Ev­ery­thing points to a cracking week’s fes­tiv­i­ties in Punchestown

Bray People - - SPORT - RAC­ING EX­TRA With Wil­liam O’Toole

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.

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