Big names prepare for Punchestown

    Some of the biggest names in horse racing, on both sides of the Irish sea, are preparing for possibly their biggest test of the National Hunt season when Davy Russell and Peter Scudamore will be captaining their country’s in the 2011 Punchestown Mastermind at the Naas Court Hotel next Monday.

    In aid of the IMNDA (Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association), a top class panel has been put together to preview the 2011 Punchestown festival with the likes of Davy Russell, Peter Scudamore, Gordon Elliot, Leon Blanche and Brian Flanagan from the Irish Daily Star all giving punters an insight to the week’s big races. At The Races showman Matt Chapman will be master of ceremonies for the evening. But that’s only half of the fun as after the preview, the panellists will be turning on each other when Scudamore and Chapman will be joining forces to clash with Davy Russell and Horse Racing Ireland’s Martin ‘Murph’ Murphy in a Mastermind event, similar to the one held two years ago when Murphy gave ‘Chappers’ a 49-32 drubbing.

    However, this time around, things will take a slight twist with Russell coming alongside the Horse Racing Ireland expert while Chapman will be joined by eight-time champion jockey Peter Scudamore. The three rounded battle will consist of Murphy and Chapman going head-to-head in round one, where ‘Murph’ has chosen the ‘Cheltenham Gold Cup since 1970’ as his specialist subject while Chapman’s chosen topic will be ‘The horses of David Johnson’. With Ireland likely to be ahead after round one, the pressure will be on the visitors when ‘Scu’ and Russell take the hot seats with each having chosen their own careers as their specialist subjects. And then the all important third and final round will see Team Ireland tested on questions regarding Irish National Hunt racing while the raiding party will be answering questions on National Hunt racing in England in recent years. And Chapman is highly confident of reversing the form from two years ago. “I was fighting a losing battle from the very start two years ago as I picked Moscow Flyer as my specialist subject and as well as him being an Irish horse, which didn’t help, I didn’t even know there was a Moscow Flyer book until two hours before the Mastermind. I’ve done my research this time around and ‘Murph’ won’t know what hit him. And Davy deserves a right thrashing too. We might even give the bookies a bashing on the night as well during the preview.” said the At The Races presenter.

    Speaking of the bookmakers, Leon Blanche of Boylesports and Ladbrokes PR girl Hayley O’Connor will also be squaring up to each other on the night in a one round Mastermind head-to-head. Blanche has opted for the career of Hurricane Fly as his specialist subject while the insightful Ladbrokes glamour girl will be tested on ‘The horses of Jessica Harrington’ when she takes the hot seat. And the mind games between the pair started at the Punchestown festival launch earlier this week when the Boylesports man wrote off the chances of his opponent. “Hayley simply has no chance as I have to research a horse with just seven years under his belt while Jessica has been training horses for over 20 years. It’s only a matter of me turning up.” beamed Blanche. Hayley had the simple reply of, “this won’t be the first time Leon has been beaten by a girl and he better be prepared to pay up on Monday night.” The winner of the Bookmakers Mastermind will get a €500 charity bet with the opposing firm on any horse running at this year’s Punchestown festival, with all proceeds going towards IMNDA. One of Irish racing’s own stalwarts Damien McElroy will be taking on the quizmaster role as Magnus Magnusson for the evening.
    There will also be an auction on the night with prints donated by Ballydoyle training maestro Aiden O’Brien and Ireland’s leading owner JP McManus going under the hammer, as well as a morning on the gallops with Philip Hobbs, which will include breakfast at his Somerset training facility and tickets to go racing later that day. Tickets for this year’s Punchestown festival will also be up for grabs on the night and proceedings are expected to get under way at 8pm.

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