The Punchestown Champion Hurdle (Friday 28 April, 17:30) is run over 2-miles and 9 hurdles, and has been won by some of the finest hurdlers Ireland has ever produced. Istabraq won the inaugural contest in 1999, after which Moscow Flyer, Hardy Eustace, Brave Inca, Solwhit, Hurricane Fly, Jezki and Faugheen have all added their names.
Winners have been aged 5 to 9
7 of the last 10 winners had won last time out
Winners ran 12 to 159 days previously
Willie Mullins has trained 6 of the last 7 winners
Ruby Walsh has ridden 5 of the last 6 winners
SPs ranged from 1/4 to 20/1
Spent most of his career seeing the backsides of Hurricane Fly and Faugheen, but put-up a remarkable performance after 16-months off the track when winning the County Hurdle off top-weight. Form of that race not massively boosted since, but should improve for it, and will love chasing down a fast-pace if Petit Mouchoir adopts his usual front-running tactics.
Can be forgiven his below-par performance in the Champion Hurdle, as that’s the second-time he’s ran like he doesn’t like Cheltenham. His two handicap wins came on right-handed tracks, and interesting if the ground remains on the good side.
2 from 2 at Punchestown, and put-up a bold front-running performance going right-handed at Fairyhouse last-time. That form needs improving on though, and looks stable’s third-string on jockey bookings. Possible pace-setter.
Second last year behind Vroum Vroum Mag, and has been regressive over fences since. Reverted to hurdles last time, but finished last at Aintree.
Tends to win or blow-up, and more likely to do the latter in the toughest company he’s faced yet.
Scintillating Supreme Novice Hurdle winner, but up to his old-tricks of refusing earlier this week. Could surprise if he sets-off in the hands of Davy Russell for the first-time, but probably only an in-play option for most punters.
My Tent Or Yours
Annoyingly finished second in 3 Champion Hurdles, and his ability to travel on the bridle in a strongly-run race means he’s always a decent place-option, but he seldom wins. Third last-year, but likely to get a stronger pace this time round.
First and second at the last 2 Punchestown Festivals, but this is tougher. Interesting to see how he copes if one or two of the Willie Mullins runners take him on for the lead, and probably vulnerable at the finish if they do.
Beat an out-of-sorts Apples Jade earlier this season, but will struggle in this grade on the balance of his form.
Flattered by his defeat of Jezki earlier in the season, as that one probably didn’t run to his best judging off his performances since. Also beaten twice since himself, and a bit to find to be a contender.
Picked-up over €200,000 when beating Order Of St George to win the 2016 Irish St Leger, but his two hurdle runs since have been poor.
Vroum Vroum Mag
Ruby Walsh keeps the faith with last year’s winner, but she was allowed to dictate last year’s race from the front, and she probably lacks the pace to do that with Petit Mouchoir in the line-up. Looked more at home over further than 2-miles this season, and others preferred despite her 7lb mares’ allowance.
2017 Punchestown Champion Hurdle Summary
A bigger turnout than usual, and that’s because there’s a lack of a true star-performer, and Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott are throwing everything they can at the race in an attempt to win the Irish Trainers’ Title. This should be run at a decent clip, and this could be an ideal test for Arctic Fire who loves to be delivered late as other horses are faltering. Labaik, who also mirrored that run-style at Cheltenham, could also be interesting if agreeing to race.
Arctic Fire -Win @ 5/1 PaddyPower, Betfair SB