Two-mile stars to clash at Punchestown

The first four home from Cheltenham’s Queen Mother Champion Chase are all entered in what promises to be a memorable renewal of the Champion Chase at Punchestown on April 24.

Finian’s Rainbow, Sizing Europe, Big Zeb and Gauvain are engaged as well as Kauto Stone and Wishfull Thinking, who will be looking to make amends after falling in the two-mile feature at Cheltenham.

Sizing Europe could be counted an unlucky loser at Prestbury Park following the controversial dolling off of the final fence and his trainer Henry de Bromhead is hoping for Punchestown compensation.

He said: “Sizing Europe seems really well after Cheltenham. Although things didn’t pan out for him at Cheltenham, I thought he ran a blinder.”

Ryanair Chase winner Riverside Theatre is one of the star names among 32 entries for Punchestown Gold Cup.

Trainer Nicky Henderson also has Burton Port and Quantitativeeasing engaged, while also among 10 British contenders are Alex Ferguson’s What A Friend, Captain Chris and last year’s Grand National hero Ballabriggs.

Gigginstown House Stud have a predictably strong hand, with Quito De La Roque and RSA Chase runner-up First Lieutenant in the mix.

Gigginstown racing manager, Eddie O’Leary, said: “It was a fantastic run at Cheltenham and we’ve been very happy with him.”

Noel Meade intends to step Queen Mother Champion Chase fifth Realt Dubh significantly up in distance.

He said: “I just think two miles is too short for him and there is no two and a half mile race at Punchestown so the three mile and one furlong race is the one he will go for.

Sir Des Champs heads a superb 24-strong entry for the Growise Champion Novice Chase over three miles and a furlong on the same Tuesday card. Other entries include Flemenstar and Silviniaco Conti.

Gigginstown could also be well represented in the Evening Herald Champion Novice Hurdle, with Supreme Novices’ Hurdle third Trifolium and Midnight Game, who disappointed in the same Cheltenham race, in the reckoning. Darlan and Steps To Freedom are other interesting contenders for the same race.

The longer Irish Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle takes place the following day, with Fingal Bay, Cotton Mill and Boston Bob among the possibles.

Meanwhile, Christie’s Foxhunter Chase winner Salsify is set to bid for a famous double at Fairyhouse on Tuesday. He is one of 27 entries for the Joseph O’Reilly Memorial Hunters Chase, which also includes Zemsky, winner of the Cheltenham event 12 months ago.

Salsify won this race last year, and Sweeney said: “He has come out of Cheltenham well and as long as the ground is safe, we’re on for Fairyhouse. If all goes well then we will look to go to Punchestown afterwards.”

* Connections of Forpadydeplasterer have yet to decide whether to give the 10-year-old a spin over the Grand National fences or stick to conventional obstacles at Aintree next week.

Forpadydeplasterer has been handed top weight of 11st 12lb in the John Smith’s Topham Chase over two miles five and a half furlongs on Friday week. He will also be given an entry in the John Smith’s Melling Chase over two and a half miles on the Mildmay course the same day.

Forpadydeplasterer finished sixth to Riverside Theatre in the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham last month.

* Ferdy Murphy has revealed that James Reveley will be his principal rider from the start of the next National Hunt season.

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