Apple's to bear fruit and exact sweet revenge
There's no question about the race of the day as the mouth-watering rematch between Apple's Jade and Benie Des Dieux provides a fitting conclusion to another explosive Punchestown Festival.
It's appropriate that Gordon Elliott and Willie Mullins should duke it out for Grade One glory yet again after their epic Irish trainers' title battle throughout the season and Elliott will be hoping for revenge.
This week hasn't gone as planned for the Meath trainer with Mullins in sensational form from the outset on Tuesday but he will hope to extract revenge for the surprise Cheltenham reversal of Apple's Jade.
Prior to that defeat, Elliott's mare had been in irresistible form as she clocked five wins on the bounce and while Benie Des Dieux is a formidable opponent, Apple's Jade has the class to gain retribution.
2.35 DOOLEY INSURANCES CROSS COUNTRY CHASE 3m
ENDA BOLGER is a master in the cross-country sphere with five of the last ten winners of this race and the Limerick trainer holds a strong hand with Josies Orders and Blue Templar.
Both were just touched off earlier this week with Josies Orders - which won this race three years ago - going down by a neck in the La Touche Cup on Thursday while Blue Templar was just touched off over the banks on Tuesday.
Josies Orders won the Cheltenham Festival Cross Country Chase two years ago and may just edge that battle under Nina Carberry while the The Crafty Butcher is a danger.
Partly-owned by Irish rugby internationals Dominic Ryan and Ian Madigan, Mullins's 11-year-old definitely has the class to be involved if taking to the unique cross-country demands, although that is a big if.
Verdict: Josies Orders to gain compensation and score.
3.10 PALMERSTOWN HOUSE PAT TAAFFE H'CAP CHASE 3m 120yds
LAST year's winner Sizing Codelco is the only victor to carry more than 11st1lb to success in the past decade and while Mullins' Some Neck is respected, the value may lie with lightly-weighted runners.
English raiders have a good record with three of the last seven winners hailing from across the Irish Sea and Wicked Willy is an interesting contender for Nigel Twiston-Davies.
High Nellie is another one to note with Cathal Landers taking a valuable 7lbs off as Michael Bowe's progressive eight-year-old bids for a hat-trick but preference is Lasoscar.
The demanding trip will play to the strengths of Liam Cusack's charge - which has a lovely racing weight of 9st 11lbs - and Mark Enright's mount should be in the mix in an open affair.
Verdict: Lasoscar (e/w) has a lot in his favour and can make the frame.
3.50 GRADE ONE ANNIE POWER MARES CHAMPION HURDLE 2m 4f
APPLE'S JADE was one of the bankers of the Cheltenham Festival and was far from disgraced in third behind Benie Des Dieux in the Mares' Hurdle, but that was not her true form. If Elliott's brilliant six-year-old puts her best foot forward, she will be hard to stop in a race she strolled to last season.
Mullins (four) and Elliott (two) have dominated the last six runnings of this contest and look sure to do so again with Benie Des Dieux her chief rival again. She may struggle to back up her Cotswolds win, however, and Apple's Jade is 9lbs better on official ratings if showing up in the right mood.
Three of the last four favourites have obliged in this contest so everything is in her favour but further spice is added with Alan King's Midnight Tour - which split the pair last month - also featuring in a 12-strong field.
Jer's Girl - Champion Novice Hurdle winner here two years ago - is another trying to upset the market principals while Jessica Harrington's Forge Meadow is another that could make the frame if leaving her disappointing Fairyhouse run behind her.
Verdict: If the real Apple's Jade (Nap) shows up, she wins.
4.25 AES GRADE ONE CHAMPION FOUR YEAR OLD HURDLE 2m
MULLINS bids for a sixth straight win in this race and fires a strong sextet at a race totally dominated by the Carlow handler and Elliott, who saddles the other three runners in this €100,000 contest.
Paul Townend siding with Triumph Hurdle second Mr Adjudicator suggests he is the best of the Closutton crew but that notion has been blown out of the water on several occasions already this week.
The man of the moment David Mullins bids for another Grade One success aboard Stormy Ireland - a faller at Cheltenham - while Fairyhouse Grade two winner Saglawy is an interesting challenger.
They all have to catch Elliott's Farclas, however, which was two lengths better than Mr Adjudicator when taking the Triumph and the Gigginstown runner may just confirm that again although the juvenile form is quite volatile this year.
Verdict: Farclas is preferred in another competitive affair.
5.0 BOYLESPORTS HANDICAP CHASE 3m 6f
OVER a furlong longer than the Irish Grand National, this is going to be gruelling stamina test and only one horse carrying 11st 4lbs or more has prevailed in the past decade.
That was Fletchers Flyer two years ago but the dual Festival winner will need to leave some appalling form behind in the last 12 months for Harry Fry and Noel Fehily.
Kilcullen Flem is another interesting English contender for Philip Kirby along with the hat-trick-seeking Daklondike for David Pipe while Irish National second Isleofhopendreams bids to defy top-weight for team Mullins.
Forever Gold was just behind him on that day and may turn the tables but Closutton stable-mate Augustin is totally unexposed over fences and can do the business off 11st.
Verdict: Team Mullins can prevail again with Augustin.
5.35 BALLYMORE GRADE B HANDICAP HURDLE 2m4f
FAVOURITES have an appalling record in this 25-runner minefield with no hotpot obliging in the last decade and an astonishing 14 of the field (plus two reserves) represent the Mullins battalion, which has hoovered up five of the last nine renewals.
Finding the one with the best chance is no easy task but Melbourne Cup third Max Dynamite has finally got some decent ground and if leaving his Cheltenham run behind him, he has the class to prevail.
Yaha Fizz is another of interest and was second on his first run for Elliott in a lucrative Fairyhouse contest while stable-mate Flawless Escape is another which can go close.
Joey Sasa ran a cracker when second on Tuesday and should be in the mix again for Noel Meade and Seán Flanagan while Early Doors ran a cracker when third in the Martin Pipe and should grab a place.
Verdict: Max Dynamite finally gets a good chance to show his class.
6.10 PDM (PRO/AM) INH FLAT RACE 2m
NO horse bigger than 5/1 has obliged in the five renewals of this race so it may pay to stick to the top end of the market in what is a difficult riddle to figure out.
Joseph O'Brien has underperformed by his usual standards this week but will hope to bounce back with Belharbour point-to-point winner Dlauro, which has the assistance of crack amateur Derek O'Connor and can see off Elliott's Multifactorial.
Verdict: O'Brien and O'Connor to score with Dlauro.