Previews30 April 2024

Supreme 1-2-3-4 meet again as Slade Steel bids to confirm superiority over festival rivals

Slade Steel (left), Mystical Power (centre) and Firefox renew rivalries at Punchestown
Slade Steel (left), Mystical Power (centre) and Firefox renew rivalry at Punchestown

The first of a dozen Grade 1s at the Punchestown festival sees the 1-2-3-4 from the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham renew rivalry and, unsurprisingly, the betting suggests they will finish in the same order.

It was Slade Steel who defied an in-running high of 24-1 on the Betfair Exchange to get back up to beat Mystical Power (matched at an in-running low of 1-20), as stamina trumped speed inside the final 100 yards of the festival opener last month.

Since then we haven't seen Slade Steel. He waited for this and arrives on the back of a 49-day break, whereas Mystical Power has been to Aintree and won the Top Novices' Hurdle. That was only 18 days ago.

Firefox, third in the Supreme, launched a strong challenge close home there, but Mystical Power held on by half a length. It was a career-best according to Racing Post Ratings, recording a figure of 148, and it would come as no surprise were Mystical Power to turn around the Supreme form with Slade Steel. 

Mystical Power: was successful at Aintree this month
Mystical Power: was successful at Aintree this monthCredit: Michael Steele

But could Firefox improve past them? He remains the only horse who has beaten Ballyburn and took a nice step forward from Cheltenham to Aintree. An interesting statistic about Firefox is he is unbeaten going right handed with a 3-3 record, but 1-6 at left-handed tracks. 

It may just be a coincidence, but his most polished performance this season was when beating Ballyburn fair and square at Fairyhouse in December. He may be the type who thrives on racing, and he has little to find with Mystical Power so 8-1 looks a big price about him giving Gordon Elliott his second win in the race, two years after the ill-fated Mighty Potter scored.

Willie Mullins is chasing a tenth success in this Grade 1 and, as well as Mystical Power, he is represented by Asian Master, Ile Atlantique, Tullyhill and Fun Fun Fun

Tullyhill bombed out in the Supreme. He was sent off 11-4 favourite and seemed to have the run of the race in front, but he folded very tamely once headed coming down to the last. Paul Townend told Mullins he was never happy with how he was travelling so maybe he just had an off-day. 

He was impressive in a Listed novice hurdle on his last visit to Punchestown, but has serious questions to answer, both about the way he weakened in the Supreme and whether he jumps quick enough for 2m at the top level. 

Ile Atlantique drops back to 2m, but looked regressive at Aintree. The testing ground probably went against King Of Kingsfield in the County Hurdle, but he would look to have place prospects at best, while Fun Fun Fun and Fascile Mode would be shock winners. 

Asian Master is not out of it for 6ft 4in jockey Thomas Costello. He endured a wide trip in the Supreme, but did well to be beaten just over five lengths. 

Facile Vega, Mighty Potter, Cilaos Emery and Jezki were beaten in the Supreme but bounced back to win this and Firefox could add his name to that list. 

Slade Steel camp hopeful of repeat 

Henry de Bromhead's string remains in superb form this spring and it seems something of an anomaly he hasn't trained a Grade 1 winner in Ireland this season. Indeed his last domestic success at the top level was Envoi Allen in the Ladbrokes Champion Chase at Down Royal in November 2022. 

Slade Steel could put an end to that statistic when bidding to give the Knockeen trainer his first success in this race. 

Slade Steel: Supreme win a costly result for Flutter
Slade Steel: won the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at the Cheltenham FestivalCredit: Patrick McCann (

De Bromhead said: "Slade Steel has been in really good form since Cheltenham and we've been very happy with him and what he's been doing. 

"The Cheltenham form stood up at Aintree and Ayr, where sixth Favour And Fortune won the Scottish Champion Hurdle. We’re looking forward to it."

What they say 

Willie Mullins, trainer of Asian MasterIle AtlantiqueMystical PowerTullyhill and Fun Fun Fun
Mystical Power went to Aintree after the Supreme and won. Like Aintree, Punchestown has an easier finish than Cheltenham and he has every chance of serving it up to Slade Steel this time. I’m hoping the experience of Aintree will benefit him greatly at Punchestown. Paul [Townend] was disappointed with Tullyhill at Cheltenham but has decided to go for him again with the thinking he didn’t give his true running in the Supreme. If back to his best he must have a great chance. Asian Master ran a cracker in the Supreme and we’ve decided to keep him at two miles and have a go. The forecast rain will suit him. I’ve been running Ile Atlantique over two miles four furlongs all season thinking that was maybe what he should be doing. Having a look back at his races I’m thinking we’ll go back down to two [miles] and let him use his jumping and his liking for getting on with the job. A change of tactics might suit him over this trip. Fun Fun Fun was too keen in her last two runs and is another one who a change of tactics may benefit in a first-time hood.

Gordon Elliott, trainer of Firefox and King Of Kingsfield
Firefox bounced out of Aintree so well. He ran well there and if he can take another step forward here he should go very close. He seems to be in great nick. King Of Kingsfield is very fast and the heavy ground blunted his speed in the County Hurdle. Don't be surprised if he's travelling as well as anything turning for home. He jumps well too.

Read more Punchestown previews:

How dangerous is Daddy Long Legs off an attractive-looking mark of 135 for Willie Mullins and Paul Townend?   

'She goes there with a tremendous chance' - can the consistent Dinoblue down Champion Chase hero Captain Guinness in Grade 1?  

'He might be even better over three miles' - who will come out on top as staying stars clash at Punchestown?   

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