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Wednesday, 16 January, 2019

Day one highlights: a Supreme rematch not to be missed

Melon: bids to turn the tables on Labaik
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The Punchestown festival takes centre stage this week and the action is red-hot from the word go. Here are the things you will not want to miss on day one. 

A Supreme rematch . . . with a twist

The first Grade 1 of the week, the Herald Champion Novice Hurdle, has delivered a rematch of the opening race of the Cheltenham Festival last month as Labaik and Melon prepare to do battle once more.

Labaik stunned the crowd at Prestbury Park, not only by consenting to jump off with the rest of them in the first place but by then storming to victory, denying the Willie Mullins hot-pot Melon by two and a quarter lengths.

Melon is favourite to reverse that form, perhaps owing to the Labaik's chequered past, but pigeon hole this as a two-horse race at your peril. Pingshou was an excellent winner of the Top Novices' Hurdle at Aintree and can get a lot closer than he did when tenth at Cheltenham.

Another superstar display?

One of the most breathtaking performances at Cheltenham came courtesy of Un De Sceaux, who took apart the Ryanair Chase field with the kind of dazzling display of front-running few horses can produce.

Un De Sceaux: the Ryanair Chase winner returns at Cork on Sunday

That came over 2m5f, whereas Tuesday's BoyleSports Champion Chase is over 2m, which means Un De Sceaux will have to contend with Fox Norton and God's Own this time around.

Fox Norton was a winner at Aintree, defeating God's Own, but Un De Sceaux is a likely odds-on favourite and many will be hoping he can provide the star dust.

Who can bounce back?

The final Grade 1 on the opening day, the Growise Champion Novice Chase, has a clutch of novice chasers bidding to get back on track after defeats at Cheltenham and elsewhere, albeit behind some talented rivals.

Disko finished a fine third behind Yorkhill in the Grade 1 JLT Novices' Chase at Cheltenham, while Acapella Bourgeois was no match for Might Bite a day earlier in the RSA Chase.

Alpha Des Obeaux, meanwhile, was fourth in that race before finishing eighth behind the mighty Our Duke in the Irish Grand National. One way or another, it is likely some horse's reputation could be given a hefty boost without even being present.

Tuesday's cards, form and betting

Labaik stunned the crowd at Prestbury Park not only by consenting to jump off in the first place but by subsequently storming to victory
E.W. Terms
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