Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Al Boum Photo © Photo Healy Racing
Al Boum Photo, the horse that finally gave Willie Mullins his first Cheltenham Gold Cup, will face extremely tough opposition if he is to join an elite list of horses to have won the Cheltenham and Punchestown Gold Cup double.
Entries for the Grade 1 races on the opening two days of the Punchestown Festival were revealed today for the Irish National Hunt Festival which runs from April 30th— May 4th and is due to welcome the three highest rated chasers in Ireland, Al Boum Photo, Kemboy and Min, across the opening two days.
Al Boum Photo is now officially Ireland’s highest rated chaser and he heads the potential runners for the Coral Punchestown Gold Cup where he is likely to meet stable companion and recent Aintree winner Kemboy.
Willie Mullins reports both of his big race winners to be in rude health following their high profile victories but the feature race on day two of the Punchestown Festival is also set to attract the Henry de Bromhead-trained Monalee and possible interest from England with Aso, Definitily Red and Sizing Granite all earning entries.
Willie Mullins said: “Punchestown is always a very important meeting for us and all being well Al Boum Photo and Kemboy will pitch up there for the Coral Punchestown Gold Cup and I hope to have other runners in that race also.
“Al Boum Photo is in great shape after Cheltenham and this is certainly his prime target now. We were very pleased with Kemboy at Aintree last week and he looks fit and well since he came back from there so we’ll take our chance at Punchestown. We have also entered Bellshill, Footpad, Killultagh Vic, Pairofbrowneyes, Pleasant Company and Yorkhill and I would certainly imagine a few more of them will run as there aren’t too many more opportunities for them for the remainder of the season.”
The Henry de Bromhead-trained Monalee finished third in the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham but will return to his optimum trip of three miles for the Coral Punchestown Gold Cup where de Bromhead is hoping he can give a good account of himself.
“Monalee came home sore from Cheltenham, he is in good form now, but I just don’t think he ran his race there,” de Bromhead said.
“I think his best runs have been over three miles and he has got some very good form in the book. Monalee gave Anibale Fly 7lbs at Gowran Park and finished in front of Al Boum Photo a couple of times and it’s definitely exciting to be going back for the Coral Punchestown Gold Cup with him. We are very much looking forward to it.”
Last year’s BoyleSports Champion Chase winner Un De Sceaux is in line to return for the €300,000 feature race on the opening evening where his stablemate Douvan might well make his seasonal debut.
Champion trainer Willie Mullins holds a strong hand in the BoyleSports Champion Chase with the JLT Chase hero Min, Footpad and the returning Great Field also engaged in the two-mile championship race.
“Douvan started his fast work this week and then we’ll see how he progresses between now and Punchestown but it would be nice if we could get him back there. Great Field is back and seems to be in good form in himself so if we can get him to Punchestown we’ll be doing our best to do that,” Mullins said.
“Min should be fine after Aintree. That was a very pleasing performance from him last week. Footpad has disappointed us this season and we will monitor him as things just haven’t gone right for him. We’ll keep an eye on his progress but we are happy to let them all take their chance at Punchestown if we can.”
The BoyleSports Champion Chase has proved a popular race for British trainers and the 2016 winner God’s Own is one of two entries for Tom George who has also included Bun Doran. Hell’s Kitchen, who was fourth to Altior in the Champion Chase at Cheltenham, is Harry Fry’s representative in a list of 15 initial entries.
The Herald Champion Novice Hurdle is the opening Grade 1 race of the week at Punchestown and is to be the next port of call for Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner Klassical Dream who is likely to meet Nicky Henderson’s unbeaten hurdler Champagne Platinum in what is sure to be a mouth-watering clash on day one.
The Philip Hobbs-trained Defi Du Seuil is one of three Cheltenham Festival winners among the entries for the Grade 1 Dooley Insurance Champion Novice Chase with A Plus Tard and Any Second Now also holding an option to run in this race. Delta Work, Getabird and Winter Escape are other notable entries.
“Defi Du Seuil is grand and has a couple of options in Ireland,” Hobbs stated. “We’ve entered him in Punchestown and he is also in on Easter Sunday. He’s in good form and it was very much a help to see Colin’s (Tizzard) horse, Lostintranslation, winning at Aintree last week. I’m happy with him at the moment.”
The opening Grade 1 on day two of the Punchestown Festival is the Irish Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle in which the Henry de Bromhead-trained Albert Bartlett Novice Hurdle winner Minella Indo tops the field.
A total of 46 entries were received for the €100,000 three-mile hurdle which includes the first three horses home from the Albert Bartlett Novice Hurdle where Minella Indo beat Commander Of Fleet and Allaho, while British representation comes in the shape of Ask Ben, Emitom and Geordie B.
“Minella Indo has been great since Cheltenham,” de Bromhead said. “Our view going to Cheltenham was that wherever Allaho would finish that we wouldn’t be too far away. We felt our horse would improve from Clonmel but to a degree it was still a pleasant surprise. If he could go to Punchestown and do something similar it would be amazing.”