The first race at Punchestown on Sunday is the EMS Copiers Risk Of Thunder Chase, and Hurrican Darwin can take the opener. He was last seen here back in April finishing second to Josies Orders - who won the Cross County at Cheltenham on Friday, and has a strong chance if reappearing in the same shape. Has the advantage in terms of experience on the track, and has proved in the past he can run well when fresh.
Punchestown Sunday Preview - 18/11/2018
12:05 - Hurricane Darwin
12:35 - Hearts Are Trumps
Hearts Are Trumps currently heads the betting for the Irish Daily Mirror Handicap Hurdle (at the time of writing), and back up his strong market support with a win here. The 5yo has maintained a rate of progression with a win and a second at Galway, and on that basis, he is a leading contender. Mark Walsh is also in top form of late, and is a major player in this 2mile contest.
1:05 - Neddyvaughan
Neddyvaughan can remain competitive despite a mouth-watering 17lb rise, in this Ryans Cleaning Handicap Chase. He has been upped since his wins at Fairyhouse and Wexford, when he won in command. Should be in the mix here, and holds strong claims of completing the hat-trick under Barry Browne, who takes off a crucial 5lb, and for trainer Padraig Roche, who is looking for just his third winner of the month.
1:40 - Blow By Blow
Next up is the first of two graded features, the G2 Florida Pearl Novice Chase over the extended 2 and 3/4 miles. Blow By Blow looks the standout act in the field, and did all that was required at Galway latest, and should cope well with this step up in grade. Landed the Martin Pipe at Cheltenham back in March, and is going to be hard to beat since going up to fences, which was always the plan for this 7yo. Stable flying as usual, and Davy Russell takes the ride from the suspended Jack Kennedy.
2:15 - Samcro
The headline event is the Grade 1 Unibet Morgiana Hurdle, won by some true greats in the past, and Samcro - if he runs (rated '50-50' by his trainer on Saturday) can add his name to the history books. He was last season's top novice and was unbeaten until coming down at here at the Festival in April, and lost his first race when standing up to obstacles when brushed aside by Bedrock in the WKD Hurdle latest. Should hopefully be much sharper now. Again, Russell rides in Kennedy's absence.
2:50 - Court Maid
Race six is the Nally Bros Hyundai Supporting Longford GAA Handicap Hurdle, and Court Maid holds the most attractive profile here. A Cork maiden winner, and looks interesting now entering handicaps, and hopefully he has learned from his jumping errors, and with fluency over the timber flights, comes a great chance of success. Interesting.
3:20 - Relegate
Cheltenham Champion Bumper winner Relegate should take the Connolly's RED MILLS Irish EBF Auction Maiden Hurdle with complete ease. She very much looks the one to beat now switched to hurdles, and many of the field from the Bumper from the Festival back in March have since won on debut over hurdles. Now it's her turn. Ruby Walsh now takes the ride from his sister.
3:55 - Mt Leinster
Willie Mullins has been waiting some time to name a horse special enough from the mountain that overlooks his yard. He believes he has found that now, and he made an impressive start at Ballinrobe. He has since changed ownership and a fascinating clash awaits here with the Gordon Elliott trained Malone Road.