Rabobank Punchestown Champion Hurdle
The Punchestown Champion Hurdle is a Grade 1 race, open to horses aged four years or older. It is run over a distance of about 2 miles (3,219 metres), and there are nine hurdles to be jumped. The race was established in 1999 and previous winners are the who's who of Irish hurdle racing including Istabraq, Hardy Eustace, Brave Inca and current two-time defending champion Hurricane Fly. Willie Mullins has saddled three winners in the past, so it's not a surprise to see he's responsible for three of the four runners in this year's renewal. The prize fund for the race is €160,000 of which €96,000 goes to the winner. All horses carry eleven stone twelve.
Ruby Walsh for Willie Mullins
As previously mentioned 2010 and 2011 winner, but he stunk at Cheltenham. Given the injury concerns at the start of the season and the fact that this is run at a heavy ground Punchestown and not a good ground, you could forgive his last run. He chugged up in heavy conditions at Leopardstown in November and looks like he could quite easily make up for that poor Cheltenham run tomorrow. On the face of it, the race looks like a race for second place behind him, but he's not Sprinter Sacre. He's got the form, and should win this easily.
The Real Article
Barry Geraghty for Edward O'Grady
Sorry, but can't win this and Bazza G isn't riding for Nicky "Dwain" Henderson. Yeah sure, this horse has won a couple of Grade 2 races this season. However, this is a massive jump for him and he's only 21lbs behind Hurricane Fly. He's also got to make up 17 lengths on Thousand Stars given their performances in the Istabraq hurdle at Leopardstown in November. He's not for me, the 40/1 quotes seem about right, even given that this is a 5 horse race; he's a class below the other 4.
Katie Walsh for Willie Mullins
Finished third in the Irish Champion Hurdle to Hurricane Fly and Oscars Well. That form looks reasonably solid given the subsequent Cheltenham form and he should be in the mix in this one. He goes well on soft/heavy ground given he won a Grade 1 here in November beating Oscars Well. Most of his defeats in the last two years have come at the hands of Hurricane Fly, so there's no reason to doubt that now. If he was 7/1 I would be tempted to back him, but not at 4/1, sorry.
Paul Townend for Willie Mullins
An interesting addition to this field, as he hasn't me too many of these horses before. Sure, he was well beaten by Hurricane Fly in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham, but they went too fast for him that day, and given the heavy conditions they won't be running away from him in this. I'd expect him to try and dictate from the front and plod away in a similar style to Overturn. Townend is a canny jock and he knows what he's doing in this race. Zaidpour has beaten Voler La Vedette over 3 miles and beaten some donkeys over 2 in a Grade 2 at Gowran Park is similarly ploughed ground. I expect him to go close, and at least beat Thousand Stars and The Real Article.
5pt reverse forecast Hurricane Fly and Zaidpour