Trifolium can make headlines in Herald

Niall Cronin

Despite the heavens opening over the last couple of days, few can doubt that there is still some real quality on offer for the opening day of the Punchestown National Hunt Festival.

The Evening Herald is delighted to be continuing its association with today's opening Grade One for which there is a small, but select, line-up.

Supreme Novices' Hurdle third Trifolium is the pick of the runners, although Tom Mullins' Alderwood, himself a Cheltenham Festival winner as he landed the County Hurdle, will be no push over.

The ground may have gone against Alderwood now, however, and Trifolium, who is a course and distance winner here on heavy ground, should be able to continue his progression following that Cheltenham outing.

This is the week in which Davy Russell will be crowned Ireland's Champion Jockey for the first time and he is likely to be on the shortest-priced favourite of the opening day, Sir Des Champs.

Willie Mullins' dual Cheltenham Festival winner will step up to Grade One company for the first time this afternoon and should make his debut in this grade a winning one.

Frisco Depot, Mossey Joe, Ordinary Man and Shop Dj provide the opposition, but Sir Des Champs is unbeaten in six starts for Willie Mullins and that sequence will undoubtedly continue later on this evening.

Last year's winner, Big Zeb, will try and defy the odds when he takes on warm favourite Sizing Europe in the feature Champion Chase.

Sizing Europe has finished in front of Big Zeb on their two meetings so far this season, winning the Tied Cottage and finishing second in last month's Queen Mother Champion Chase when Big Zeb was third.

Henry de Bromhead's Sizing Europe has yet to win this race, finishing third in 2010 and second last year, but that fact is likely to be changed shortly after 5.30pm this evening.

Scottish Boogie was the pick in the Handicap Hurdle, however his ground may be gone now and Ballyhaunis could run well for Mullins.