Paul Townend celebrates on Chacun Pour Soi after winning the William Hill Champion Steeplechase during day one of the Punchestown Festival Racecourse in Kildare. Photo by David Fitzgerald.
The Punchestown Festival kicks off tomorrow with BoyleSports’ horse racing ambassador Robbie Power catching up with Leon Blanche this week to give his thoughts ahead of the five-day event.
The Gold Cup winning jockey looks at the opening day of the festival with three incredible Grade One races on offer for horse racing enthusiasts which is sure to attract a big crowd to the Kildare venue.
Willie Mullins’ pair of Sir Gerhard and Dysart Dynamo line up in the first Grade One of the day and he fancies the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle winner.
4.15 Bective Stud Champion Novice Hurdle.
Power said: “It’s great to see the two of them taking each other on and I think Dysart Dynamo is going to set this race up perfect for his stablemate Sir Gerhard. He goes a very strong gallop in front and is a very free-going type of horse. That will play to the strengths of Sir Gerhard as it will help him to settle and will be more of a stamina test as well.”
“I think it’s very hard to oppose Sir Gerhard on what he has done. He is a Grade One winner over 2m as well so dropping back in trip is not going to be an issue. He is a horse with plenty of pace and I think he can beat Dysart Dynamo. I think the latter is a horse who wants softer ground and I think that is key to him, so I think everything is in Sir Gerhard’s favour.”
5.25 William Hill Champion Chase
“This is a fantastic renewal of the Champion Chase but while I think Paul Townend has chosen right with Sir Gerhard, I think he has chosen wrong here with Energumene. Soft ground is key to this horse and he was impressive when winning the Champion Chase at Cheltenham but that race kind of fell apart because Chacun Pour Soi was still in front when he unseated Patrick Mullins at the fourth last fence and Shishkin never turned up on the day”
“You could question the form of that race a little bit, but I just think Chacun Pour Soi around Punchestown on good ground will jump out in front and make all the running. Paul will try to settle in Energumene and Envoi Allen who was third in the Champion Chase is likely to be the one to finish third again. It’s Chacun Pour Soi for me who has a lot in his favour against Energumene and every time he has ran at Punchestown he has been eye-catching.”
6.35 Dooley Insurance Group Champion Novice Chase
“Bob Olinger has been a stand-out novice both over hurdles and over fences so far. He is still unbeaten and very lucky to still be unbeaten, but he still is unbeaten. I think stepping up in trip will bring around improvement for Bob Olinger and it will help his jumping. This is no walk in the park though as he faces some very good horses.”
“Lifetime Ambition improved at Limerick the last day when he stepped up to 3m and I think he has a good chance. Capodanno who as fourth in the RSA at the Cheltenham Festival is in there and Millers Bank who was an impressive winner at Aintree. There is a lot of competition there for Bob Olinger and you’re going to be guaranteed that it will be run at a decent pace which will test his stamina. He is the one to beat but I think Lifetime Ambition on this ground, and he was an impressive winner last year over hurdles at this festival too, is the one. He is overpriced and has a good chance.”
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