Our expert looks through the ante-post betting in the Irish Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle and picks out a Cheltenham Festival winner who could make a huge impact on his Grade 1 debut.
The first Grade 1 contest on Gold Cup day at the Punchestown Festival is the Irish Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle. This gruelling, three mile hurdle is a fantastic test of a young horse’s jumping and stamina, as they tackle the stiff hurdling track at Ireland’s top jumps meeting.
The Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle is, along with this valuable contest, the premier three mile hurdling contests for novices. Considering the race at Cheltenham was dominated by Irish entrants, it’s no surprise to see the first two finishers in the Albert Bartlett renew rivalries here at Punchestown.
Willie Mullins' final winner of the 2017 Cheltenham Festival was Penhill, who overhauled all his Cheltenham rivals to land the Albert Bartlett title. Rated 100 on the flat with Luca Cumani, Penhill had only lost twice in seven starts over hurdles since switching to Willie Mullins yard, before that Cheltenham triumph. Despite his jumping successes, the six-year-old carried a price tag of 16/1 with him to the post at Cheltenham, but there is no chance he will be underestimated again, as he searches for a second major Grade 1 title in a row.
Monalee’s best friend and travelling companion, Harvey the goat may have been the talk of the paddock on Albert Bartlett day, but when Henry De Bromhead’s charge finished strongly to pass the post second - just three lengths behind Penhill - Harvey was the last name on people's lips. The six-year-old has been in excellent form this season, beating capable opponents on two occasions, so he is bound to be in the equation when the leaders turn into the home straight at Punchestown.
It’s been a case of feast or famine over jumps so far for Bon Papa. He’s fallen on both occasions he has tackled three mile trips and won both times Willie Mullins has sent him on confidence-restoring missions over two miles. Willie clearly fancies him as a strong stayer, so he could represent good each-way value if he can sort out those jumping errors.
After a narrow victory at Fairyhouse at the start of the year and an excellent triumph in the Grade 3, two-and-a-half mile novice hurdle at Thurles, Tin Soldier went into the Coral Cup at Cheltenham amongst the favourites. Although he never featured in the finish, he crossed the line just six lengths behind Supasundae in sixth and he is likely to be much more comfortable in this smaller field.
Gordon Elliott enjoyed a fantastic Cheltenham Festival, winning six major titles, but Champagne Classic's victory will be the one that stands out for Ireland's leading trainer. Elliott was taken under Martin Pipe's wing during the early stages of his training career and to win the race named after his old mentor was high on the trainer's bucket list. Despite Michael O'Leary claiming he was the worst out of all the Gigginstown representatives at Cheltenham, he has to be respected as he searches for another major title.
Al Boum Photo is the fourth entrant in the current betting for this Grade 1 and will be looking to land a hat-trick of victories, after comfortable wins at Thurles and in a Grade 2, two-and-a-half mile contest at Fairyhouse earlier this month. Moulin A Vent has won twice this season, he finished a single length behind Tin Soldier on his last outing and finished just four lengths Monalee when he came fourth in the Grade 2 Navan Novices Hurdle, so it's clear Noel Meade's charge has plenty of ability.
Penhill and Monalee both come in boasting excellent form and should be involved in the finish at a second successive festival. However, Patrick Kelly’s Cheltenham Festival champion, PRESENTING PERCY he has shown this season that he possess bags of Grade 1 winning potential.
Following a victory on his second novice hurdle appearance, he was bumped straight up into big handicaps, where he has gone on to claim three victories from his next five seasonal appearances. His first handicap win came here at Punchestown when he carried 11-8 to victory over two miles.
Two narrow defeats on his first two attempts at three mile trips were followed by a victory over a shorter distance at Fairyhouse, where he comfortably beat several dangerous handicappers by almost four lengths. He was treated extremely unfairly by the British Handicappers when he ventured to the Cheltenham Festival, but he produced a stunning display to land the Pertemps title in excellent fashion.
Kelly’s six-year-old is yet to put in a poor performance this season, he’s stepped up to the plate every time his trainer has asked him for a big performance and he looks to have plenty of progression left in his locker. Any horse who can carry 11-11 to a handicap title at the Cheltenham Festival deserves his place in a Grade 1 of this stature and he is certainly capable of showing he is a three mile hurdler to be feared.
26/4/2017 4:55pm Punchestown Irish Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle – PRESENTING PERCY