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Mikael's destined to steal the stage

At home today, Punchestown takes centre stage with high quality racing on offer.

While the Cross Country Chase brings plenty of intrigue, there is more importantly a return to fences for Mikael D'Haguenet who faces the high-class Mount Benbullen in the opening beginners chase at 11.55.

Simenon and Un Beau Matin put their credentials on the line in the conditions hurdle at the same track, while in that aforementioned Cross Country Chase Bostons Angel will attract plenty of attention being a previous Cheltenham Festival winner when he won the Grade One RSA Chase.



OBTAINED

Barry Connell's high profile purchase Minsk, who he obtained from previous owner, Celbridge Estates Ltd, and John Oxx will return to hurdles for his 'winter' trainer Dessie Hughes in the maiden hurdle and there he faces the unbeaten (three from three) Glens Melody for Willie Mullins and Paul Townend.

At Cheltenham today, proceedings get underway with a Grade Two Triumph Hurdle trial and Paul Nicholls and Ruby Walsh combine with likely favourite Far West.

Irish runners Sea Of Thunder, Sraid Padraig and White Star Line compete against four other rivals in the Novices Chase at 1.20, while Chicago Grey and Deal Done provide the Irish interest in the Henrietta Knight Handicap Chase which comes up before the feature Paddy Power Gold Cup.

The Cheltenham showpiece of the Open meeting will put some Gold Cup prospects out in the spotlight as Grands Crus makes his claims for David Pipe and the highly regarded Hunt Ball runs for fledging trainer Kieren Burke.



SUPPORT

Walkon and Al Ferof are two others that are likely to have a say while there has been support in the betting for Barry Geraghty getting down to ride at 10st 1lbs on Triolo D'alene for Nicky Henderson.

Also around the Cotswolds this afternoon we have Stonemaster and Star Neuville representing Dessie Hughes and Shark Hanlon respectively in the listed handicap hurdle that looks a real tough contest at 3.05, while in the concluding handicap hurdle Tony Martin has managed to secure the services of Tony McCoy for Buy Back Bob who is set to be very popular.


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