Punchestown Winter Festival Preview
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Punchestown Winter Festival Preview

A major fixture on the jumps calendar, Punchestown hosts their two-day Winter Festival this weekend with some big names of the Irish jumps scene turning out. They race on Saturday (12.30pm-3.55pm) and Sunday (11.45am-3.50pm) with the Grade 1 Morgiana Hurdle on Sunday afternoon the centrepiece. The Racing Post previewsall the action across both days at the Co Kildare venue.



12.30pm - Lily & Wild Beginners Chase (2m3½f)

For all that he ran with credit in Grade 1s at Cheltenham and Punchestown in the spring, Kilcruit was disappointing as a novice over hurdles last season, given the reputation earned in bumpers. Amongst his disappointments was a defeat behind JOURNEY WITH ME at Leopardstown in December over this sort of trip. Henry De Bromhead's charge was shy of elite level over timber as a novice but, unlike Kilcruit, was a winning pointer and could make up into a smart chaser.

Selection: Journey With Me

Next Best: Kilcruit


1.03pm - Oak Lodge Landscapes Craddockstown Novice Chase (Grade 2, 2m1f)

Joseph O'Brien's Midnight Run has plenty experience over fences though perhaps isn't progressing as hoped, while the same is true of Grand Paradis, one of two in this line-up for Gordon Elliott. Shark Hanlon's Hallowed Star meanwhile ran out an easy winner of a beginners' chase at Galway last month over further and is open to progress rising in class. Davy Russell and MARS HARPER chased home Mighty Potter on fencing bow at Down Royal a fortnight ago and that was probably a solid effort. They might cause a mile surprise here.

Selection: Mars Harper

Next Best: Hallowed Star

FIFA World Cup 2022 Preview

FIFA World Cup 2022 Preview

1.38pm - O'Connor Heating & Plumbing Supporting Longford GAA Maiden Hurdle (2m3½f)

A big field for this maiden but, as can be the case, plenty of deadwood amongst them in terms of winning this contest. Joseph O'Brien's Benaud was quite smart on the Flat and needs a close look switching to this sphere, while point-to-point winner Deep Cave debuts for Henry De Bromhead and is also worth monitoring. ABSOLUTE NOTIONS however was a tidy winner of the ?60k Goffs Land Rover Bumper at this track in the spring for Gordon Elliott and changed hands for ?370,000 afterwards, ensuring he runs in the Robcour colours on hurdles bow. He's an exciting prospect for the team at Cullentra.

Selection: Absolute Notions

Next Best: Benaud


2.13pm - Frontline Security Grabel Mares Hurdle (Listed, 2m2f)

The betting makes this a match between Heaven Help Us and Queens Brook - the pair having finished second and third in this grade at Limerick (2m6½f, soft) last month on their respective comebacks. Gordon Elliott's mare was favourite for that contest and both she and Heaven Help Us are entitled to strip fitter now - albeit they both underperformed in that previous contest. With three places on offer, some value could be had on COPPER NATION for trainer Donal Coffey. She likes to front run and while held in this grade at Killarney in May, still has scope for better in the months to come and the booking of JJ Slevin is a positive for her.

Selection: Copper Nation

Next Best: Queens Brook

FIFA World Cup 2022 Golden Boot Preview

FIFA World Cup 2022 Golden Boot Preview

2.48pm - Sebden Steel Rated Novice Hurdle (2m)

A potentially informative race. Both Uncle Phil (Willie Mullins) and Solness (Joseph O'Brien) are entered in a Grade 1 at Fairyhouse in the coming weeks. Paul Townend's partner was too keen at Listowel in September and was reported to have encountered a breathing issue, he's hooded now. The Model Kingdom was third in a Down Royal Grade 3 earlier this month, most likely behind two smart rivals in Magical Zoe and Nikini - and she sets the standard on form. Cork handicap winner Walnut Beach may need further improvement so HALIBUT gets a tentative vote, with his recent Clonmel maiden victory on hurdles bow appearing like a decent effort. He's got room for plenty improvement on that showing.

Selection: Halibut

Next Best: The Model Kingdom


3.23pm - Conway Piling Handicap Hurdle (3m½f)

A tough contest. TYRE KICKER won well over a similar trip here on penultimate start for Gavin Cromwell and shaped as if still in form from this mark at Down Royal since. The return here could serve him well in his attempt to turn around that form with Jungle Prose - with whom he enjoys a 12lb pull at the weights. Gordon Elliott's charge is going for a quick hat-trick and isn't ruled out despite the attentions from the handicapper. Dr Val went close over 2m7f at Fairyhouse recently and is unexposed at this trip, while Cher Why Not stays this distance well and could have a say.

Selection: Tyre Kicker

Next Best: Dr Val

William Gallas Exclusive: Ronaldo Will Leave After World Cup

William Gallas Exclusive: Ronaldo Will Leave After World Cup

3.55pm - Irish Mirror (Pro/Am) Flat Race (2m)

No runner for Willie Mullins in this bumper, offering hope to his rivals. CALDWELL POTTER started favourite for a valuable contest at the Festival here in the spring, finishing eighth in a race that worked out well. Gordon Elliott's charge could be a strong contender now for Jamie Codd. Stablemate Cardamon Hill needs a look on rules bow, while Answering was placed last time at Thurles. It's more than two years since Teuchters Glory won a Galway bumper on debut, presumably things haven't been straightforward for him since and he's conceding weight all round now.

Selection: Caldwell Potter

Next Best: Cardamon Hill


11.45am - Pigsback.com Risk Of Thunder Chase (3m1f)

An early start and last season's Cheltenham Cross Country winner Delta Work will be popular here for Gordon Elliott. He's high class and followed up that defeat of Tiger Roll by finishing third at Aintree in the Grand National. He has, on occasion, needed a run coming back and for that reason Enda Bolger's CHAMPAGNE PLATINUM might be some value. He's had a run over hurdles to sharpen him up recently and might take to this test. Midnight Maestro was second last year for Bolger and is a player too.

Selection: Champagne Platinum

Next Best: Delta Work


12.20pm - John Lynch Carpets 3-y-o Hurdle (2m½f)

The market will be pivotal in assessing these youngsters. Good Heavens attained a rating of 101 on the Flat for Joseph O'Brien and must be a major contender switching code, while stablemate Nusret was also useful on the level for the Piltown handler. SUNDIAL won a heavy-ground Navan maiden in October before departing Ballydoyle and new trainer Padraig Roche has secured Rachael Blackmore for this hurdles bow.

Selection: Sundial

Next Best: Good Heavens

William Gallas Exclusive: Failure If They Don’t Reach World Cup final

William Gallas Exclusive: Failure If They Don’t Reach World Cup final

12.55pm - Ryans Cleaning Handicap Chase (2m6½)

The mare SECRET SHE KEEPS was desperately unlucky not to make a winning chase bow at Fairyhouse (2m5f, good) in October but she made no mistake next time when landing a beginners' contest at Thurles against her own sex. Rachael Blackmore is back in the saddle here and, while she's the youngster in this field, she could be the answer on handicap bow off 119. Friendly Star was second over hurdles in last month's stable bow for Tony Martin and - with chasing successes and plenty experience from France - rates a player here.

Selection: Secret She Keeps

Next Best: Friendly Star


1.30pm - Liam & Valerie Brennan Florida Pearl Novice Chase (Grade 2, 2m6½f)

Final Orders was nothing if not gutsy when making it a hat-trick of chase wins at Down Royal earlier in the month, a step up to three miles is no barrier to him. He takes a rise in class now but Gavin Cromwell has every right to be targeting a race such as this. MINELLA CROONER was a strong stayer over hurdles and the former point-to-point winner shouldn't be long making a splash now sent chasing by Gordon Elliott.

Selection: Minella Crooner

Next Best: Final Orders

William Gallas Exclusive: Tough For France To Defend Title

William Gallas Exclusive: Tough For France To Defend Title

2.05pm - Unibet Morgiana Hurdle (In Memory Of Michael Rafferty At AnaglogsDaughtr) (Grade 1, 2m½f)

Willie Mullins' utter domination of this Grade 1 has brought 11 wins in 12 years and two-time champ Sharjah will now aim to emulate the likes of Limestone Lad and Hurricane Fly in scoring a third Morgiana win. He's a solid barometer, though perhaps not a star at nine-years-old. STATE MAN, meanwhile, was an exciting novice in the spring, winning the County Hurdle at Cheltenham and the Grade 1 Champions Novice here. Paul Townend's partner is one of a cluster of possible emerging Champion Hurdle contenders in the Mullins squad and would want to win this if that is his ambition. Teahupoo was a fair sort last season for Gordon Elliott but failed to see his races out at the major spring festivals.

Selection: State Man

Next Best: Sharjah


2.40pm - Irish Ebf Supporting Galabid.com/t21 Auction For The Down Syndrome Centre Maiden Hurdle (2m5½f)

Monbeg Park was clear second in a Galway maiden hurdle over a similar trip last month on soft ground and that form is satisfactory - he's got every chance of being in the mix again for trainer Sean Doyle but there are some interesting newcomers. Top Speed (Henry De Bromhead) and Will Do (Gordon Elliott) are amongst those but SEABANK BISTRO won a Naas bumper on debut in January and was a hugely respectable nine-lengths fourth behind outstanding stablemate Facile Vega at Cheltenham in March on only his second outing. He looks a likely sort for the champion trainer/jockey.

Selection: Seabank Bistro

Next Best: Top Speed

William Gallas Exclusive: 2006 World Cup Final Defeat Was Hard

William Gallas Exclusive: 2006 World Cup Final Defeat Was Hard

3.15pm - Pertemps Network Group Handicap Hurdle Qualifier (3m)

These Pertemps qualifiers are tricky by nature. A Navan maiden winner in January on debut, JAYCEAN was a fair fourth on seasonal bow when taking on superior opposition at Thurles last month and should find this more within his scope for top connections. His stablemate Coventry has run well in both starts since moving to Gordon Elliott, while last-time-out winners Supreme Jet and Robinstown are considered too.

Selection: Jaycean

Next Best: Robinstown


3.50pm - Mervyn Gray Construction (pro/am) Flat Race (2m½f)

Lecky Watson was second on debut at Fairyhouse in April, splitting a pair of fellow Willie Mullins-trained inmates. He didn't get the clearest of passages that day and could be capable of much better now in what isn't a deep bumper on paper. Leading owners the McNeill Family paid £180,000 for CATO CAPONE at the Aintree Sales in the spring and the horse that beat him in a Ballynoe point-to-point in March is already 2-2 in bumpers, including an easy win at Cheltenham last month where he had next-time-out winners behind in second and fifth (one of them a Listed scorer back in the Cotswolds).

Selection: Cato Capone

Next Best: Lecky Watson






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