A FIELD of 16 was sent forward at the latest forfeit stage for the Grade One Evening Herald Champion Novice Hurdle at the Punchestown Festival next week.
The prestigious Grade One contest has been won in the past by such high-quality horses as Hurricane Fly and Brave Inca, and this year’s running sees the Charles Byrnes-trained Trifolium head the betting.
The five-year-old is a course and distance winner after he justified favouritism here back in February and he was a narrowly beaten third in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at last month’s Cheltenham Festival.
Darlan, who had won at Aintree last weekend, was the most notable absentee at this morning's forfeit stage. Shot From The Hip claimed the race last year for JP McManus and AP McCoy and they could go close again courtesy of Cheltenham and Fairyhouse Festival winner Alderwood for trainer Tom Mullins.
Boylesports make Trifolium the 1/1 favourite, while Paddy Power go 9/4, and the firms differ in opinion over Alderwood with Powers going 7/2 and Boyles as big as 7/1.
Also on the opening day next Tuesday, is the Boylesports.com Champion Chase in which Sizing Europe is aiming to obtain some compensation for his unlucky defeat at the Cheltenham Festival.
A farcical bypassing of the final fence led to much confusion in the Champion Chase at the Cotswolds, and while Finian's Rainbow may still have won the duel, it would have been very interesting were the pair to jump the final fence.
The sponsors make Henry de Bromhead's stable star a 4/6 chance and the Waterford trainer revealed yesterday that he is happy with the former Champion Chaser.
Speaking yesterday, the trainer said: “He seems in good form. He worked this morning and worked well. He's schooling well and everything seems good, so we're aiming for Tuesday.”
Following the latest forfeit stage for the tote.com Punchestown Gold Cup, Paddy Power have installed Quito De La Roque as their 7/2 favourite in what appears to be an ultra-competitive renewal.
The blue riband event of the week sees the Gigginstown House Stud-owned eight-year-old head the betting as he comes here fresh following his absence from both the Irish Hennessy and the Cheltenham Festival.
A winner at Punchestown 12 months ago, Quito De La Roque suffered a setback when he put in a below-par performance in the Lexus Chase at Christmas but is set to be primed by Colm Murphy following his 120-day lay-off.
Another horse heading to Punchestown fresh is Quel Esprit who has been made the 7/2 favourite for the race with Boylesports.
Willie Mullins' grey was in Cheltenham last month but didn't take his chance in the Gold Cup over there after Mullins revealed he wasn't quite happy with his wellbeing.
Last year’s winner, Follow The Plan, is reported to be fit and well and on course to try and retain his crown just a fortnight after he sprung a 50/1 shock in the Betfred Bowl at Aintree.
Oliver McKiernan's nine-year-old was seventh, although only beaten 11 lengths in this race two years ago, but hit the headlines last year when winning at 20/1.
Boylesports go 12/1 about last year’s winner, while he is as short as 8/1 with Paddy Power.
The interesting inclusion in the race is the Mouse Morris-trained novice First Lieutenant, who was narrowly denied at Cheltenham. The son of Presenting was second to Bobs Worth and is likely to be kept away from Sir Des Champs in the novice ranks next week, hence his possible appearance in the Gold Cup.
Robbie Hennessy's Rubi Light, Philip Hobbs' Captain Chris and Paul Nolan's Noble Prince also stood their ground.
Sir Des Champs is the odds-on favourite for the Growise Champion Novice Chase. He is a somewhat appealing 4/5 ahead of First Lieutenant at 5/2 and then it is 10/1 bar with Call The Police the shortest of those in double figures.