.40 Punchestown at 7/2 (Latest Star Price ? CLICK TO BET NOW)
BACK Brazil 1 pt win in 4.50 Punchestown at 5/1 (Latest Star Price ? CLICK TO BET NOW)
BACK Classic Getaway 2 pts win in 6.35 Punchestown at 7/2 (Latest Star Price ? CLICK TO BET NOW)

PROFIT/LOSS (APR 2023): LOSS 5.82 points



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