Punchestown Champion Hurdle Guide 2021

Punchestown - April 29 2021
Punchestown 16:25
8
Rachael Blackmore

Honeysuckle

J:
 
Rachael Blackmore
T:
 
Henry De Bromhead
Age: 7
Weight: 11-7
OR: 165
Days: 45

Honeysuckle looks to be the one to beat once again and has a been a star for the yard over the last two years being faultless on all four of her starts last term, winning twice at Fairyhouse including in the Grade One Hatton's Grace Hurdle, she then narrowly stayed on to take the Irish Champion Hurdle before landing her first Cheltenham festival winner when seeing off Benie Des Dieux in the Mares Hurdle.

Overall the Kenneth Alexander-owned seven-year-old has claimed 12 wins in a row, if including her point to point race aswell and this season she has picked up from where she left off.

She headed to Fairyhouse on her seasonal debut in defence of her Hatton's Grace title and in gritty and determined fashion she managed to hold on close to the line.

Given some time to improve for that run, she then went back to Leopardstown to defend her Irish Champion Hurdle title and in emphatic style she landed the event by 10 lengths.

That was arguably one of the performances of the season and with her jumping quicker and showing clear speed over two miles, she looked the real deal.

It was thought that run would be hard to top, but she did just that at the Cheltenham festival when making it back to back wins at the meeting when landing the Grade One Champion Hurdle.

She is a force to be reckoned with and should just go on and win again.

DateCourseDistanceTypeWeightPosition
29/04/22PUN16Gd/Y11-51
15/03/22CHL16.5GS11-31
06/02/22LEO16Y11-51
28/11/21FAI20Gd11-51
30/04/21PUN16Y11-71
Punchestown - April 29 2021
Punchestown 16:25
7
Aidan Coleman

Epatante

J:
 
Aidan Coleman
T:
 
Nicky Henderson
Age: 7
Weight: 11-7
OR: 158
Days: 45

The JP McManus owned superstar has been seen nine times since coming to England under Nicky Henderson and has gone on to land six of her races, including three Grade One events.

Last season the British raider started off in the Gerry Feilden Intermediate Hurdle at Newbury and then on her final start before Cheltenham landing the Grade One Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on Boxing Day.

This set her up perfectly for the Champion Hurdle when going off favourite and under a cool ride by Barry Geraghty went on to land the prestigious event with ease.

She was the mare to beat in the two mile hurdling division heading into this season and cemented that thought on seasonal debut when landing the Grade One Fighting Fifth at Newcastle, never coming off the Bridle.

However, from there her season has gone downhill, being dethroned by Silver Streak in the Grade One Christmas Hurdle and then being well beaten into third in her title defence of the Champion Hurdle.

Henderson is keen for a rematch with the likes of Sharjah and Honeysuckle who finished ahead of her, but it looks a tough task to reverse the form.

DateCourseDistanceTypeWeightPosition
30/04/22PUN19Gd11-53
07/04/22AIN20GS11-01
15/03/22CHL16.5GS11-32
26/12/21KEM16Sft11-01
27/11/21NCS16GS11-01
Punchestown - April 29 2021
Punchestown 16:25
6
Mr P W Mullins

Sharjah

J:
 
Mr P W Mullins
T:
 
W P Mullins
Age: 8
Weight: 12-0
OR: 164
Days: 45

Frustrating. Inconsistent. Sharjah is a difficult horse to follow. At his best he’s scintillating. He stealthily creeps into contention off the pace and quickens clear like a good horse. 

Second in the 2020 Champion Hurdle, he was maybe missed by a good chunk of viewers who had eyes fixed on Epatante.

Sharjah arrived at the last hurdle swinging away on the bridle in Patrick Mullins’ hands but didn’t have the same change in gear as the winning mare. 

First time out this season he won his third Matheson hurdle on the bounce and looked like the good horse we all know he is. He showed his gear changes and pulled away from Aspire Tower after the back of the last hurdle. 

Again he was well fancied for the Irish Champion hurdle at Dublin in early February only for Honeysuckle to put him firmly in his place by 19 lengths. She bullied the finish out of him and he trailed home tamely in third. 

However, last time out in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham he gave a much better effort to chase home Honeysuckle in second and although needing to improve to get closer to her, it was a step in the right direction and he likes racing round Punchestown.

DateCourseDistanceTypeWeightPosition
29/12/21LEO16Y/Sft11-121
14/11/21PUN16Gd/Y11-121
30/04/21PUN16Y12-02
16/03/21CHL16.5Sft11-102
06/02/21LEO16Sft/Hy11-123
Punchestown - April 29 2021
Punchestown 16:25
1
Jack Kennedy

Abacadabras

J:
 
Jack Kennedy
T:
 
Mrs Denise Foster
Age: 7
Weight: 12-0
OR: 158
Days: 22

Trained by Denise Foster, Abacadabras went agonisingly close in the 2020 Supreme off the back of a solid novice hurdling campaign. 

His first season in open company has been inconsistent. A short priced favourite on return in the WKD hurdle, he was well held behind Aspire Tower. 

The bubble looked burst, but he bounced back immediately when cutting through the deep ground best to hold on in the Morgiana Hurdle. Fending off Saint Roi and Jason the Militant looked strong form for a horse who could idle when hitting the front. 

He’s since floundered. Fifth in Matheson at Christmas was put down to a health issue and he showed a rekindling of form when best of the rest behind Honeysuckle in the Irish Champion Hurdle. 

Last seen falling at only the third flight in the Champion Hurdle last month, he headed to Aintree up in trip on a bit of a season revival mission.

He did just that on his first try at 2m4f in the Grade One Aintree Hurdle, travelling superbly into the race and staying on well in the final stages.

That confident booster will set him up perfectly for a good crack at this race, but having been beat well by Honeysuckle a few times this season, he will need a career best.

DateCourseDistanceTypeWeightPosition
28/12/21LEO24Sft11-125
28/11/21FAI20Gd11-123
30/04/21PUN16Y12-04
08/04/21AIN20GS11-71
16/03/21CHL16.5Sft11-10F
Punchestown - April 29 2021
Punchestown 16:25
2
Robbie Power

Aspire Tower

J:
 
Robbie Power
T:
 
Henry De Bromhead
Age: 5
Weight: 12-0
OR: 160
Days: 45

Aspire Tower has been a standout hurdler for the De Bromhead yard racing six times over flights since coming from the flat and landing some superb races.

Last season the gelding landed his first two races in fine style, with his second win of the season at Leopardstown in a Grade Two Juvenile event seeing him take the spoils by 18 lengths.

He went to the festival off the back of a fall at the last in a Grade One event he looked sure to go close in before going to the ground.

At the Cheltenham festival he stayed on well in the final stages to pick up second in the Triumph Hurdle, in what was a very eventful renewal of the Grade One.

This season stepping out of novice company the long term target has always been the Champion Hurdle and off the back of both his runs to date, could go close.

The five year old started this term off at Down Royal in the Grade Two WKD Hurdle getting back to winning ways, seeing off Supreme Novices' Hurdle second Abacadabras.

He then went to Leopardstown over the Christmas period for the Grade One Matheson Hurdle and was a close second behind Sharjah, going from the front and giving a strong pace all the way round and still managing to power home.

It was thought that De Bromhead would give him an outing in the Irish Champion Hurdle last weekend at the Dublin Racing festival, before going to Cheltenham, but having swerved that and being sent straight to the Cheltenham festival, he will be fresher than most for the event.

He ran a huge race in the Champion Hurdle to finish fourth behind Epatante, Sharjah and Honeysuckle and although needing to reverse the form, he is more likely to improve further than some of these.

DateCourseDistanceTypeWeightPosition
30/04/21PUN16Y12-08
16/03/21CHL16.5Sft11-104
29/12/20LEO16Sft11-92
30/10/20DRO16.5Y/Sft11-61
13/03/20CHL17Sft11-02
Punchestown - April 29 2021
Punchestown 16:25
4
Jamie Moore

Goshen

J:
 
Jamie Moore
T:
 
Gary Moore
Age: 5
Weight: 12-0
OR: 160
Days: 45

An enigma of a horse to say the least. Goshen ascended the ranks of the juveniles last season only to break hearts, accumulators and place-pots alike with his final flight mistake in the Triumph Hurdle. 

Gary Moore’s five year old has a stiff task on his hands giving away 7lb to the girls in the field.

A couple of spins on the flat saw him come sixth of six and third of seven, bitterly disappointing for one with such a lofty reputation.

He then slipped further in expectations when trailing home last in the International Hurdle at Cheltenham in December. The bubble looked burst. 

But, a 70 day break Goshen returned at Wincanton in late February in the Kingwell hurdle and bounced back to form in style.

A 22 length procession saw him blitz the field and come home at a canter, with the deep ground playing to his strengths.

Well backed for the Champion Hurdle after that, everything went wrong for him on the day pulling Jamie Moore nearly off the track and ultimately costing him any chance.

Overall, Goshen is a horse with immense talent but looks very hard to handle and he needs to be better than ever taking on a similar field.

Going back right handed might be a big help.

DateCourseDistanceTypeWeightPosition
20/05/22GOO16Sft9-113
19/02/22WCN15Sft11-101
05/02/22SAN16GS11-111
23/01/22LIN19.5Hy11-63
18/12/21ASC15.5GS11-127
Punchestown - April 29 2021
Punchestown 16:25
5
Darragh O'Keeffe

Jason The Militant

J:
 
Darragh O'Keeffe
T:
 
Henry De Bromhead
Age: 7
Weight: 12-0
OR: 158
Days: 22

Henry De Bromhead and Rachael Blackmore had a storming Cheltenham festival and combine here with Jason The Militant. 

This seven year old caught the eye when third in his only bumper run behind Envoi Allen. A gusty winner of his maiden hurdle he finished his novice campaign with a massive win in a Grade Two at Naas. Scalping Beacon Edge and Andy Dufresne was some smart form. 

A warm up spin on the flat yielded a win before moving into open company over hurdles this season. Returning to timber in the WKD hurdle behind Aspire Tower he was pipped at the post for second by Abacadabras.

He finished behind the same rival next time out in the Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown in November and finished third again.  

Given some time off to freshen up, a 104 day break clearly did him good as he struck in a Grade Three at Fairyhouse in late February. An easy win saw Petit Mouchoir, Darasso and Sixshooter well beaten. 

He’s always shown a strong application in the finish of his races and is looking ready to make the step up to 2m4f.

Making all next time out on soft ground shows he’s got stamina and Aintree won’t provide too much of a test.

Last time out he was well backed for the Aintree Hurdle and unfortunately unseated his rider before being able to mount a challenge.

He is a nice horse in his own right, but only looks to have each way claims at his best.

Punchestown - April 29 2021
Punchestown 16:25
3
Jonathan Moore

Darver Star

J:
 
Jonathan Moore
T:
 
Gavin Cromwell
Age: 9
Weight: 12-0
OR: 158
Days: 43

Slightly older than most of his counterparts, Gavin Cromwell’s Darver Star was highly consistent last season as a hurdler. Third in the Royal Bond, Second in the Irish Champion hurdle and third in the Cheltenham Champion hurdle make up a smart looking CV.

He took to fences immediately and won well at Punchestown on chase debut by 12 lengths to Le Musigny.

Heavy ground blunted his ability next time out at Grade Two level and he only managed third when sent off favourite behind Felix Desjy and Sizing Pottsie.

A return to a sounder surface saw him run well again at Leopardstown over the same course and distance behind the impressive Franco De Port, only beaten 4.5 lengths.

However, he was totally below par next time out when seventh of nine runners in the Grade One Irish Arkle and then put in another poor performance whens seventh of eighth in the Marsh Novices' Chase at the Cheltenham festival.

He is looking for a rejuvenation in form dropping back to hurdles and he couldn't be going back into a tougher race.

DateCourseDistanceTypeWeightPosition
06/08/22KLB25Gd11-51
08/07/22COR20Gd11-62
18/04/22FAI20Y11-37
27/02/22FON19GS11-45
23/01/22LIN19.5Hy11-02

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