Newmill set for Champion rematch

NEWMILL could face two of the three horses that finished ahead of him at Cheltenham last month as he bids for back-to-back victories in Punchestown’s Kerrygold Champion Chase later this month.

Last year’s winner of the Queen Mother Champion Chase could fare no better than fourth behind Voy Por Ustedes this time around, although trainer John Murphy believes he is capable of better.

One of 24 entries for the two-mile event on the opening day of the Irish National Hunt Festival (April 24), he could come up against Dempsey and River City, second and third at Prestbury Park.

“I thought he ran very well at Cheltenham but without taking anything from the other horses, I don’t think things went totally his way,” said Murphy.

“He was on his face early on and there was a lot of aggravation at his jumps and he made two big mistakes – you just can’t get away with them at two miles. The whole thing just didn’t work out but he ran very well.

“He has come out of the race in really great shape and the Kerrygold Champion Chase is the definite goal.”

Newmill has shown himself more than capable over timber too, but Murphy reported he would only take up his engagement in the ACC Bank Champion Hurdle at the same meeting if the ground was too firm for the chase.

Aside from Dempsey and River City, the race has attracted five other British-trained runners, Mark Rimell’s Oneway and Crossbow Creek, Jonjo O’Neill’s pair of Hasty Prince and Don’t Push It plus Grand Annual winner Andreas for Paul Nicholls.

The classy Foreman could take his chance for France, while Martin Brassil’s prolific Nickname is also entered.

Meanwhile Brave Inca is on course to return to action at Punchestown after just failing to land back-to-back victories in the Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.

The nine-year-old is more likely to try to win the ACC Bank Champion Hurdle on April 27 for a second time rather than step up to three miles in the Dunboyne Castle Hotel & Spa Champion Stayers’ Hurdle a day earlier.

He took the shorter event in 2005 but was pushed into second place by Mac’s Joy last spring.

“I wouldn’t rule the Stayers’ out but it’s more likely he’ll run in the two-miler,” said trainer Colm Murphy.

“We’ll give him an entry in the Stayers’ Hurdle as it will give us the option and it’s the same prize money.

“Unfortunately, he’s one of those horses you have to put the gun to his head early over two miles. You just wonder if three miles would suit him better, but if you take Sublimity out of it he would have won another Champion Hurdle.

“I think Brave Inca is as good as ever. He seems in serious order and he came out of Cheltenham really well.”

Ruby Walsh replaced Brave Inca’s regular pilot Tony McCoy at Cheltenham and Murphy said it was too early to predict who would be in the saddle at Punchestown.

“I don’t know at this stage who will ride him. If Ruby is available, I’m sure he’ll want to take the ride. It’s a bit early to say with all their commitments,” the County Wexford trainer told At The Races.

“There are a lot of top-class jockeys out there. He’s a straightforward ride and a jockey’s dream. I don’t know what all the fuss is about with him.”

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