Jump racing is back with a bang at Punchestown next week, with some of Ireland’s leading chasers set to kickstart their campaigns at the Kildare track’s first meeting of the season.
Follow the Plan returns to the scene of one of his greatest triumphs when he contests the Grade Three Star Best for Racing Coverage Chase. The Oliver McKiernan trained chaser won the Gold Cup at the Punchestown Festival in 2011 and was second in this year’s contest. He could be joined by two of Paul Nolan’s best in the two mile seven furlong highlight of the two day meeting.
Noble Prince, who won the Jewson Novices’ Chase at the 2011 Cheltenham, had a curtailed season after undergoing surgery for a back problem, and he could make his seasonal reappearance in Thursday’s contest. Stable companion Joncol hasn’t been seen on the track since finishing a long way behind Synchronised in the Lexus Chase last Christmas. The giant chaser is no stranger to Punchestown glory, having won the Durkan Chase back in 2009, and he could bid to get back to winning ways at Punchestown next week.
The race is just one of four graded contests over two days of exciting racing with Boylesports Hurdle winner Citizenship set to take his seasonal bow in the Grade Three Ryan’s Cleaning Event Specialists Hurdle also on Thursday. Charles Byrnes’ Trifolium was placed in both the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham and in the Evening Herald Champion Novice Hurdle at the Punchestown festival and he could take on Jessica Harrington’s charge.
The Grade Three Buck House Novice Chase has attracted a classy field of entries. Mouse Morris’ Baily Green has run up a five timer over fences and he heads the list of runners at this stage. He could be joined in the race by Protaras, who won a beginners’ chase at Gowran last Saturday. Willie Mullins has Laganbank, Sweet My Lord and Twinlight entered in the contest.
The highlight of Wednesday’s card is the Grade Three Grabel Mares’ Hurdle which sees some of the top mares in the country clash in this two and a quarter mile contest. Burn and Turn, Our Girl Salley and Blazing Tempo all hold entries in the race and if they turn up it will be a pulsating contest.
There will be seven races on both days, with the first race off at 2.15pm each day. The ground at Punchestown is currently soft to heavy with the forecast for the weekend unsettled.