Day one of the Punchestown Festival will see the imperious Sprinter Sacre back in focus in the Boylesport.com Champion Chase, whilst Willie Mullins novices look to dominate the other Grade One contests
Sprinter Sacre will face four rivals in the Boylesport.com Champion Chase. Sizing Europe vanquished by the Henderson horse in the Queen Mother Champion Chase looks almost certain to finish second again to him today. Henry De Bromhead’s other runner Day’s Hotel is most likely to challenge his stablemate for the runners up spot. The much improved Foildubh and once useful Noble Prince complete the field for a race that should be no more than a procession for the awesome chaser who deserves the accolade of the best horse in training. At prices of 1/7 for the favourite and 9/2 for Sizing Europe no punters will make their fortune on the chase. Crockford advises punters to keep their powder dry and use it on more profitable prospects.
The Herald Champion Novice Hurdle looks to be an interesting rematch of Champagne Fever and Jezki, with the Cheltenham Festival winner getting the nod from Crockford. The grey Mullins horse came back a reformed horse after his operation earlier this season to win well at the Festival when fending off the strong finishing My Tent Or Yours. A repeat of that form should have the beating of his rivals including the impressive Festival second Rule The World.
The Mullins pair Back In Focus and Boston Bob are a strong hand for the Irish champion trainer in the Growise Champion Novice Chase. Back In Focus claimed the National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham with a strong finish up the hill and Boston Bob was an unlucky loser at the Festival when falling when in front at the last. Crockford narrowly favours Back In Focus to claim victory especially with Ruby Walsh up.
Phillip Hobbs Snap Tie landed a training coup when he won the big handicap hurdle at the Punchestown Festival last year, a repeat performance would be outstanding but not a surprise to Crockford.
The master trainer Don Cantillon runs Classic Move in the bumper at (6.05). The former point-to-point winner stands an excellent chance in the race and is bound to be ready for a big run. The booking of Nico de Boinville is also eye catching.
Crockford’s gambles on day one of the Punchestown Festival:
Near Perfection (3.40), Champagne Fever (Herald Champion Novice Hurdle 4.20), Snap Tie e/w (4.55), Sprinter Sacre (Boylesport.com Champion Chase 5.30), Classic Move e/w (6.05) Back In Focus (Growise Champion Novice Chase 6.40) and Wicklow Brave (7.15)
(Featured photograph – Back In Focus at the Cheltenham Festival by Stuart Rice)
(Photograph – Don Cantillon by Stuart Rice)