Punchestown Festival 2022: Day 1 Spot Plays

April 25th, 2022

About 140,000 people are expected to descend on a country racecourse about 25 kilometers southwest of Dublin for the culmination of the Irish jumps racing season this week.

The Punchestown Festival begins Tuesday, April 26, and features 12 Grade 1 contests among the 40 races over its five days. It is the biggest jumps racing event in Ireland, and though it is usually regarded as secondary to Cheltenham, the dominance of Irish jumps racehorses over their British counterparts in recent years means the quality is very much on a par.

Day 1 features three Grade 1 events, a Listed race, a competitive handicap hurdle, and a rich bumper. Here are some selected spot plays.

Race 1: Howden Mares’ Novice Hurdle (Listed), 2 1/16 miles, novice mares

A nice event to kick off the festival. The Willie Mullins juggernaut sends three to the start, including possible favorite #6 Dinoblue, but the one to beat may well be #5 Party Central, who found the going a bit tough at Cheltenham last start. She finished ahead of Dinoblue that day, however, and is probably good enough to win despite conceding three pounds to the Mullins runner.

  • $10 win/$30 show: #5 Party Central

Race 2: Champion Novice Hurdle (G1), 2 1/16 miles, novice hurdlers

Only five runners but a cracking renewal with two outstanding horses from the Mullins stable. The form from #4 Sir Gerhard’s 2 1/2-mile Ballymore Hurdle (G1) victory at Cheltenham was franked when runner-up Three Stripe Life won at Aintree. He faces a formidable stablemate in #1 Dysart Dynamo, who would have been competitive for second behind the ultra-impressive Constitution Hill in the two-mile Supreme Novice Hurdle (G1) but for falling three out. He will set a very fast pace, but Sir Gerhard probably has enough speed to stay with him.

  • $30 win: #4 Sir Gerhard

Race 3: Killashee Hotel Handicap Hurdle, 2 1/16 miles, open hurdlers

There are plenty of chances in this 18-horse field. The one to beat may well be #8 Glan, after her victory at Fairyhouse April 16, where she could have won by more than a half-length. One for odds might be #4 Gua Du Large; he didn’t figure in the highly-competitive County Hurdle (G3) at Cheltenham but beat Glan at Fairyhouse Nov. 28 and has the services of Rachael Blackmore.

  • $10 win/$20 show: #8 Glan
  • $5 win/show: #4 Gua Du Large

Race 4: Gold Cup Handicap Chase (G3), 3 5/8 miles, open steeplechasers

A similar scenario to the Champion Novice Hurdle, with a five-horse field featuring two outstanding Mullins-trained runners. Queen Mother Champion Chase (G1) winner #4 Energumene will most likely start a deserved favorite, but he will have a tougher battle here with #3 Chacun Pour Soi, who fell when travelling well that day. Chacun Pour Soi has always been much tougher in Ireland, and he’s worth supporting at the odds here.

  • $20 win: #3 Chacun Pour Soi

Race 5: Goffs Land Rover Bumper, 2 1/16 miles, bumpers

A 100,000 euro bumper for horses offered at the Goffs National Hunt Sale in June last year. Despite the stake, only five of the 16 runners have previous raceday experience, making this a very hard race to assess. #7 Irish Envoy is the most impressive of those that have started, but there is a lot of support for #5 Caldwell Potter, a half-brother to Grade 1 winner Mighty Potter who cost 200,000 euros at the sale last year, and #13 Rocco Ray, from the Mullins team. Keep an eye on the local market for hints, but the odds may be worth it on Caldwell Potter.

  • $10 win/show: #5 Caldwell Potter

Race 6: Dooley Champion Novice Chase (G1), 3 1/16 miles, novice chasers

#2 Bob Olinger lost some of his luster despite retaining his unbeaten record in the Turners Novice Chase (G1) at Cheltenham, mainly because he would have been well beaten had Galopin Des Champs not fallen at the last fence. But Galopin Des Champs showed the value of the form by winning easily at Fairyhouse last week, and he’s not in this. The biggest questions for Bob Olinger are the distance increase from 2 1/2 miles and firmer footing, but he should be up to it, and the odds may be better than they arguably should be.

  • $20 win: #2 Bob Olinger
  • $1 trifecta: 2 with 3, 4, 5, 6 with all