Everything points to a cracking week’s festivities in Punchestown
AS A FAN of National Hunt racing, the one week you look forward to is the Punchestown Festival.
It’s the culmination of the Irish jumps season.
A week where racing enthusiast’s, punters and those looking for an enjoyable week descend on the Co Kildare track.
Some will argue that it comes too late in the season, horses have been trained with Cheltenham in mind and by the time Punchestown comes around they are over the top.
There might have been a certain amount of truth in that in the past but I don’t believe its the case anymore. Trainers realise how much prize money is on offer and they keep their horses right for it.
There is also a greater gap between the two now so that allows trainers to freshen their horses before Punchestown.
As a punter you have to keep on the right side of Willie Mullins.
The Champion trainer has a record at Punchestown that’s second to none. His horses come alive here and all his runners warrant a second luck.
It is also worth keeping an eye on English trained runners.
They don’t bring as many across as we would to Cheltenham but they rarely leave without a winner or two in toe.
Trainers like Philip Hobbs, Paul Nicholls, Nicky Henderson and Jon Joe O’ Neill have a particularly good record with horses they send across the water.
On Wednesday punters have three grade one contests to enjoy. The fea- ture race is the Gold Cup and it looks a difficult race to solve but Willie Mullins looks to have a strong hand.
The Daily Mirror Novice hurdle revolves around Vautour. He was mighty impressive in the Supreme at Cheltenham and Mullins steps him up to three miles for this contest.
On Thursday, all eyes will be on Quevea as she goes for her fifth straight win in the World Series hurdle. It will be interesting to see if her stablemate, Annie Power, also lines up.
For me, the race of the week is without question the Racing Post Champion hurdle on Friday.
It looks a cracking race on paper with Cheltenham winner Jezki set to lock horns with Cheltenham fourth Hurricane Fly.
Jezki is likely to be very tough to beat, he is the young gun, the champion but you can bet your bottom dollar that Willie Mullins will have Hurricane Fly rearing to go.
It is also worth remembering that he has always looked a better horse at Punchestown.
Having said that, I don’t really expect him to turn the tables with Jezki.