Willie Mullins unleashes two of his most impressive Cheltenham winners as he bids to continue his relentless domination at Punchestown.
Douvan and Don Poli will turn out under Ruby Walsh and Bryan Cooper respectively. It’s hard to make a case against either, but the day’s marquee event is competitive.
Mullins will saddle three in the €200,000 Boylesports Champion Chase. The Grade One lacks a little quality, but contenders like Mallowney, Hidden Cyclone and the evergreen reigning champion Sizing Europe have the potential to bring the house down.
3.40 Fr Sean Breen Memorial (banks) 3m
Little worthwhile form to go on. Enda Bolger has won four of the last five renewals and has booked last year’s winning rider Nina Carberry for Wish Ye Didnt. The point-to-point winner has been running well.
Verdict: Wish Ye Didnt is put forward hopefully.
4.20 Herald Champion Novices’ Hurdle 2m
Douvan lived up to expectations with a facile defeat of Shaneshill and Sizing John in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, form that was readily franked by Shaneshill at Fairyhouse.
Blair Perrone ran well off a slow pace at Fairyhouse and is capable of better, likewise Sizing John, which has been beaten an aggregate 19 lengths in two clashes with Douvan.
Verdict: Bar a calamity, Douvan will win at his leisure.
4.55 Killashee Handicap Hurdle 2m
Easy Limerick winner Cliff House is seven pounds higher as he strives for a third win in four starts. Astre De La Cour, Fethard Player and The Game Changer filled the first three spots at Aintree and do battle again. Of the three, The Game Changer is interesting, as a stronger pace might suit. Bryan Cooper has opted for The Plan Man, which ran nicely to be fourth at Fairyhouse on its return from a short lay-off. Some Article won that race and is six pounds higher.
Verdict: The Game Changer can defy top-weight.
5.30 Boylesports Champion Chase 2m
Hidden Cyclone sports first-time blinkers back over the minimum trip. Two miles suits him best and he was as good as ever when slamming Bright New Dawn here in February, when Twinlight was third.
Twinlight was no match for Mallowney at Naas before turning the tables on him at Fairyhouse in the Normans Grove. A Grade One winner at Christmas, he will be thereabouts again. Mallowney was disappointing at Fairyhouse.
Davy Russell had got a great tune out of him in his two previous outings, but the edge didn’t seem to be there last time. That is worrying, though he was a good handicap winner here in 2014.
Felix Yonger chinned Mallowney at Cork in December and has won twice more since. While he is a versatile sort belatedly coming into his own, his jumping needs polishing.
Champagne Fever is the best horse in the race. However, he hasn’t won over this trip for two years and he has become unpredictable. Sizing Europe is past his peak, though Baily Green and Savello could run well. Oscar Hill won’t do, while Flemenstar reverts to his optimum conditions. He wilted behind Felix Yonger on his return, but is no forlorn hope.
Verdict: Mallowney is napped to bounce back for Tim Doyle.
6.05 Goffs Land Rover Bumper 2m
Art Of Synergy ran an eye-catching race when third to Sizing Titanium over hurdles. Broken Soul and Petit Mouchoir are possibly the pick of the Gigginstown Stud team, the latter a decisive point-to-point winner.
Set In My Ways, Bon Enfant and Our Three Sons cross the water, the last-named duo having won and been second. Blast Of Koeman, Last Goodbye, Red Giant and St Stephens Green are newcomers of note.
Verdict: Art Of Synergy has bundles of potential.
6.40 Growise Champion Novices’ Chase 3m 1f
Don Poli was a hugely authoritative winner of the RSA. He is brilliantly straightforward, with a relaxed running style, a measured jumping technique his chief attributes, along with and tendency to find plenty.
Apache Stronghold was no match for him at Leopardstown over Christmas and then got pulverised by Vautour at Cheltenham. He never looked happy before falling at Fairyhouse, so he has something to prove now at a trip he has yet to excel over.
Valseur Lido was a staying-on third in the JLT. He was another that then flopped at Fairyhouse but the return to this trip is in his favour. Wounded Warrior was an admirable third in the RSA. He is an honest sort that will keep plugging away, while the Cotswold handicap winner Irish Cavalier faces a stiff task after taking a spill at Aintree.
Verdict: Don Poli can secure his Grade One hat-trick.
7.15 JLT INH Flat Race 2m
Startinfromscratch, a brother to Rock On Ruby, is an interesting raider. Of those that have run, Coeur Joyeux’s Leopardstown second to Charbel stands out.
Verdict: Coeur Joyeux looks solid for Katie Walsh.