Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown House Stud will bid to round off the Irish season on a high at next week’s Punchestown Festival with leading contenders in most of the big races.
The five-day Festival runs from Tuesday, April 28 through to Saturday, May 2.
Gigginstown’s colours have prevailed in the BIBBY FINANCIAL SERVICES PUNCHESTOWN GOLD CUP twice before with War Of Attritition (2006) and Sir Des Champs (2013) and the owners look to have a bright chance of making it win number three this year.
Eddie O’Leary, racing manager to his brother, today confirmed that Cheltenham Gold Cup third Road To Riches is likely to be joined in the Grade 1 event nextWednesday, April 29, by Don Cossack, an easy winner of the Melling Chase at Aintree.
“All being well, the plan is the Bibby Financial Services Ireland Punchestown Gold Cup for Road To Riches. He had a hard race at Cheltenham but he’s fine again now and is ready to go,” said O’Leary.
“There’s every chance that Don Cossack could go for the Gold Cup as well. He’s come out of Aintree very well. It’s the case with both him and Road To Riches that if they tell us they want to run then they will.”
The outstanding novice Don Poli, unbeaten in three starts over fences this season, is set to have his first start since winning the RSA Chase at Cheltenham in theGROWISE CHAMPION NOVICE CHASE on Tuesday, April 28. Trainer Willie Mullins could also saddle Vautour, winner of Cheltenham’s JLT Chase for owner Susannah Ricci.
“Don Poli is entered in the Bibby Financial Services Punchestown Gold Cup but he’s more than likely to go for the novice race,” said O’Leary. “Hopefully he’s a good horse but the novice is where we’ll go. If Vautour runs, he runs, but we’ll just worry about our own horse.”
Gigginstown has huge strength in depth among its novice hurdlers and is likely to be particularly well-represented in the three-mile IRISH DAILY MIRROR NOVICE HURDLE on Wednesday, April 29.
The Mouse Morris-trained Alpha Des Obeaux, who was travelling well when falling in the Sefton Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree, is a probable starter as is No More Heroes, who was hampered when third in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle, and Sub Lieutenant, who finished fourth in Aintree’s Mersey Novices’ Hurdle for trainer Sandra Hughes. Albert Bartlett runner-up Milsean, trained by Willie Mullins, is also engaged.
“Alpha Des Obeaux was going very well when he came down at Aintree,” added O’Leary. “Hopefully he’s OK, he came out of it well enough and if he is alright he’ll go for the three-mile Irish Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle.
“We’re also likely to run No More Heroes and Sub Lieutenant. No More Heroes ran a very good race at Cheltenham, he just didn’t get the rub of the green. It’s up to Willie with Milsean but if the horse goes to Punchestown, he’d also line up in the three-miler.”
Lieutenant Colonel, a dual Grade 1 winner this season, was well-beaten in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle at Cheltenham but O’Leary is hoping he will return to form in the LADBROKES WORLD SERIES HURDLE at Punchestown on Thursday, April 30.
“Lieutenant Colonel will hopefully run in the Ladbrokes World Series Hurdle,”added O’Leary. “We put cheekpieces on Lieutenant Colonel at Cheltenham and he was too free with those. We made a mistake doing that and he obviously won’t wear them at Punchestown.
“Dedigout is also entered but he would only go there if the going was heavier than soft, he wouldn’t go otherwise.”
Grade 1-winning juvenile Petite Parisienne and the year-older mare Analifet are both likely to put in an appearance on the Festival’s final day, Saturday, May 2.
“We have Petite Parisienne in both the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Champion Hurdle and the AES Champion Four-Year-Old Hurdle on Saturday,” continued O’Leary. “I’d imagine that if Annie Power goes to the mares’ race then we’d go for the four-year-old contest with her. If that’s the case then I think we’d run Anafilet against Annie Power.”
Irish National hero Thunder And Roses is unlikely to take up his entry in the Growise Champion Novice Chase but two of those also in action at Fairyhouse – Empire Of Dirt and Rogue Angel – are likely to head to Punchestown.
“There’s only a slim chance Thunder And Roses would go, he’s probably done enough for the year – if he tells us he wants to go he can go,” added O’Leary. “But Empire Of Dirt and Rogue Angel, who both came down behind him in the Irish National, are likely to go for handicaps. They’d be more than likely to go for either the 3m 1f Palmerstown House Pat Taaffe Handicap Chase or the 3m 6f Ladbrokes Ireland Handicap Chase.”
Gigginstown House Stud has its usual team of promising bumper performers and among those slated to appear next week is the Noel Meade-trained Disko, a 15-length winner at Punchestown on his only start in February.
“I’ll have to talk to Noel Meade but I’m hoping that Disko will get there for the Attheraces.com Champion INH Flat Race (on Wednesday, April 29). He’s a nice horse. We’re also likely to run two or three in the Goffs Land Rover,” continued O’Leary, who is counting down the days until next week.
“We always look forward to Punchestown. It is a high-class meeting and it’s very hard to win there,” he added. “In fairness to Richie Galway he always produces decent ground so you can bring a horse there with confidence.”
The 2015 Punchestown Festival features over €2.5 million in prize money and runs from Tuesday, April 28, and Saturday, May 2, and includes top-class racing on each of the five days.