There is a great card to get the 2019 Punchestown festival underway and Delta Work can ensure a good start to a long week for punters by taking the Grade 1 Dooley Insurance Group Champion Novice Chase.
The Gordon Elliott-trained six-year-old was a beaten favourite in the RSA Chase at the Cheltenham festival but lost little in defeat. Having been passed with two to jump, he found trouble in running before staying on again in the closing stages to finish a close third behind Topofthegame and Santini.
That was his only run of the year to date and just his fourth of the season. In the previous season, he ran seven times and got better with each outing. That gives hope he can be as good today as he has been all season and if that is the case, he will be very hard to beat.
A Plus Tard was mightily impressive in winning a handicap at the Cheltenham Festival and the five-year-old is in receipt of 5lbs from Delta Work today, but he is unproven over the trip and was behind another of today’s rivals, Winter Escape, on his only previous run at this track.
Responsible for half the six-strong field in the Grade 1 Boylesports Champion Chase, Willie Mullins holds all the aces, and Min can justify favouritism. Ruby Walsh’s mount was disappointing in the Champion Chase but a different proposition altogether at Aintree, where he trounced a decent field with a career-best effort.
In doing so, he readily reversed last year’s form with Politologue and that’s worth nothing as he was also beaten at this meeting last year. What’s different is that he came here off the back of defeats at Cheltenham and Aintree, and there were only 11 days from Liverpool to Punchestown.
He disappointed in this race but is in much better form now, has had more than three weeks to get over his Aintree exertions, and this is a good opportunity to stamp his class on proceedings.
Un De Sceaux won this race in 2018 and, on that form and his seasonal debut, in which he pushed Altior to four lengths, he has to be respected today. Mullins’ third runner, Great Field, is unbeaten in completed starts over fences but failed to finish in his last two and has a little to prove at this level.
Another Mullins runner, Sancta Simona, is very interesting off a mark of 131 in the Killashee Handicap Hurdle. The mare has been highly tried in recent outings and will find this drop in grade and return to two miles around a faster track more to her liking.
She tends to travel keenly but has plenty of class and can give Mullins back-to-back wins in the race, following True Self’s victory in 2018.
Enda Bolger has a great record in the Kildare Hunt Club Fr Sean Breen Memorial Chase for the Ladies’ Perpetual Cup, and he can bring his tally to seven wins since 2010 by taking this year’s renewal with Youcannotbeserious.
Although off the track a long time, it looks significant that Derek O’Connor is on board the seven-year-old seemingly rather than last year’s runner-up Blue Templar.
The selection didn’t manage to secure a winning bracket on the track but ran some great races in defeat, including when runner-up to Montalbano in a maiden hurdle. He is sure to have been well schooled for today’s banks assignment and can claims his first win inside the rails.