Punchestown festival: Four big questions on day one

Punchestown Festival general view

Punchestown: host to the five-day festival starting Tuesday

  PICTURE: Patrick McCann (racingpost.com/photos)  

CHELTENHAM has been, Aintree has passed and champions were crowned at Sandown, but before Classic credentials are put to the test at Newmarket this weekend there is time for one last hurrah over jumps as the five-day Punchestown festival kicks off on Tuesday.

If Guinness rather than Guineas is your tipple and staying chasers rather than speed merchants get you hot under the collar, then Punchestown is the place to be this week with a feast of top-class action from the off.

The opening day starts with a bang, courtesy of three Grade 1 races and some familiar names who have already conquered at Cheltenham and Aintree but sportingly put their reputations on the line for one last battle royal.

Helping you to negotiate a day of top-notch racing, here are some of the names and narratives to look out for when the wraps come off at 3.40pm on Tuesday.

Yorkhill

Yorkhill: too good at Cheltenham and Aintree but faces a different test

  PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)  

Rare treble or a festival too far?

Already successful at Cheltenham and Aintree, top-class novice hurdler Yorkhill goes for the holy grail as he tries to add Punchestown riches to three top-level wins so far this season.

Bookmakers see victory as a formality but the Grade 1 Herald Champion Novice Hurdle at 4.20pm provides a different test as he drops back to 2m having proved dominant over at least half a furong further at the spring festivals so far.

Just 3lb separates him and stablemate Petit Mouchoir on official ratings, with Petit Mouchoir putting in a career best over this trip at Aintree last time, so this might not be plain sailing for Yorkhill. 

VAUTOUR Ridden Ruby Walsh Blunder at Aintree 8/4/16

Vautour: a short price to atone for his Aintree mishap

  PICTURE: John Grossick (racingpost.com/photos)  

Just unlucky or is there a chink in Vautour’s armour?

Three-time Cheltenham Festival winner Vautour looks pretty much unbeatable when in full cry but even the best get beaten and there were plenty of brunt fingers when he fell at Aintree last time, but he gets the chance to banish that memory in the Grade 1 BoyleSports Champion Chase at 5.30pm.

His jumping will have to be slick, however, as the horse who was on the verge of contesting the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March drops back to a trip shorter than 2m3f for the first time since 2014 and faces some formidable rivals.

Simonsig - Cheltenham - 12.03.13

Simonsig: fragile but talented and back in action at Punchestown

  PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)  

Will Simonsig be the latest to highlight Henderson heroics?

They never come back the same; that is unless they are trained by Nicky Henderson. The master of Seven Barrows has showed unbelievable skill when it comes to nurturing past champions back to the top this year, none more so than with Sprinter Scare and he bids to conjure some more magic when Simonsig takes on Vautour.

A dual Cheltenham Festival winner himself, it was not so long ago that Simonsig would have been mentioned in the same breath as Sprinter Sacre and if anyone can produce him at something like the form that saw him capture the Racing Post Arkle in 2013, it is Henderson.

RULE THE WORLD

Rule The World: Grand National winner turns novice on Tuesday

  PICTURE: John Grossick (racingpost.com/photos)  

Can a Grand National winner really be a novice?

It’s not often you get to see the Grand National winner again in the same year after they conquer Aintree but just 17 days after shedding his maiden tag over fences in the greatest chase of them all, Rule The World is back in action in the Grade 1 Growise Champion Novice Chase at 6.40pm. That is not a typo – he is still officially a novice, despite running 14 times over fences and winning a Grand National.

Despite his vast experience, it will not be easy for the nine-year-old, who faces some smart rivals like Outlander, Henryville and Zabana, although he does top the ratings and is reunited with his Aintree partner David Mullins, who has a fine record on the National hero.     

Don’t miss Tuesday’s Racing Post for big-race previews and tipping, including from Pricewise

 

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