For many, the jump season traditionally ends at Sandown. But for me, Punchestown is always a worthy end to the National Hunt season as we always see some spectacular races and performances throughout the festival. Cheltenham form doesn’t usually count for much at this meeting, so with all things considered, it’s time to look at Day 1 fancies for the 3 Grade 1s
HERALD CHAMPION NOVICE HURDLE
This looks pretty hard to discount the claims of the favourite KLASSICAL DREAM who won the Supreme Novices Hurdle easily despite pulling hard. That performance suggests this is a horse with plenty of ability and he easily holds the re-opposing Felix Desjy and Aramon. Quick Grabim might need quick ground so his biggest dangers are likely to be the unexposed class jumping pair Champagne Platinum and Mister Blue Sky.
Couldn’t help but be impressed with the latter last time out but he might find 1 or 2 too good here but he might represent value in the Betting Without Favourite market.
Champagne Platinum has the most to find on figures but is unbeaten and represents top connections in JP McManus and Nicky Henderson. He’s done nothing wrong so far and deserves his shot at this level. Favourite hard to overlook though but it’s a skinny price!
BOYLESPORTS CHAMPION CHASE
Once again we see an odds-on favourite for Willie Mullins in the form of Min who produced a career best last time out after making all from the front. Nothing else ever looked like challenging him that day and the infrequent bridesmaid to Altior put in a performance of his own that his old adversary would have been mightily proud of!
Stable companion UN DE SCEAUX is the big danger as I believe 2miles on yielding sees him to his best effect. As shown with his breathtaking win in this last year with Min over 15 lengths behind. I fancied Un De Sceaux that day as he was too big a price and Min had had a tough season as he has had once again. He will also get competition for the lead and I make Un De Sceaux a much better bet at the prices given how Min performed here last year and given how he’s had a busier campaign. Ruby has chosen Min though but the value once again may lie with the breathtaking 11 year-old to win back-to-back.
A clear round of jumping for Great Field rates the biggest danger to the top 2 as he’s very talented on his day whilst the others have too much to prove at this level.
CHAMPION NOVICE CHASE
Delta Work is a worthy favorite as he’s been a revelation for well over a year now and his close-up defeat in the RSA is his only blemish over fences. A PLUS TARD couldn’t have been more impressive at Cheltenham and with Rachael Blackmore once again booked, this 5 year-old will have very strong claims if seeing out the distance.
Getabird is another upped in trip which could be a strong move given his P2P form and with a return to going right-handed, he could have claims but A Plus Tard with a healthy age allowance should take the beating if getting home.