Punchestown Festival: Three British horses to watch at the Irish extravaganza

Epatante is set for a trip to Punchestown next week.
Epatante is set for a trip to Punchestown next week.

Steve Chambers picks out three British-trained horses bidding for glory at the Punchestown Festival next week, and rates their chances of landing silverware...

Merely a month ago the Irish obliterated their British rivals at the Cheltenham Festival, amassing 23 of the 28 winners at Prestbury Park, while a fortnight ago the world watched on as there was an Irish-trained 1-2-3-4 in the Grand National, spearheaded by Minella Times. Now, it's time for the marquee Irish National Hunt festival take place next week, with the five-day Punchestown Festival propelling on to our TV screens, and it's all set for a fabulous five days of Jumps action.

Not surprisingly, the Irish dominate the betting for all the major races during the week, but some British horses are set for a trip across the Irish Sea to try and claim victory, and we pick out three of those British-trained equine stars bidding for glory.

The likes of Planet Of Sound (2010 Punchestown Gold Cup), Sprinter Sacre (2013 Punchestown Champion Chase) and Buveur D'Air (2019 Punchestown Champion Hurdle) have all conquered their Irish rivals in notable Grade 1 contests, and the latter is set for a trip again to try and retain his crown. However, he's going to face a stiff test, and we pick out three stars that stand a chance of landing glory in Ireland next week. 

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Epatante - Punchestown Champion Hurdle

Sponsors Paddy Power have dangled a real carrot for British horses lining up in the Punchestown Champion Hurdle, as they are offering an eye-bulging €100,000 bonus if a British-trained runner can claim the Grade 1 contest on April 30. As previously mentioned, 2019 champion Buveur D'Air is set to try and retain his crown for Nicky Henderson, but the master of Seven Barrows should have a more likely challenger in the shape of 2020 Champion Hurdle heroine Epatante, who is second favourite, at the time of writing.

Thrashed by Honeysuckle in last month's Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, Epatante will look to bounce back from that disappointing third. Having sparkled on her comeback run with a facile win in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle, Epatante then suffered a shock defeat at the hands of Silver Streak in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton Park, while a sub-standard display in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham left many wondering whether she is still an elite hurdler.

She was no match for the runaway winner Honeysuckle, who is rightly odds-on for the Punchestown Grade 1 next week, and if she can replicate that Cheltenham run then should take all the beating, but Henderson is sure to get Epatante at her best for her trip to Ireland, and having won the race before, the veteran handler can improve his star mare, and she can put it up to the red-hot Henry de Bromhead-trained jolly, Honeysuckle.

Punchestown Champion Hurdle
Epatante silk



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Goshen - Punchestown Champion Hurdle

Gary Moore's Goshen may only be five, but the youngster has had a real incident-packed career to date, and the classy gelding is set to take his chance alongside Epatante. A final flight tumble, when well clear in the 2020 Triumph Hurdle, ignited a real topsy-turvy relationship with Cheltenham racecourse, as a year later, the precocious star suffered more heartache.

Lining up in the Champion Hurdle on the back of a sparkling win in the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton, Goshen hung badly right down the back straight, and jockey Jamie Moore was unable to steer him properly for most of the race. Plugging on in the closing stages to finish a distant eighth, Goshen's career at Cheltenham could have hit a fatal stumbling block. However, having shown his class at Wincanton, the five-year-old is set for a trip to Ireland to line up in the Punchestown Champion Hurdle.

Hovering around the 10/1 mark, you are guessing which Goshen will turn up, but if the A1 performer struts his stuff then he could well be a major thorn in the side of Honeysuckle, and has to be given the utmost respect.

Punchestown Champion Hurdle
Goshen silk



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First Flow - Punchestown Champion Chase

A mightily-impressive winner of the Clarence House Chase at Ascot earlier in the season, Kim Bailey's First Flow was touted as one of the potential surprise packages in the Queen Mother Champion Chase, but the nine-year-old failed to land any sort of blow in the two-mile Championship contest. Sixth of nine in that Grade 1 event, First Flow's jumping was unable to fire - like it did at Ascot the previous time - and he was found to be wanting at the highest level. 

Having shown tendencies to hang to the right during the Queen Mother Champion Chase, First Flow will enjoy a return to a right-handed track at Punchestown, as he showed when blossoming at the right-handed Ascot that he may be seen at his best going that way round, so that could work in his favour.

Chacun Pour Soi was beaten by Put The Kettle On in the Champion Chase and that pair are set to line up, while the former is challenging for favouritism with emphatic Ryanair Chase winner, Allaho, who could potentially drop back to two miles in a fascinting Punchestown Champion Chase. However, First Flow is hovering around the 16/1 mark, which could prove to be some attractive each-way value, if he can bounce back from his poor Cheltenham run.

Bailey looks to only be sending over First Flow to the Punchestown Festival with stars like Ajero and Vinndication veering away from the trip to Ireland, but if the classy nine-year-old can turn up and deliver like he did at Ascot, then he has to stand a chance against the elite of the Irish two-mile division.

Punchestown Champion Chase
First Flow silk

First Flow

Punchestown Gold Cup Odds

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