Punchestown Champion Stayers' Hurdle Entries: Thursday's feature set for field of thirteen

Klassical Dream is a warm order to go back to back at Punchestown
Klassical Dream is a warm order to go back to back at Punchestown

The Thursday of the Punchestown Festival is named The Champion Stayers' Day after the feature race of the day and we look set to be treated to a fascinating renewal of the Grade One contest on Day Three of the season closing jamboree. Last year's winner Klassical Dream is a notoriously quirky character but on his day he is seriously talented and he is a warm order back on home shores to secure another Grade One title after his disappointing run at Cheltenham. He heads a list of thirteen for the Champion Stayers' Hurdle...

KLASSICAL DREAM was touted for greatness after pulling Ruby Walsh's arms out yet still romping to Supreme Novices' Hurdle success at the 2019 Cheltenham Festival. Things seemed to be going swimmingly on his next start when he confirmed his status as the number one two mile novice hurdler at Punchestown, but in open company next season he looked a shadow of his former self in two disappointing starts behind Saldier and then Sharjah..

After that second flop he was not seen on the track for a mammoth 487 days until April 2021, when he was backed like defeat was out of the question for this very race. The money proved well placed as he romped to an eight length success and was installed as 2022 ante-post Stayers' Hurdle favourite. He may not have been good enough to quite fulfil that promise but he certainly has a serious chance of defending the crown he won so impressively this time last year in 2022 at Punchestown.

Willie Mullins is not often seen entering just one big gun in a Grade One contest and this race is no exception. The Closutton handler could be represented by four other runners apart from the favourite, and they are MELON, MY SISTER SARAH, CONCERTISTA and BURNING VICTORY. All four are down the market and it would be a surprise to see any of them get past their more fancied stablemates but you could not rule out a solid race and a place chance for any of the Mullins crew

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Apart from the Mullins quintet there are still eight other horses entered at this stage and who will fancy their chances of toppling the favourite. SIRE DU BERLAIS is the shortest in the market at the time of writing, and despite being ten he arguably put in a career best last time out at Aintree when downing reigning Staying Hurdler Flooring Porter. This was somewhat a bounce back after a few mediocre runs from the dual Pertemps winner but if Gordon Elliott has kept him in that same form he is undoubtedly the main threat to Klassical Dream. In the same silks, THEDEVILSCOACHMAN is next in the market just a point or so bigger than Sire Du Berlais. He was withdrawn from his Cheltenham assignment but was last seen winning the Boyne Hurdle impressively from ASHDALE BOB, who also looks likely to take his chance here.

The old legend PAISLEY PARK ran another extraordinary race in this year's Stayers' Hurdle behind Flooring Porter, looking like his race was done early doors before staying on with that trademark stamina. He isn't getting any younger but with his running style has to be in consideration at this track. GENTLEMANSGAME finally bounced back to form last time out under Rachael Blackmore but still looks pretty stingily priced at present on all known form and not potential, while COMMANDER OF FLEET won well at Cheltenham but qwould requirte another step forward to be victorious here.

Arguably the most interesting runner in the field is current 20/1 shot VANILLIER, who was so impressive when winning the 2021 Albert Bartlett but has seemingly hated every minute of racing over fences. Gavin Cromwell has wisely accepted defeat in that project and reverting to the smaller obstacles he makes serious appeal if back to his best. Finally, HEAVEN HELP US looks likely to complete the line up and if the front runner were able to live with Klassical Dream's early pace that would be a surprise to most.

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