Punchestown Festival battles to savour plus 77-1 accumulator

Envoi Allen - Drinmore

The Punchestown Festival kicks off on Tuesday and it’s the final hurrah for the jump’s season. After Sandown brought the curtain down on British jump’s racing, Ireland puts on a five-day bonanza, including 12 Grade 1 contests!

We’ll have horse racing tips for all the action, but many of the key talking points for Punchestown is the big names locking horns. The Grade 1 races, which we certainly aren’t short of, have some fascinating storylines and I can’t wait to see how they turn out! Find out all the races you cannot afford to miss below, including my thoughts on who may come out on top.

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Chacun Pour Soi vs Allaho (Tuesday)

The Punchestown Champion Chase is set to be a cracker. Willie Mullins holds all the aces, as Chacun Pour Soi locks horns with stable-mate Allaho. The former has won six of his eight Irish starts, including four Grade 1 contests. Despite falling short in the Champion Chase at Cheltenham, he lost little in defeat there, with the uphill finish ultimately costing him.

Back at a flatter venue, he’s the one to beat, but Allaho is the x-factor. He’s been a revelation since dropping back to 2m 4f, with front-running tactics paying dividends. On paper, cutting back even further in distance is a big question mark. That being said, he’s likely to try and make all the running and he’ll make this a stern test for his stable-mate. There’s little to split them in the market and if Allaho jumps with the verve he did at Cheltenham, he won’t be easy to catch.

WINNER: Allaho


Monkfish vs Envoi Allen (Tuesday)

This is the race we’ve all been looking dreaming of. Both Monkfish and Envoi Allen have been imperious over fences and despite this being just a two-horse race, it could be the race of the week. Monkfish is unbeaten in four chasing starts, including a trio of Grade 1 victories. His jumping wasn’t foot perfect at the Festival, but he won with consummate ease. On paper, he’s simply the perfect stayer. He jumps well, travels kindly, and despite having stamina in droves, he also possesses a turn of foot.

With this match coming over three miles, that has to swing the advantage in his favour. We’ll learn a lot about Envoi Allen though, as he ventures over three miles for the first time. He’s not looked short of stamina in his eleven rules victories, denied an unbeaten twelve when falling at Cheltenham in the Marsh. It’s easy to forgive one blip in an otherwise clean copybook and prior to that, he was regarded as the best novice chaser in town.

For me, I can’t step away from Monkfish. We’re yet to see any notable chinks in his armour and if he runs to his peak, he should prove too strong for Envoi Allen at this trip.

WINNER: Monkfish


Kilcruit vs Sir Gerhard (Wednesday)

It’s Round 2 of this match-up, with Sir Gerhard awarded the first round after victory in the Champion Bumper. Rachael Blackmore rode a faultless race, making all and stealing the race down the hill. He was always holding his rival, but the race very much did go his way and Kilcruit looks set to battle back in their second engagement.

Few will forget his devastating Grade 2 victory at the Dublin Racing Festival, where he cantered clear on the bridle by twelve lengths. That produced an enormous RPR of 142 and he ultimately lost nothing in defeat at Cheltenham. This race hinges on whether Sir Gerhard can get a soft lead once again, but even if he does, Paul Townend is unlikely to let Blackmore get away like she did at the Festival.

If these two are level turning into the straight, I’d be favouring the turn of foot that Kilcruit possesses over Sir Gerhard’s relentless galloping.

WINNER: Kilcruit


Minella Indo vs Al Boum Photo vs Clan Des Obeaux (Wednesday)

Races don’t get much better than this. The 2021 Punchestown Gold Cup is a clash of the titans, with Minella Indo, Al Boum Photo and Clan Des Obeaux duelling for the prize.

First mention has to go to Minella Indo, who moved to the top of the staying chase division when landing the Cheltenham Gold Cup. His first Grade 1 over fences, he travelled all over his rivals and showed a willing attitude when he needed too. He finally looked like the finished article and he’s five pounds clear on ratings.

Next in is Al Boum Photo, who fell short in his bid to become the first triple Gold Cup hero since Best Mate. He had no excuses, enjoying an ideal preparation and having a perfect run through the race. He simply couldn’t land a glove on Minella Indo, but the forecast rain does play into his favour. Arriving fresher than most after a light campaign, he’s impossible to dismiss.

Finally, you have Clan Des Obeaux, who flies the flag for Britain. Paul Nicholls’ charge is a dual King George winner and scored by 26 lengths at Aintree in the Betway Bowl. On a flat track, with his mind on the job, he’s imperious. Punchestown should pose no problem to him and if matching his Aintree form, he’s an obvious contender.

The cheekpieces clearly worked at Aintree and I’d want to be with Clan Des Obeaux again. Successful at Punchestown in the past with the likes of Neptune Collonges and Master Minded, Nicholls can add another.

WINNER: Clan Des Obeaux

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