The end of the jump season is upon us which means so is the 2017 Punchestown Festival. Often a graveyard for favourites and the home to main weary horses after long campaigns. Here are some of the big races throughout the week...
This years Champion Chase is headed by one of my favourite National Hunt horses in Willie Mullins Un De Sceaux (4/6). He won the Ryanair at Cheltenham where we saw a return of the old UDS pulling his way to the front and flying over every fence and asking his rivals to come and get him. He's had a great year winning the Ryanair, Tingle Creek and Clarence House, if a long campaign hasn't talking it out of him I can see him being very hard to beat here. Fox Norton for Colin Tizzard has had a good season himself winning the Melling Chase at Aintree before coming second in the Champion Chase at Chelteham, he's around 11/2. God's Own won this last year for Tom George when lowering the colours of Willie Mullins Vautour and is 7/1 to repeat the feat here. Un De Sceaux very hard to beat though.
Champion Novice Chase:
Another Willie Mullins runner heads things here in Bellshill, he finished third in the RSA at Cheltenham behind Whisper and Might Bite and is joined at the top of the market here by Disko for Noel Meade who was third behind Yorkhill in the JLT. However the horse I like in this one is American (13/2) for Harry Fry. He hasn't been to the big festivals therefore will come into this a lot fresher than some of these, he won very nicely when he was last season at Uttoxeter and I certainly think there is more to come from this one.
Champion Novice Hurdle:
Another race and another Willie Mullins favourite, this time in the form of Melon (6/4) he finished second behind the horse that gave this blog and me my finest moment in tipping horse in Labaik when he was tipped up by myself at a colossal 50/1 for the Supreme Novices at the Cheltenham Festival. Now the reason that Labaik was such odds is because he has a mind of his own and only decides to race when he feels like, but when he does show up he certainly shows up. He's currently at 3/1 for this which isn't a price that a lot will want to take for horse who's as quirky as he is. I think Melon showed that he's no mug at the festival with a clear second and I think he might serve it up to Labaik here and just might reverse the form.
Punchestown Gold Cup:
A rematch from the Cheltenham Gold Cup is on the cards here with Sizing John and Djakadam. 2015 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Coneygree is also down to go to add a bit more tastiness too. It's a real tough one this is and I wouldn't be surprised to see an outsider win it like last year. Sizing John is clearly the one to beat following the Cheltenham heroics but we don't know how much that took out of him and I just don't know with Djakadam anymore. I am fan of his but his performance seem more lacklustre than they do impressive as of late and you just aren't sure which Djakadam is going to turn up. Coneygree obviously has claims but he's coming here on the back of just one run back in November last year and before that it was the Gold Cup at Cheltenham in 2015 so there's obviously a lot of ring rust. I'd be willing to have an each way bet here on Champagne West (16/1) at a big price. He was arguably disappointing at the festival when 9th behind Sizing John but before that he mostly always finishes in the frame when completing and is one i'd more than willing to take an each way chance with.
Champion Stayers Hurdle:
Another Cheltenham rematch with Nichols Canyon and Unowhatimeanharry here and its the Willie Mullins charge in Nichols Canyon that is the 6/4 market leader following his winning in the Stayers at Chetlenham. A repeat of that run would obviously make him hard to beat again here. Another horse that ran a huge race that day at big odds is Lil Rockerfeller, he's an 8/1 chance and mostly always run his race for Neil King. It's certainly an interesting one but i'd be willing to take a chance that Unowhatimeanharry (4/1) reverses the form here with Nichols Canyon for Harry Fry. If you follow my blog regulary you'll know he's a big favourite of mine this horse and I still think there might be a little bit more to come from him.
Punchestown Champion Hurdle
The race i'm most looking forward too out of the entire festival. The supposed last hurrah of the great Annie Power before she goes into foal with Camelot. What a horse she's been for Willie Mullins and the Ricci's and i'll certainly be backing her to go out with a bang. It doesn't look like it's going to be easy for her coming back off a season long lay off. Second in the market is her stable mate and County Hurdle winner Arctic Fire, he won that race coming off a lay off himself and will certainly be there or thereabouts with a repeat of that run. Petit Mouchoir has had a good season for Henry De Bromhead finishing third in the Cheltenham Festival and a horse that was in front of him that day is also said to go here in the ever reliable My Tent Or Yours for Nicky Henderson, both horses who have more than enough ability to get in the frame here. Annie Power (2/1) will be getting my undivided support here to go out with one final win, she should get her claim and anything near her best should be enough to take this.