Strike early with Wish Ye Didnt

The Punchestown Festival kicks off with the Fr Sean Breen Memorial Chase and Wish Ye Didnt gets the nap to set punters off on the right foot.

Enda Bolger’s six-year-old ran in this race last year, but failed to finish the course. However, he returned to the track for the Risk Of Thunder Cross Country Chase in November and ran a super race to finish fourth behind Love Rory, with Keep On Track and Big Shu separating them.

He was a little disappointing in three runs inside the rails since then but the November effort stands out against this afternoon’s opposition, and he’s entitled to show improved form. With Nina Carberry in the plate, the youngster of the field can prove too sprightly for his rivals.

Favourite Champagne Fever looks opposable in the Boylesports Champion Chase. He has never been quite as convincing over fences as in bumpers or over hurdles, and punters will be asked to side with him at reasonably short odds.

Following a narrow but disappointing defeat in last season’s Arkle Chase at Cheltenham, he was beaten favourite for the Grade 1 Novice Chase at this meeting in 2014. While there was merit in some of his efforts since, particularly in the King George, his recent flop at Aintree leaves questions to be answered.

His trainer, Willie Mullins, runs three in the race and the outsider of the trio, Felix Yonger, could be the value alternative. He hasn’t a lot to find on official figures, should be suited by a fast-run two miles on decent ground and has won for today’s rider, Danny Mullins.

It’s tempting to look beyond Don Poli in the Growise Champion Novice Chase but, even allowing for the fact he was beaten at this meeting last year, he looks a cut above his rivals.

Already a leading fancy for next season’s Cheltenham Gold Cup, he has stamina in abundance, something which he can put to good use against rivals with questions to answer in that department.

Apache Stronghold, who has a great record at this track, is one such rival, as is Valseur Lido, who, in any case, was below his best at Fairyhouse. That in mind, Wounded Warrior may be the best alternative, with rank outsider Irish Cavalier also respected.

The handicaps are typically competitive but Henry Higgins looks value at double-figure odds in the Killashee Handicap Hurdle. Charles O’Brien has his string in good form, and this fellow ran a race full of promise when third behind Phil’s Magic last month at Naas, on what was his return from a mid-season break.

That should have put him spot on for today’s race, he remains unexposed over timber and, with better ground sure to suit, he should run a big race.

It’s extremely difficult to find an alternative to Douvan in the Herald Champion Novices’ Hurdle. His odds will reflect that and, thus, he won’t be a betting proposition for most punters. Today’s race is an opportunity to further showcase his potential as a star of the future.

The obvious danger is Sizing John, who finished third behind him in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. He has had a rest since, and his stable is in the best form it has enjoyed all season.

The two national hunt flat races on the card are minefields, with Last Goodbye, who is a half-brother to useful sorts Sher Beau and Freds Benefit, a hopeful choice to make a winning debut for Liz Doyle in the Goffs Land Rover Bumper.

The booking of Finny Maguire, who recently won a bumper for the in-form stable, can only be construed as a positive.

Unsurprisingly, Willie Mullins has a very good record in this race, winning it four times in the past nine years, and he relies on St Stephens Green, who is out of five-time winner on the flat Lily Shing Shang.

In the finale, Jonjo O’Neill is represented by Startinfromscratch and this half-brother to former Champion Hurdler Rock On Ruby may be good enough to making a winning start to his career.

Camlann, who was well touted prior to his debut at Cheltenham, is likely capable of better than the sixth placing he achieved there, and is respected.

More in this section


Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up

Discover the

Install our free app today

Available on


Have the Irish Examiner delivered to your door. No delivery charge. Just pay the cover price.


Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox