Festival showdown! Identity Thief to do battle with Penhill in Champion Stayers
Identity Thief is on course to clash with Penhill, winner of the Stayers' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival last month, at Punchestown next week.
The Henry de Bromhead-trained eight-year-old proved one of the star performers at Aintree last week when he landed the Ryanair Stayers Hurdle at his first attempt over three miles.
The Gigginstown House Stud-owned hurdler took that Aintree contest by five lengths under Sean Flanagan, having finished fourth behind Buveur D’Air in the Champion Hurdle on his previous start.
De Bromhead said on Wednesday: “Identity Thief seems to have come out of Aintree well. We’ll keep an eye on him over the coming days and if all stays good with him the plan is to run him in the Grade 1 Ladbrokes Champion Stayers Hurdle at Punchestown on April 26.”
Identity Thief’s Aintree win was his third at the top level after his success in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle in 2015.
According to Gordon Elliott, no decision has been made regarding which race the unbeaten novice, Samcro, will contest next week, although the possibility of his leaving the novice ranks to take on more experienced rivals in the Betdaq Punchestown Champion Hurdle has not been ruled out.
Elliott said: "Samcro is entered for four Grade 1 races at Punchestown and will be left in three of them at the forefeit stage.
"He won't be left in the three-mile Irish Daily Mirror Novices Hurdle, but the two-mile Herald Champion Novice Hurdle on Tuesday and the Champion Hurdle and the two-and-a-half-mile Profile Systems Champion Novice Hurdle, both on Friday, are being considered.
"We've been happy with him since his win in the Ballymore at Cheltenham, but which he runs in next week probably won't be decided for another few days."
Elliott confirmed the Annie Power Champion Mares Hurdle a week on Saturday as the target for seven-time Grade 1 winner Apple's Jade, who finished third in the OLBG Mares Hurdle at Cheltenham last month.
"She's also in the Champion Hurdle and the Stayers Hurdle, but the mares' race is her target," Elliott said.
The six-year-old won the mares' event by 14 lengths last year and will be attempting to score at the festival for the third consecutive year.
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