Katie Walsh: Douvan is the star on Day One
All roads lead to Punchestown this week and after plenty of hype and build-up over the last couple of weeks, I’m just looking forward to the action getting started tomorrow, which looks to be an excellent day of racing.
The Grade One races start as they go on and that’s with top class racehorses and I can’t wait to see Douvan in action again in the Herald Champion Novice Hurdle.
This is a horse we’ve only seen three times since he joined Willie Mullins, with the most recent of those when he annihilated the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle field at Cheltenham. I don’t envisage his unbeaten record being troubled on this occasion.
Douvan looks to be a proper beast and you’d love everything about him. I think he’ll be the horse that wows the Punchestown crowd on day one.
Sizing John is a good horse in his own right and it didn’t really surprise me when he ran such a good race at the Cheltenham Festival. But as nice a horse as he is, I think he’ll just fall short of what is required to beat Douvan.
Another Cheltenham hero to grace us at Punchestown tomorrow is the RSA winner, Don Poli, and even though this current season isn’t even over yet, you would have to be looking ahead to next year with him and the possibility that he is a real Gold Cup contender.
I’d say on Thursday evening of Cheltenham this year he was many people’s favourite for next year’s Gold Cup but then we had Coneygree putting up an incredible display to win this race’s renewal as a novice.
So once he stays sound he’ll be around for a good few years yet to try and defend his crown.
Willie Mullins has never won the Gold Cup and has been second in it a few times, including this year with Djakadam, but the manner in which Don Poli won the RSA would make him an obvious candidate to try and break Willie’s duck in the race.
Noel Meade runs two good horses against Don Poli tomorrow with Apache Stronghold, who was second to Vautour at Cheltenham, and Wounded Warrior, who was third behind Don Poli.
In addition to Don Poli and Wounded Warrior, Gigginstown also run Valseur Lido. With it being the end of the season, they may as well throw all the darts at the board but Don Poli looks to be the king of the staying novice chasers in Ireland and he should prove that in Punchestown tomorrow.
I would say that the BoyleSports Champion Chase is going to be the toughest Grade One of the week to call beforehand and I’d have to say that I think this could well be the day that Hidden Cyclone finally gets his well deserved Grade One success.
Shark Hanlon’s stable star has been knocking and knocking on the door but has never managed to get over the line in front in a Grade One but hopefully for all his connections and Andrew McNamara, who has beenon board him so often, they’ll be able to enjoy a day in the spotlight.
Hidden Cyclone has shown a liking for Punchestown in the past and is a course and distance winner. I’d be siding with him.
There’s a lot of opportunities for amateur riders over the course of this week and I hope to be busy enough over the five days.
I’ve two rides tomorrow in the two bumpers.
In the last race, I ride Coeur Joyeux for Sandra Hughes. Obviously after enjoying one of our finest days in racing together at Fairyhouse with the Irish National win, it’ll be nice to team up with Sandra again and hopefully Coeur Joyeux has a chance.
It is a race for four-year-olds only so there’s not a lot of form to go on but my horse has ran and finished second behind a nice horse at Leopardstown and a repeat of that will hopefully see him go close.
I’m not quite sure what I ride in the Land Rover Bumper yet but I was lucky enough to win this before on Glencove Marina for Eoin Griffin so it would be nice to win it again.
Like the last race, there’s little form to go on so it’s hard to know what will pop up out of it.
5.30 Hidden Cyclone
6.40 Don Poli