Patrick Mullins: Next Destination a class act - and he looks my best chance this week
Cheltenham fourth ready to go three better on another big day for my father Willie in trainers' title battle
Punchestown keeps delivering and the action today is enough to keep everyone entertained, with eight races to study in depth.
Nichols Canyon is the champion stayer from Cheltenham and has won Grade Ones here over two miles in the past. His performance at Cheltenham was a revelation, and he has been in great form since. We hope he can take the Ladbrokes Champion Stayers Hurdle (5.30).
We changed his routine before Cheltenham, altering his riders and stables, which seemed to perk him up. Our head man Dick Dowling looks after him - he certainly gets pampered. There was not much between him and Lil Rockerfeller at Cheltenham but, it being a home game for us and an away game for Lil Rockerfeller, this may help Nichols Canyon. He seemed to go around Cheltenham well going left but he can jump right at times so we're hoping the track will suit.
Clondaw Warrior is a star, winning the Galway Hurdle and also scoring at Royal Ascot for us. He is bang there on his form at Christmas when second to Vroum Vroum Mag. He was keen at Cheltenham but will love this ground. As such, I feel he's over-priced and could run into a place.
Shaneshill won the Champion Bumper here before. It was unlike him that he ran below-par at Cheltenham but he is in good shape since and he'll give Danny Mullins a solid spin. He is the type of horse to help our quest for prize-money in the trainers' title battle.
Footpad ran very well in the Champion Hurdle but he stayed especially well as a four-year-old and we are hoping he can improve again for the distance. He is working very well. It would be no surprise if any of them won but Nichols Canyon is our main hope.
Great Field somehow is under the radar, despite three extraordinary performances this year, and can make them all go in the Ryanair Novice Steeplechase (6.40). Indeed the horse he beat at Thurles by 32 lengths, Hurricane Ben, won a lucrative Fairyhouse race at the National meeting. If his last two performances are to be believed, Great Field could be anything. He's hugely exciting - but because of how we have campaigned him he's perhaps not getting the plaudits.
I'd be very disappointed if he cannot win. He has a good survival instinct despite his own way of jumping - heart-in-the-mouth stuff - and the sky is the limit for him.
Townshend and Listen Dear are well behind on ratings but will love the gallop and the ground. They are also fantastic jumpers.
The first event is the handicap hurdle (3.40) and that Ruby rides in such a race on Old Castletown for his father Ted is a pointer to this one's chance off a low weight.
The handicap chase (4.15) lacks depth. Tully East enjoyed a fine ride at Cheltenham. I wonder will he get the same breakneck pace here?
I think Potters Point is the one. We once had him - indeed I won a bumper on him at Punchestown - and off his racing weight he has a decent chance for Gigginstown.
On to the La Touche Cup (4.50). Maybe we should have brought 16-year-old Uncle Junior back for the title battle! Cantlow should prove a class apart here.
Sure Reef has underwhelmed this year and must step up in the staying handicap hurdle (6.05). Kate Appleby Shoes is a fabulous mare but wants heavy ground - watch her next winter chasing. Screaming Rose has had a long season and was a little below-par at Fairyhouse.
Conduct Yourself for the master trainer John Kiely and my landlord Brian Hayes won impressively at Cork; I feel she is suited by the new trip. Maybe tipping her will get me a month's free rent, Brian?
Asthuria contests the mares' novice heat (7.15). She ran very well at Cheltenham, yet her jumping can at times be haphazard. Still I think she may be able to turn the tables on Barra, considering that Barra ran at Fairyhouse.
Good Thyne Tara ran a blinder at Fairyhouse and she has an awful lot of ability but lacks the experience of Asthuria. The same can be said of Pravalaguna which was running a big race until falling last time. She will run well but Asthuria has the form and experience advantage.
I hope Next Destination is my best chance of the week in the finale (7.45), having run with such credit when fourth at Cheltenham - which looks superior form to the rest. Robbie McNamara seems to love Rathcannon. But I like mine too.
PATRICK'S PICKS 3.40 Old Castletown 4.15 Potters Point 4.50 Cantlow 5.30 Nichols Canyon 6.05 Conduct Yourself 6.40 Great Field 7.15 Asthuria 7.45 Next Destination