Our expert takes a look through the high-quality field of entrants in this year’s Growise Champion Novice Chase and highlights a returning Festival winner who could land a second Punchestown title.
Before the flat racers bring the first day of festivities to a close here at Punchestown, some of the best long distance novices chasers in the business will approach the post and battle it out for the Growise Champion Novice Chase title.
This race may be a fairly new addition to the Punchestown Festival schedule, but several notable names have landed a huge victory in this top quality contest. Sir Des Champs, Carlingford Lough and Valseur Lido conquered their rivals to land this title in the last six years and have all gone on to land prestigious three mile Grade 1 titles over subsequent seasons.
Noel Meade will be quite surprised to see Disko
(6/5 William Hill
) sitting at such a short price at the head of the betting. This price will largely be due to the fact that he finished just one length behind Irish Grand National winner, Our Duke over three miles in the Grade 1 Neville Hotel Novice Chase at Leopardstown, before turning the tables on his rival when winning over a shorter distance to win the Grade 1 Flogas Novice Chase.
The eight-year-old put in a decent showing at Cheltenham, coming home just three lengths behind Yorkshire in the Neptune and a step back up to three miles will bring out the best in him. However, when stepping into this kind of company around Punchestown, he has fallen to two emphatic defeats, resulted which may dissuade punter from backing the short-priced favourite.
Alpha Des Obeaux
(8/1 William Hill
) and Acapella Bourgeois
(7/2 William Hill
) kept Might Bite company at the front of the field for the best part of two-and-a-half miles at Cheltenham, but as the eventual winner shifted into top gear turning into the final bend, both failed to keep pace with the leader and eventually crossed the line in fourth and sixth place respectively.
Mouse Morris will have been pleased with that effort from Alpha Des Obeaux, who has really struggled for consistency since switching to chasing in the autumn. The Cheltenham ground will have been a little too quick for Acapella Bourgeois, who seems to do his best work in deep ground, so a return to more favourable Irish soil will be a big boost to his title aspirations.
Sean Flanagan riding Disko clear to win The Flogas Novice Steeplechase at Leopardstown in February.
Following a very narrow defeat in the Drinmore Novice Chase, A.J. Martin has stepped Anibale Fly
(11/2 William Hill
) up to three mile contests. His first and third efforts at this longer distance haven’t ended well – he looked completely out of sorts on his British debut at Kempton's Christmas Festival and had to be pulled up well before the end and in February he finished 50 lengths behind Acapella Bourgeois in fourth in the Ten Up Chase.
His second attempt at a three mile trip was much more impressive when he produced a stunning late charge to deny A Genie In Abottle
(10/1 William Hill
) victory in a Grade 3 Novice Chase at Naas. He was spared another trip to England to prepare for a tilt at a Punchestown title and if A.J. Martin decides this is the perfect race for him, then he should challenge for the title.
Despite that narrow defeat at Naas, A Genie In Abottle took the tag of favouritism with him to the line in the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham. He struggled to find his jumping rhythm on his Cheltenham debut and Noel Meade watched his charge fade from a prominent position to a fifth place finish.
A Toi Phil
(10/1 William Hill
) wasn't included in Gordon Elliott's Cheltenham Festival squad and instead headed for Navan, where he comfortably won a Grade 2 title. He's been soundly beaten on both his attempts at a three mile trip so far this season and is in real danger of being outclassed again in this Grade 1 contest. The same could be said for William Murphy’s Velocity Boy
(25/1 William Hill
), who has won just one of his six starts this season and has been left struggling at the back of the field on every occasion he has raced against opponents of this calibre.
The predicted good going is unlikely to suit Acapella Bourgeios, but he's a class customer and shouldn't be discounted. Disko is easy to swerve at his current short price and it would be a huge ask for Alpha Des Obeaux to put in a championship winning run after completing the Irish Grand National less than two weeks ago. Looking at the remaining runners, a chance could be taken on AINBALE FLY to score a second Graded three-mile title of the season.
The seven-year-old may have finished almost 50 lengths behind Acapella Bourgeios in the Ten Up Chase, but he hated the ground that day and his form during the spring months is excellent. He made his Punchestown Festival debut last year, beating 24 other rivals to the Coral Handicap Hurdle title and he has every chance of adding a second Festival title to his collection.25/4/2017 6:40pm Punchestown Growise Champion Novice Chase selection – ANIBALE FLY (11/2 William Hill)