Steve Mullen guides you through Tuesday’s racing from the first day of the Punchestown Festival, Brighton, Hexham, Ludlow, Wolverhampton and Yarmouth
How has ENNISKILLEN not won a race under Rules in 22-run career that has seen plenty of excellent efforts?
He has finished twice in the opening 3.40 for the past two seasons and comes here on the back of a good effort at Gowran and success in the pointing field.
So to tip him to make it third time lucky means there’s something different in his favour this year. There is — Jamie Codd is taking the ride for the first time.
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No disrespect to the other amateur pilots who have been on board but the Coddfather is a cut above most at this level.
He has been running at a 29% win rate over the past six months and has ridden four winners in the week running up to Punchestown. Enniskillen clearly likes this track and trip and comes here having shown promise last time out.
The great Enda Bolger has farmed this race, with five wins in the past six years. He must be respected and he’s throwing two darts in Blue Templar and Equal Status.
At first glance, neither seem to have a lot going for them and the latter looks the stable pick on jockey bookings. If they were trained by anyone else, you would struggle to make a clear case for them but the Bolger factor makes them a threat.
Gordon Elliott should have a good Festival and has likely favourite Veinard in a wide open 4.55.
But it’s one of his other runners — DAKOTA MOIRETTE — who makes each-way appeal at a fair price.
He didn’t fire at Fairyhouse last time out but he looked much more like it when a close-up seventh in the Fred Winter Hurdle at Cheltenham in March. He’s only a four-year-old so you would hope for more improvement race on race.
He tasted success on his last run over course and distance when winning comfortably on New Year’s Eve. That was in a big field so the hustle and bustle of this won’t be a problem.
His rider takes a valuable 7lb off which could make all the difference in what should be a really close contest.
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Another at eyecatching odds is Pique Sous for Willie Mullins and Paul Townend.
He is a Grade 2 winner at his best but didn’t fire at Cork on his return from a spring campaign on the all-weather.
That should have blown the hurdling cobwebs away and this drop back from 2m3f is also in his favour.
STOOSHIE can upset the bookies by taking the closing bumper at 7.15.
He has shown plenty of promise on his two runs so far, starting with a solid enough fourth here in February.
He stepped up a fair bit on that run when second at Limerick last month. He went down in a driving finish after travelling well through the contest. That man Jamie Codd takes the ride again and Stooshie wouldn’t have to improve much to go one better here.
Looking at the classier contests, it should be a really interesting rematch between Melon and LABAIK in the Champion Hurdle at 4.20.
The latter came out on top at Cheltenham but there’s still the slight worry about whether he’ll jump off as he has a nasty habit of planting himself at the start.
Assuming Labaik gets going, he is proven around here and has the same uphill finish in his favour that found out Melon last time.
Un De Sceaux is all the rage for the Champion Chase at 5.30 but he could find the minimum trip a little on the sharp side these days.
That said, he was very impressive when winning the Ryanair at Cheltenham last time and probably deserves to be favourite.
Last year’s winner God’s Own would have to up his game to beat him but FOX NORTON could put them both in their place.
He was second in the Queen Mother Champion Chase in March before stepping up on that to win at Aintree last time out. It’s a slight concern that he’s had two big races but on his best he could easily win this.
3.40 ENNISKILLEN (NAP)
4.55 Dakota Moirette
5.30 Fox Norton
6.05 Early Doors
6.40 Acapella Bourgeois
7.15 Stooshie (next best)
1.40 Marine One
3.50 Ross Raith Rover
5.00 Parys Mountain
4.50 Global Exceed
5.20 Quiet Warrior
6.20 Becca Campbell
7.25 The Special One
1.50 Storm Forecast
2.25 Miss Conway
2.55 Helmsley Lad
3.25 Loch Linnhe
4.30 Cave Hunter
5.05 Wig Wam Wiggle
2.00 Excellent Team
2.35 Fields of Glory
3.35 Pembroke House
4.10 Scarlet Minstrel
5.10 Spider’s Bite
6.00 Bracken Brae
6.30 Log Off
7.05 Perfect Summer
8.10 Major Muscari