McNamara can steer L'Ami to repeat triumph
Punchestown will unveil a €20,000-plus addition of nine new obstacles to their unique cross-country course during this afternoon's opening session of the Winter Festival, as L'Ami attempts to achieve a repeat victory in the Risk Of Thunder Chase.
Banks specialist Enda Bolger entrusts the mount on the French-bred top weight to John Thomas McNamara once more, as he also saddles another veteran King Johns Castle and Chance Your Arm for a three-mile event now comprising 26 jumps.
The welcome upgrading of the infield track features a Pau-style water splash and a version of Aintree's infamous Canal Turn, none of which should faze either L'Ami, which sprang a surprise over hurdles at Galway three weeks ago, or his vastly experienced pilot.
Bolger and Kings Johns Castle's partner Nina Carberry, foiled on Garde Champetre by Lacdoudal at Cheltenham yesterday, team up with Arabella Boy in the GAA Fundraisers Beginners Chase, though slight preference is for Corskeagh Royale if Noel Meade's charge reproduces the form of his Galway second to Jessies Dream.
Bolger's principal patron JP McManus has runners in seven of the eight races and, in addition to L'Ami, his colours can be carried to victory by Accidental Outlaw in the Christmas Market Hurdle and Pride Of The Lions (Tote Novice Handicap Hurdle).
The Charles O'Brien-trained Accidental Outlaw was confidently handled by Mark Walsh to open his jumping account over this route a month ago and the High Chaparral gelding may have more scope for improvement than Days Ahead and Silas Mariner.
Short-headed by Le Reveur at Clonmel, Pride Of The Lions may be compensated for the Boots and Slippers Madden combination in the Tote-sponsored Jackpot finale, despite the obvious claims too of Shark Hanlon's Tipperary runner-up Ephorus.