We caught up with Cheltenham Festival winning jockey Danny Mullins to talk through the big races on day one of Punchestown.
16:15 - eCOMM Merchant Solutions Champion Novice Hurdle (Grade 1)
Echoes In Rain and Blue Lord is the big match here. I think, overall, Blue Lord’s form is that little bit better, coming here off the back of a fall in the Supreme when he looked good for a distant second behind Appreciate It. That’s a fair level to run to. Echoes In Rain is rated 7lb below him, but with the allowance that brings her right up to levels. Her win in Fairyhouse was quite impressive, backing up the Naas win and proving that was no fluke, so it’s going to be a proper race between them.
I think I’d side with Echoes In Rain. She’s had a clean run and she’s improving all the time. Blue Lord is going to have to put that fall behind him and it can often dent a horse’s confidence, especially at 2m where there’s no chance to let up in a race like this.
16:50 - Killashee Hotel Handicap Hurdle (Grade B)
I think Ruaille Buaille should run quite well. She’s a course and distance winner on her maiden hurdle back in September. Her run in Fairyhouse behind Hearts Are Trumps was quite decent but I think Magic Tricks was a little unlucky not to win that day and he’s the one they’ve got to beat here. He’s gone up 4lb for that run but I still think he has a really strong chance here.
Of the other McManus runners in it, Kilfenora is one I wouldn’t write off. He was quite a good horse last year and while he was beaten a country mile at Gowran Park, it was his first run in a few months and it came on heavy ground. If he bounces back in this, he could be an each-way bet.
17:25 - William Hill Champion Chase (Grade 1)
Chacun Pour Soi was disappointing in Cheltenham. I think the lack of pace played a factor, with Politologue’s absence a big blow, as he would have provided a strong early gallop. He should bounce back and win in my opinion. Allaho was very good winning the Ryanair, jumping out with a proper gallop all the way and ran away a very impressive winner. Fakir D’oudairies was second that day and franked the form at Aintree, but I’m still with Chacun Pour Soi.
He’s a natural two-miler whereas Allaho is going into the unknown to figure out what his targets are next year. It would be foolish to rule out Nube Negra as well, who finished in front of Chacun Pour Soi in the Champion Chase, but I think he’ll right that at Punchestown.
18:30 - Dooley Insurance Group Champion Novice Chase (Grade 1)
This is the match everyone wants to see. Envoi Allen has been the talking horse of Irish racing for the last three years. He put the first blot in his copybook at Cheltenham when he took an uncharacteristic fall. He looked a little bit lit up at the start and it will be interesting to see what way he is in the preliminaries. He’s going to have his work cut out for him off the back of the fall to come here and take on Monkfish, although he was a little bit lacklustre at Cheltenham as well.
Workmanlike despite being comfortable at the finish, there were a few sketchy jumps throughout the race, which just wasn’t what we had seen from him earlier in the season. It will be interesting to see if he can get back into that rhythm.
Colreevy was a Grade 1 winner at Christmas and won at Cheltenham. She’s definitely a mare who is on the up and I wouldn’t write her off in this, I think 3m will really suit. She’s rated 158 and if you factor in the mares’ allowance she’s rated 165, so while she’s the underdog to the big two she’s far from out of this.