Key info and expert advice as Douvan takes centre stage at Punchestown
Cheltenham and Aintree have been and gone for another season but fear not as it is day one of Punchestown and the festival is all set to start with a bang.
The first of five days of high-quality action features three Grade 1s, including a BoyleSports Champion Chase in which stablemates Douvan, Un De Sceaux and Min go head to head in a humdinger.
All three are, of course, trained by Willie Mullins, who is going all out to reel in Gordon Elliott, who has opened up a sizeable but not insurmountable lead in the trainers' championship in Ireland.
Mullins also holds the ace with Getabird in the Herald Champion Novice Hurdle, although it is Henry de Bromhead who will saddle favourite Monalee in the other Grade 1 on the card, the Growise Champion Novice Chase.
On a busy day, Exeter, Yarmouth, Ludlow and Huntingdon also race, although the week undeniably belongs to Punchestown.
Exeter (first race 1.40)
Soft, good to soft in places (GoingStick chase 6.8, hurdle 6.7 Tuesday 7.30)
Good to firm, good in places (GoingStick 8.1 Monday 6.30)
Good, good to firm in places (GoingStick 7.8 Sunday 8.00)
Good to firm (GoingStick 8.4 Tuesday 6.00)
Good, good to soft in places (GoingStick: hurdle 6.9, chase 6.8 Monday 7.00)
3.05 Ludlow - The Happy Chappy 5-1 (from 11)
4.15 Brighton - Everkyllachy 7-1 (from 9)
4.50 Brighton - Hard Taskmaster 9-4 (from 3)
5.30 Punchestown - Douvan Evens (from 5-4)
6.30 Brighton - Lets Be Happy 12-1 (from 16)
What to back
Johnny Ward serves up a 20-1 nap to get the party started at Punchestown.
What to read
Richard Forristal sets the scene and crunches the numbers as the race to be crowned champion trainer in Ireland enters the final furlong at Punchestown.
Jockey Dave Crosse said a weight had been lifted off his shoulders after he decided to reveal he is diabetic, having kept the illness a secret for 13 years out of fears for his career.
Martin Pipe recalled how he feared he had ruined Olympian's Cheltenham Festival chances by winning too easily with him seven days before the Imperial Cup, as he paid tribute to his stable star who died at the weekend.
What to watch
The Postcast team take a look at the three Grade 1 races at Punchestown and Tom Segal picks out an outsider in all three.
Thom Malone is joined by top jockey Danny Mullins, Johnny Ward and Shane Mahon to preview all the action on day one.
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However, it's worth remembering that Elliott’s current lead would not have been enough to keep Mullins at bay 12 months ago, when the reigning champion bagged nearly €600,000 more than his rival across the week.
Buckle your seat belts, as it could be going down to the wire on Saturday once again.
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