Peerless Punchestown serves up more Grade 1 action

Cheltenham Festival Preview. Three words

Thursday is the third day of the Punchestown Festival with the action getting underway at 15:40 and there are two Grade 1 races included on the card.

The Champion Stayers Hurdle is due off at 17:25, while the Barberstown Castle Novice Chase is scheduled for 18:35 and in the former several well-regarded runners have a chance.

Klassical Dream (6/5) is the defending champion and is set to lead the eight-strong field. The eight-year old was impressive when also victorious in the Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown and was then a respectable on fifth in the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham last month.

Sire Du Berlais (5/1), who won the Grade 1 Liverpool Hurdle at Aintree earlier this month, and Paisley Park (13/2), who landed the Cleeve Hurdle for a third time at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day before a third-place finish in the Stayers’ Hurdle at The Festival last month, are other obvious contenders.

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In the Barberstown Castle Novice Chase, only seven runners go to post after the much-fancied Gentleman De Mee was declared a non-runner so the door has opened for several others to take their chance.

Among them are Gabynako (9/4), who was only four-and-a-quarter-lengths second behind Edwardstone in Arkle Chase at Cheltenham last month, and Saint Sam (4/1), who caught the eye when winning the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Beginners Chase at Fairyhouse in January.

Blue Lord (2/1) is another that’s bound to have plenty of support in the race after a hat-trick of wins at Fairyhouse, Naas and Leopardstown over the winter was followed up with a third in the Arkle at Cheltenham.

The action at Punchestown starts with a 28-strong Handicap Hurdle at 15:40, in which a whole host of the field have a chance, including Uncle Gerhard (20/1) and Gin Coco (11/2) and Ideal Pal (7/1).

The final race of the day is due off at 19:45 and James’s Gate (8/15), who finished third behind Facile Vega in the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham, is expected to go well in this, while Music Drive (11/2), who won at Naas in February, was eighth in that same race at Prestbury Park.

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Author: Lucas Carlson