rides big race favourite
The Ladbrokes.com World Series Hurdle is the highlight on day three of the Punchestown Festival, and Ruby Walsh believes big race favourite Fiveforthree has a good chance on breeding of staying the three miles.
The Willie Mullins-trained grey is among a field of ten declared for the Grade One contest as he steps up in trip after being touched off by Solwhit in the Aintree Hurdle earlier this month.
'He won the Ballymore Properties Hurdle last year over 2m5f, and was second at Aintree over two and a half miles last time,' said Walsh.
'Obviously it's his first try at the trip but he is a half-brother to Celestial Gold, who won a Hennessy, so he is bred to get the trip and is in very good form. He's a few to beat, and it will be a very good race.'
Among those nine rivals is the Colm Murphy-trained former Champion Hurdle winner Brave Inca, who was sixth to Refinement on his only previous attempt at this distance two years ago.
Murphy is confident stamina will not be a problem for the popular veteran saying, 'He went over two and a half in the Hatton's Grace on his first run back this year and I don't think the trip is an issue at all. I'm very happy with him and hoping for a really good run.'
Nicky Henderson, who had to pull out his star stayer Punchestowns with a late setback earlier this week, is represented by Duc De Regniere. The seven-year-old bids to put behind him a disappointing Aintree display when only fifth to Big Buck's in the Liverpool Hurdle.
'He's in great form. It's a shame Punchestowns can't be here, but at least we've got him. I was a bit disappointed with him at Aintree, but he's entitled to be here and we're going to have a go,' said Henderson.
Completing the ten runner line-up is Powerstation, a highly creditable third to Big Buck's in the World Hurdle at Cheltenham, Whatuthink, Nicanor, Shakervilz, Footy Facts and the British-trained pair Fair Along (Philip Hobbs) and Pettifour (Nigel Twiston-Davies).
The Cathal Ryan Memorial Novice Chase is the other Grade 1 event on the card, and Arkle Trophy winner Forpadydeplasterer takes on six rivals in this two miler.
Tom Cooper's Cheltenham hero is a course and distance winner having won his first chase at the track earlier this season, and the Tralee trainer believes his charge will be a 'fresh horse' after bypassing Aintree.
'He's done very well since Cheltenham, no problems whatsoever, and I'm very happy with him. The Arkle was a very prestigious race to win, and hopefully he can repeat that,' said Cooper.
'It was nice to see Kalahari King frank the form when he won at Aintree, but he probably had one race too many when he ran at Sandown on Saturday. We are coming from Cheltenham a fresh horse.'
'Going there was his main aim of the year but it was the plan to come here afterwards if it worked out, so we are hoping for the best.'
Heading the opposition is Tatenen, a faller when favourite in the Arkle and runner-up behind Kalahari King in the Maghull Novices' Chase at Aintree.
Trainer Paul Nicholls believes Tatenen has every chance, as long as the long season has not taken its toll on the young horse.
'The ground and track will suit him, and I just hope it's not one run too many being a five-year-old. If he's on the top of his game, he'll run really well. But as we've seen, a few of ours have had a busy time and have not performed as well of late. Let's hope that doesn't apply to him.'
Made In Taipan, fourth in the Arkle and third at Aintree, also reopposes although the Tom Mullins-trained gelding has hung badly on previous attempts going right-handed.
'He's very well after Aintree, so we thought we'd hang on to him for Punchestown and see how he handles going right-handed this year,' said Mullins.
'He's in good order and the softer ground is definitely in our favour. It was good in Cheltenham and in Aintree also. With the softer ground, we think we might just get closer to them.'
Willie Mullins is double-handed with Barker and Deutschland, while Coolpotts and Holly Tree complete the field.