Tizzard star on Cue to take advantage of Don's absence
There is no Don Cossack or Coneygree, but Cue Card will face the three horses that have been placed in the last two Cheltenham Gold Cups when he strives to reassert his superiority at Punchestown.
Colin Tizzard's exceptional chaser was brilliant at Aintree, when he slammed Don Poli and Djakadam.
Willie Mullins's duo go again in this evening's Bibby Financial Services Gold Cup, and they are joined by Noel Meade's Road To Riches, which was third in last year's blue riband event.
By the time you factor in John Kiely's dual Irish Gold Cup victor Carlingford Lough, the leading quartet in the €200,000 feature have combined to win 17 Grade Ones. That is not to sniffed at, so, while injury denies us the lustre of either of the last two Gold Cup heroes, not to mention the prospect of a definitive clash between Cue Card and Don Cossack, it is still a cracking renewal of the three-miler.
3.40 Martinstown Handicap Hurdle 2m 4f
On a line through Stowaway Shark, Steamboat Bill looks nicely treated.
He might need soft ground but is unexposed. Tayto Park, Shannak and Go Darsi Go all have chances, while Definite Earl caught the eye when flashing home at Limerick.
Tongie won at the same track last month and is a likeable sort.
Verdict: Tongie is a hopeful selection.
4.20 Louis Fitzgerald Hotel Hurdle 2m 4f
Supasundae ran well to be seventh in the Supreme, considering he was run off his feet early on. He is a proper horse dropping notably in class.
Moon Over Germany and Balko Des Flos aren't as precocious but neither is likely to be too far away.
Verdict: Supasundae looks pretty unopposable under Noel Fehily.
4.55 Grade One Novice Hurdle 3m
It was disappointing to see Bellshill get clung late at Aintree.
Prior to his getting overhauled by Ballyoptic, the switch to three miles seemed to have worked a treat. He will surely be a leading player again here.
Gangster pulled up then and has questions to answer now, as does General Principle. The likes of Coney Island, Sandymount Duke and Thebarrowman are all capable of running well in this better company.
A similar comment applies to the raiders Emerging Force and Bigbadjohn, while Acapella Bourgeois is one of the most progressive of them all.
He has beaten Nambour on his last two starts, and has a great way of going about his job. This step up in trip could be beneficial to his prospects.
Verdict: David Mullins could get them all at it on the game Acapella Bourgeois.
5.30 Bibby Financial Services Gold Cup 3m 1f
Cue Card set the record straight with a superlative success at Aintree.
He has been the season's outstanding chaser, with his dramatic fall at Cheltenham the only blip on his record.
This is his sixth run and, while that is a slight a concern, he didn't have a hard race in Liverpool.
Djakadam and Don Poli were again put in their place on Merseyside. On their day, either could win, but, all things being equal, it's not easy to make a case for them against Cue Card.
Road To Riches floundered in the mud behind Smashing at Navan, having been third to Vautour in the Ryanair Chase.
Better ground here will suit, and, if he is again ridden sensibly, a better showing is expected.
Having skipped Aintree, Carlingford Lough is another that might run well, though Smashing could do with rain. He will likely force the pace but soft ground makes life much easier for him.
Verdict: Paddy Brennan is trusted to get Cue Card home again.
6.05 Attheraces.com Champion Bumper 2m
If Moon Racer is wound up for this, then he is the horse to beat.
David Pipe's charge stretched its unbeaten record to three in last year's Champion Bumper and goes well fresh.
Battleford and Bacardys were second and third in the race this year and Bacardys turned the tables on his stablemate to win at Aintree. It's a toss of a coin with them again, although they may pay for their exertions. Castello Sforza skipped Aintree, having run well after a lay-off off to be fourth at Cheltenham. He will surely strip fitter now.
Blow By Blow, Aspen Colorado and Articulum are the others that appeal as having leading chances.
Verdict: Castello Sforza gets the nap vote.
6.40 Guinness Handicap Chase 2m 4f
Colms Dream has won his last five competed starts, and, while he is 12lb higher, he is a versatile horse that could have another day in him. Pairofbrowneyes and Rogue Trader have been in fine fettle, with Ted Veale another to consider. Tony Martin's former Cheltenham hero had a blow over flights and isn't badly treated, having been third to Un De Sceaux here on his last start over fences in 2015.
Verdict: If Ted Veale jumps cleanly, he could give this a real rattle.
7.15 Weatherbys Ireland Mares' Bumper 2m
Augusta Kate is another competing at her third spring festival. She ran well in defeat at Cheltenham and Aintree and her chance is obvious.
The Nipper - trainer by Warren Greatex - completed a hat-trick in a decent event at Sandown and must be a player, while Jessica Harrington's Forge Meadow made an eyecatching debut at Fairyhouse. Dont Kick Nor Bite and The Green Lady also look to have bright futures.
Verdict: Forge Meadow can enhance Jessica Harrington's bumper record.