The 2018 Punchestown Festival boasts exciting entries for the opening day’s Grade 1 races on Tuesday 24th April.
The first day feature race is the €275,000 Grade 1 Boylesports Champion Chase and a fabulous renewal is in prospect with the 1-2-3 from Cheltenham’s Queen Mother Champion Chase all in the line-up. Punters will have to look at Max Free bets to get some value when opening betting accounts before the festival.
Nicky Henderson has entered the outstanding Altior, seven-length winner at Cheltenham. The Champion Chase second and third at Prestbury Park last month, Min and God’s Own, are also entered at Punchestown.
Min’s trainer Willie Mullins has a strong hand thanks to the eight-times Grade 1 winner Douvan, a faller at Cheltenham, Great Field, who returned from a lay-off to win impressively last month, and Un De Sceaux, who could step back in trip after an 18-length win over 2m 4f at Fairyhouse on Easter Monday.
Another Grade 1 on the festival’s opening day is The Herald Champion Novice Hurdle where the brilliant mare Laurina, unbeaten since joining Willie Mullins, could take on her male counterparts in the extended two-mile contest.
The Gordon Elliott-trained Samcro, a superb winner of the Grade 1 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, promises to provide formidable opposition to Laurina, who cruised home in a Grade 1 at Fairyhouse on Easter Sunday.
Elliott has strong supporting entries, including Supreme Novices’ Hurdle third Mengli Khan and Qatar Racing’s Pallasator, a Flat Group 2 winner who scored in Grade 2 company at Fairyhouse last Sunday.
Mullins’ other entries include Getabird, a 12-length Grade 2 winner at Fairyhouse on Easter Monday. Colin Tizzard’s three entries include the lightly-raced and progressive Slate House.
The Grade 1 Growise Champion Novice Chase entries feature four of this year’s Cheltenham Festival winners: Coo Star Sivola (Ultima Handicap Chase), Rathvinden (National Hunt Chase), Shattered Love (JLT Novices’ Chase) and The Storyteller (Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate).
Other leading challengers include Al Boum Photo, winner of the Grade 1 Ryanair Gold Cup Novice Chase at Fairyhouse on Easter Sunday and Grade 1 RSA Novices’ Chase runner-up Monalee.