Punchestown Stayers Hurdle Guide

1. Aux Ptits Soins

Trainer - Dan Skelton

Jockey - Harry Skelton

Struck in the Grand National card opener - the Grade Three Gaskells Handicap Hurdle over three miles not too long ago, and ripped away from the field in good style.

He also won a useful handicap at Cheltenham on New Years Day for the Skeltons who have enjoyed a magnificent year together, but the jump to the a Grade One would be an initial worry.

The way he pulled away last time in a lower grade would suggest he deserves this jump up and his time could be now to produce a career best.

2. Bacardys

T - Willie Mullins

J - Paul Townend

Paul Townend will have to strap himself in on Bacardys, who has such a poor record of completion and is prone to many mistakes over obstacles.

Despite finishing sixth in the Stayers Hurdle at Cheltenham, he was miles behind the front four home up the big Cheltenham hill and will need to improve on that part.

That finish was also only the third time he had completed a race in the last seven attempts, so several doubts on his reliability front.

Won on this card two years ago in the Champion Novice Hurdle.

3. Bapaume

T - Willie Mullins

J - Ruby Walsh

Favourite after rallying late to finish fourth in the Stayers Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, adding to his fine string of placed finishes.

He was second to Presenting Percy in the Galmoy Hurdle, though that form has not worked out, nor his third to Apples Jade in the Christmas Hurdle.

On that evidence, you could suggest this is a very weak looking Grade One which is open to the taking, but Bapaume is another who has won at this meeting before - in 2017 taking the Four Year Old Hurdle, so clearly demands respect.

Tongue tie goes on.

4. Cracking Smart

T - Gordon Elliott

J - Jack Kennedy

Looking down the files, Cracking Smart beat home recent winners Duc Des Genievres and Jetz in a Grade One at Naas a week into the New Year, but has never kicked on from that effort.

Just a length down on the Willie Mullins-trained Next Destination, he was a long last in a Grade One at Christmas over today's distance, and was dropped back three furlongs for the Boyne Hurdle won by Tiger Roll.

He was much closer that day, and has excuses in a big handicap like the Coral Cup when halfway down the field on latest start when not running badly.

Not sure back to three miles is a wise decision, but likes soft ground.

5. Dortmund Park

T - Gordon Elliott

J -

Useful novice hurdle who has just lost his way a tad recently in two high-end affairs won by Apple's Jade.

He has only managed to beat one from a possible fifteen in last two starts, but arrives back from a break and ready to go fresh.

Won the Champion Novice Hurdle at this meeting last year, beating recent Irish Grand National winner Burrows Saint by a healthy margin.

Could be the dark horse in the field and foolish to write off.

6. Killutagh Vic

T - Willie Mullins

J - David Mullins

Been a little while since he made his long awaited return eighteen moths ago, when he won here on reappearance in a handicap hurdle.

Has been promoted back to the top level, and has failed to win since, but did run a cracker over three miles in a Grade Three at Cork a fortnight ago, just being denied by Peter Fahey's Timeforwest for a close margin.

Chopping and changing between hurdles and fences, and Grade One's always seem a step too far now no matter who turns up.

7. Not Many Left

T - Jessica Harrington

J - Robbie Power

Not Many Left was second to Rashaan in last week's Grade Two Strawberry Hurdle at Fairyhouse and ran on really well in the closing stages.

He had also finished a good third to Sire Du Berlais in the Pertemps Final at Cheltenham, proving he definitely gets three miles.

Was runner-up in the Louis Fitzgerald Hotel Hurdle over two-and-a-half miles this time last year behind classy mare Pravalaguna, and is usually there or thereabouts.

8. Prince Of Scars

T - Gordon Elliott

J - Keith Donoghue

Made his belated return in January at Gowran after almost two years off the track, running a creditable sixth in the Galmoy Hurdle.

Finishing third in the Stayers Hurdle at the Aintree meeting of 2016 behind Thistlecrack probably represents his best form, but it is outdated, and needs plenty of improvement to play a part in this.

Others significantly preferred.

9. Unowhatimeanharry

T - Harry Fry

J - Mark Walsh

Unowhatimeanharry certainly flies the flag for the OAP's in this contest, and can't have that much longer in his racing career, which has provided us with so much joy.

He just doesn't appear to have the legs anymore, and finished down the field in the Stayers Hurdle at Cheltenham, which was an improvement on his early fall in the JLT Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot.

Only beat three home in the Aintree equivalent three weeks ago, but if recapturing the spark that saw him win this race two years ago, he could have claims for stealing a place.

10. Vision Des Flos

T - Colin Tizzard

J - Tom Scudamore

Was well backed for the Coral Cup at the Festival in March but came nowhere, failing to build on his good victory in the Grade Two National Spirit at Fontwell.

Decent novice last term, and has run with great consistency this season earning plenty of place money for the Potts Family operation.

Could be a factor if on song, particularly if mirroring his second placed finish in a Grade One here last season.