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Binocular hunches down at Punchestown for Flyweight contest against The Hurricane

In what promises to be one of the races of the season, the 2010 Cheltenham Champion Hurdle winner Binocular is set to take on this year’s brilliant Cheltenham scorer Hurricane Fly for the first time in the 160,000 euros Grade 1 Rabobank Champion Hurdle at the Punchestown Festival on Friday, May 6. 

Binocular also triumphed in the Grade 1 Christmas Hurdle at Kempton in December but the brilliant gelding was unable to defend his Champion Hurdle crown at Cheltenham in March. 

A setback forced owner J P McManus and trainer Nicky Henderson to scratch Binocular from this year’s Cheltenham race, leaving Hurricane Fly to emerge as an outstanding champion. 

Binocular returned to action on April 9 and finished fourth behind Oscar Whisky in the Grade 1 Aintree Hurdle over two and a half miles. 

Frank Berry, racing manager to J P McManus, revealed today: “Binocular is heading to Punchestown for the Rabobank Champion Hurdle, all being well. He is fine after Aintree, he is in good form and we couldn’t be happier with him. 

“Nothing came to light after Aintree, so we can’t put a finger on exactly what happened there. He ran a good race but just didn’t pick up perhaps as well as he should have, but he has come out of it good and hopefully he will go to Punchestown. 

“Missing Cheltenham was just one of those things. Importantly, he is sound and in good form so let’s hope he runs a good race if he goes there.” 

The Willie Mullins-trained Hurricane Fly landed the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown in January and stormed to an impressive victory at Cheltenham in March. The seven-year-old will attempt to win the Rabobank Champion hurdle for the second year in a row. 

The prestigious two-mile contest is the feature on the fourth day of the Punchestown Festival, which serves up a five-day feast of stunning racing from Tuesday, May 3 to Saturday, May 7. 

With 16 exciting entries, the race promises to be one of the thrilling highlights of the week. The Phillip Hobbs-trained Menorah, winner of the Grade 1 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in 2010, was fifth to Hurricane Fly at Cheltenham, while others of particular note include Voler La VedetteDunguib and Thousand Stars.

 

UNACCOMPANIED TO PUNCHESTOWN

 

Unaccompanied is pleasing connections ahead of a tilt at the 80,000 euros Grade 1 AES Champion 4YO Hurdle over two miles at Punchestown on Saturday, May 7. 

The Dermot Weld-trained filly warmed up for her assignment with an impressive victory in the Listed Alleged Stakes over 10 furlongs on the Flat at the Curragh on April 3. 

That win followed a brilliant winter over hurdles that brought a course and distance win at Punchestown, a stunning victory in the Grade 1 Spring Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown and a runner-up finish to Zarkandar in the Grade 1 Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. 

Owned and bred by Moyglare Stud Farm, Unaccompanied also holds an entry in the Group Three Blue Wind Stakes on the level at Naas on May 11 but connections are favouring a trip to the Punchestown Festival. 

Moyglare Stud Manager Stan Cosgrove revealed today: “Unaccompanied will be going to Punchestown, providing the ground is right – if the ground is on top she will not be running. 

“She is in great order but wants give in the ground – she could have done with it being softer in the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham.

 “The filly was great at the Curragh last time and won easily. Yesterday, I didn’t see it myself, but she schooled and apparently jumped like a stag – at the end she gave a buck and a kick, so she’s happy and in good form.” 

Unaccompanied faces high-class opposition, including Triumph Hurdle third Grandouet, trained by Nicky Henderson, and the Alan King-trained Kumbeshwar, who was second to Zarkandar in the Grade 1 Anniversary 4-Y-O Hurdle at Aintree last time.

Others of note among the entries include the Arthur Moore-trained What A Charm, who defeated Kumbeshwar to land the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham in March, Third Intention from the Colin Tizzard yard and the Edward O’Grady-trained pair of Sailor’s Warn and Rigidity.

                       

PUNCHESTOWN COMMENCE WATERING TO ENSURE SAFE GROUND

 

Richie Galway, Racing Manager at Punchestown, said: “We have had a very favourable spring for track preparation which means grass covering and growth has been better than ever and the track is in excellent condition. 

“The ground is currently good and due to the settled forecast watering has commenced to maintain the current going. 

“Our plan is to provide good, safe national hunt ground for the duration of the Festival. We have the facilities and infrastructure to allow us to water extensively and will do so if the forecast dictates.”

 

Key entries with betting and trainer comments for first two days of Punchestown Festival including Champion Chase rematch

Sizing EuropeBig ZebCaptain Cee Bee and Golden Silver, who led home a famous Irish 1-2-3-4 in Cheltenham’s Grade 1 Queen Mother Champion Chase last month, look set to renew rivalry at this year’s Punchestown Festival.

The quartet are all expected to line up in Punchestown’s two-mile chasing showpiece, the 140,000 euros Boylesports.com Champion Chase on the Festival’s opening day, Tuesday, May 3.

Entries for that Grade 1 contest and four other early-closing races on the Punchestown Festival’s first two days are revealed today and some brilliant racing is in prospect.

The Henry de Bromhead-trained Sizing Europe stormed to a five-length victory at Cheltenham from  Big Zeb with Captain Cee Bee a further four lengths back in third and Golden Silver, winner of the 2010 Boylesports.com Champion Chase, in fourth.

De Bromhead revealed this morning: “Right now, the plan is absolutely to go to the Boylesports.com Champion Chase with Sizing Europe. We were ecstatic with his win in Cheltenham, it was amazing – brilliant.

“He seems in great form. I’m never confident going into races like this, they’re all top-class horses and Golden Silver and Big Zeb beat us seven lengths in January. With those kind of guys it’s just who is feeling best on the day.

“I think the first four in the Queen Mother Champion Chase will be taking each other on again, so imagine it will be a really thrilling race and one that we’re looking forward to.

“Good ground is Sizing Europe’s optimum. He’s pretty good on anything but to be at his real best, good ground is what he wants.”

The Colm Murphy-trained Big Zeb, a head runner-up to Master Minded at Punchestown  two years ago, captured the Queen Mother Champion Chase in 2010 and his charge will bid to regain his standing as the best two-mile chaser around.

Murphy said today:“Punchestown is the plan. Big Zeb has come out of Cheltenham really well and the idea was always to freshen him up for the Boylesports.com Champion Chase and hopefully he should run well there.

“I suppose whoever is there firing all guns on the day will win the race. He ran a blinder at Cheltenham and unfortunately for us although fortunately for Henry, Sizing Europe was the better horse on the day, but Big Zeb is well and I’m pleased with him. Hopefully we can get a bit of nice ground that won’t inconvenience him.”

The Eddie Harty-trained Captain Cee Bee is looking to add a second Punchestown Festival win to his record, having won the Grade 1 Ryanair Novice Chase over the distance at last year’s event.

Harty revealed today: “Captain Cee Bee is in great form, I’m happy with him and we are looking forward to Punchestown. He won well there last year and we couldn’t be happier with him.

“He ran well at Cheltenham and I’m looking forward to taking them on again and seeing what happens this time around.

“I would prefer good ground with him but at this time of year you never know what the weather is going to do – the horse is in good form and that’s all we can ask for.”

British champion trainer Paul Nicholls has entered Aintree Grade 1 winner Tataniano to add further spice to the Boylesports.com Champion Chase.

Sponsor Boylesports makes Sizing Europe 2/1 favourite to come out on top again in the Punchestown rematch. Their full betting is:

Sizing Europe 2/1

Big Zeb 9/4

Golden Silver 5/1

Captain Cee Bee 5/1

Tataniano 7/1

Osana 14/1

J’y Vole 14/1

Changing Course 100/1

1/4 odds 2 places, ante post rules apply

Leon Blanche of Boylesports said: “We are thrilled to see that the first four home in the Queen Mother will renew rivalries in the Boylesports.com Champion Chase. It just goes to show the quality of two mile chasers we have here.

“Golden Silver saved the bookies and surprised us all last year and again in the Boylesports.com Chase in January when he beat Big Zeb so he could be one to watch and never underestimate the Willie Mullins factor at the Punchestown Festival. We are really looking forward to what should be a top-quality race and Festival.”

KAUTO STAR GOING FOR GOLD

The Festival’s flagship staying chase is the 3m 1f Grade 1 Punchestown Guinness Gold Cup on Wednesday, May 4, and 14 entries are headed by the great Kauto Star, twice successful in the Cheltenham Gold Cup and a four-time winner of the King George VI Chase for trainer Paul Nicholls.

He is one of four British-trained entries alongside stablemate Neptune Collonges, twice successful in the Guinness Gold Cup  (2008 & 2007), last week’s Aintree  Grade 1 winner Nacarat and the high-class Evan Williams-trained Deep Purple.

The Willie Mullins-trained Kempes, winner of the Grade 1 Growise Champion Novice Chase at Punchestown last year as well as this season’s Hennessy Gold Cup, is also among the entries.

Boylesports makes Kauto Star 9/4 favourite to win the Punchestown Guinness Gold Cup, just ahead of Nacarat.

Boylesports’ betting is:

Kauto Star 9/4

Nacarat 3/1

Kempes 9/2

Joncol  5/1

Neptune Collonges 8/1

The Midnight Club 12/1

Tranquil Sea 16/1

Follow the Plan 16/1

Roberto Goldback 16/1

Let Yourself Go 16/1

Deep Purple 20/1

Rare Bob 25/1

Vic Venturi 25/1

Notre Pere 33/1

1/5 odds first 3 places, ante post rules apply.

CHELTENHAM HERO FIRST LIEUTENANT HEADS EVENING HERALD CHAMPION NOVICE HURDLE

A total of 17 horses have been engaged for the 80,000 euros Grade 1 Evening Herald Champion Novice Hurdle headed by the Mouse Morris-trained Cheltenham hero First Lieutenant, who clinched a thrilling last-gasp victory over Rock On Ruby in the Grade 1 Neptune Investment Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham in March.

Third on that occasion was the Willie Mullins-trained So Young, while the Jessica Harrington-trained Oscars Well had looked the likely winner until a mistake at the last left him to finish fourth.

Oscars Well had previously landed the Grade 1 Navan Novice Hurdle in December and followed up with an impressive five and a half-length victory over the Mullins-trained Zaidpour in the Grade 1 Deloitte Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown in February, a race in which the Edward O’Grady-trained Shot From The Hip was third and the Dermot Weld-trained Hidden Universefourth.

Zaidour won the Grade 1 Royal Bond Hurdle at Fairyhouse in December, while Hidden Universe is already a Punchestown Festival winner, having held the Sean Byrne-trained Oilily to take the Grade 1 Paddy Power Champion INH Flat Race last year.

Also among the entries are the Dessie Hughes-trained Canaly, who is seeking a four-timer, and the Philip Rothwell-trainedRathlin, the first Irish-trained horse to cross the line when sixth in the Grade 1 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham in March.

CHELTENHAM AND AINTREE WINNERS HEAD TO GROWISE CHAMPION NOVICE CHASE

A mouthwatering Grade 1 Growise Champion Novice Chase is in prospect on Tuesday, May 3, with the 25 entries including the Paul Nolan-trained Noble Prince, an impressive winner of the Grade 2 Jewson Novices’ Chase at last month’s Cheltenham Festival.

Chicago Grey, winner of the four-mile National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham has been entered by trainer Gordon Elliott in the 80,000 euros race as has the Colm Murphy-trained Quito De La Roque, a Grade Two winner at Aintree last week for owner Michael O’Leary.

Other notable names engaged include the Willie Mullins-trained Mikael D’Haguenet while there are five entries from Britain including last season’s Punchestown Festival winner Reve De Sivola and Golan Way, who has been targeted at the meeting by trainer Sheena West.

41 BID FOR COMPETITIVE GUINNESS HANDICAP CHASE

Alongside the Guinness Gold Cup on Wednesday’s fantastic card is the lucrative 80,000 euros Guinness Handicap Chase over two and a half miles, which has 41 entries, among them the Edward O’Grady-trained Tranquil Sea and the Jonjo O’Neill-trained Sunnyhillboy, one of six possible contenders from Britain.

The Punchestown Festival takes place from Tuesday, May 3, to Saturday, May 7, 2011 and includes 11 Grade 1 races over the five days. First race 3.40pm (2.30pm Saturday).

Visit www.punchestown.com to book tickets, find accommodation and arrange transport to and from the Festival.

For further information and media accreditation enquiries, please contact:

Shona Dreaper

PR & Communications Manager

Punchestown Racecourse

Naas

Co. Kildare

Tel: +353 (0) 45 897704

Mob: +353 (0) 87 905 9669

Fax: +353 (0) 45 897319

sdreaper@punchestown.com

www.punchestown.com

Evening Herald Champion Novice Hurdle (Grade 1) €49,600.00 (2m ‑ 5yo+)

Form Horse Trainer

6‑111 Canaly (Dessie Hughes)

7‑891 Far Away So Close (Paul Nolan)

14   Final Victory (GB) (Gordon Elliott)

131‑1 First Lieutenant (Mouse Morris)

11‑40 Hidden Universe (Dermot Weld)

Il Fenomeno (ITY) (Noel Meade)

2‑146 Joe Smooth (GB) (Noel Meade)

112‑2 Oilily (Sean Byrne)

11‑14 Oscars Well (Jessica Harrington)

‑11p‑ Otterstown Lady (Cathy O’Leary)

134‑6 Perfect Smile (Noel Meade)

f1‑72 Prima Vista (GB)(Noel Meade)

3-216 Rathlin (GB) (Philip Rothwell)

21‑33 Shot From The Hip (GER)(Edward O’Grady)

1‑13 So Young (FR) (Willie Mullins)

1‑236 Tornedo Shay (Thomond O’Mara).

12‑27 Zaidpour (FR) (Willie Mulllins)

Boylesports.com Champion Steeplechase (Grade 1) €86,800.00 (2m ‑ 5yo+)

Form Horse Trainer

11‑22 Big Zeb (Colm Murphy)

114‑3 Captain Cee Bee (Edward Harty)

58‑52 Changing Course (Henry de Bromhead)

‑1114 Golden Silver (FR) (Willie Mulllins)

26‑36 J’y Vole (FR) (Willie Mulllins)

432f‑ Osana (FR) (Edward O’Grady)

22‑31 Sizing Europe (Henry de Bromhead)

121-3 Tataniano (FR) (Paul Nicholls GB)

Growise Champion Novice Steeplechase (Grade 1) €49,600.00 (3m 1f ‑ 5yo+)

Form Horse Trainer

0‑811 Aura About You (Paul Nolan)

2511 Balthazar King (Philip Hobbs GB)

11‑25 Blazing Tempo (Willie Mulllins)

f‑127 Bob Lingo (Tom Mullins)

f25‑1 Chicago Grey (Gordon Elliott)

5411 Dover’s Hill (GB) (Mary Hambro GB)

-1413 Golan Way (GB) (Sheena West GB)

1136‑ Head Of The Posse (John Kiely)

313‑4 Kakagh (Bill Harney)

134‑3 Loosen My Load (Henry de Bromhead)

f5‑3f Mikael D’Haguenet (FR) (Willie Mulllins)

1‑371 Mr Cracker (Michael Hourigan)

0-f96Mr Thriller (FR) (David Pipe)

12‑21 Noble Prince (GER) (Paul Nolan)

61‑ff Quel Esprit (FR) (Willie Mulllins)

2‑111 Quito De La Roque (FR) (Colm Murphy)

3733 Reve De Sivola (FR) (Nick Williams GB)

1‑117 Roi Du Mee (FR) (Gordon Elliott)

21‑f2 Royal De La Thinte (FR) (Jim Dreaper)

‑31p3 Sam Adams (Paul Nolan)

412‑4 Sebadee (Ken Condon)

3220‑ Sweeps Hill (NZ) (John Kiely)

‑2164 Tharawaat (Gordon Elliott)

0114‑ Thegreatjohnbrowne (Noel Meade)

‑24f2 Western Charmer (Dessie Hughes)

Punchestown Guinness Gold Cup (Grade 1) €96,000.00 (3m 1f ‑ 5yo+)

Form Horse Trainer

3U34 Deep Purple (GB) (Evan Williams GB)

91503 Follow The Plan (Oliver McKiernan)

143‑3 Joncol (Paul Nolan)

f‑133 Kauto Star (FR) (Paul Nicholls GB)

3u‑1p Kempes (Willie Mulllins)

33p02 Let Yourself Go (Adrian Maguire)

4431 Nacarat (FR)(Tom George GB)

/B018 Neptune Collonges (FR) (Paul Nicholls GB)

259‑0 Notre Pere (FR) (Barry Potts)

8‑1pu Rare Bob (Dessie Hughes)

3‑220 Roberto Goldback (Jessica Harrington)

3‑216 The Midnight Club (Willie Mulllins)

611‑7 Tranquil Sea (Edward O’Grady)

‑744b Vic Venturi (Dessie Hughes)

Guinness Handicap Steeplechase (Grade A) €49,600.00 (2m 4f ‑ 5yo+)

Form Horse Trainer

60-10 Aigle d’Or (GB) (Nicky Henderson GB)

252‑ Apt Approach (Willie Mulllins)

‑46u‑ Aran Concerto (Noel Meade)

2‑f10 Arklow Ger (Paul Nolan)

21‑62 Askthemaster (Robert Tyner)

19‑13 Beautiful Sound (Gordon Elliott)

11‑25 Blazing Tempo(Willie Mulllins)

1f2‑1 Carrigmartin (Edward Harty)

‑f404 Clan Tara (Paul Nolan)

74432 Conem (Willie Austin)

1p-85 Copper Bleu (Philip Hobbs GB)

1120‑ Cuan Na Grai (Paul Nolan)

33‑3f Dr Whizz (Tom Mullins)

‑p6p‑ Equus Maximus (Willie Mulllins)

4867 I’msingingtheblues (David Pipe GB)

pp00‑ Jawad (Joanna Morgan)

12‑50 Lastoftheleaders (Arthur Moore)

10‑57 Leanne (Bill Harney)

464p‑ Lenabane (Dessie Hughes)

6f93‑Lucky Wish (GB) (Eoin Griffin)

9‑739 Mansony (FR) (Arthur Moore)

6458‑ Natal (FR) (James Lambe)

6‑312 Organisedconfusion (Arthur Moore)

432f‑ Osana (FR) (Edward O’Grady)

11p/5 Peter Pole (FR) (Tim Vaughan GB)

53‑65 Pomme Tiepy (FR) (Willie Mulllins)

‑18f4 Psycho (Tony Martin)

61‑ff Quel Esprit (FR) (Willie Mulllins)

69‑2f Quiscover Fontaine (FR) (Willie Mulllins)

9273 Qulinton (FR) (David Pipe GB)

4‑2‑0 Red Vinto (GB) (Willie Mulllins)

‑31p3 Sam Adams (Paul Nolan)

3‑443 Scotsirish (Willie Mulllins)

67‑f2 See U Bob (Paul Nolan)

1137‑ Shakervilz (FR) (Willie Mulllins)

4421f Shirley Casper (Dessie Hughes)

375‑0 Sizing Africa (Henry de Bromhead)

3‑834 Sizing America (Henry de Bromhead)

2-73f   Sunnyhillboy (Jonjo O’Neill GB)

2164 Tharawaat (Gordon Elliott)

611‑7 Tranquil Sea (Edward O’Grady)

Nacarat could take on Kauto Star at Punchestown

Nacarat, a brilliant winner of last week’s Grade One totesport Bowl at Aintree, looks set to take on Kauto Star is the Grade One Punchestown Guinness Gold Cup at the Irish National Hunt Festival at Punchestown on Wednesday, May 4.

Tom George’s charge jumped his rivals into submission in Liverpool with a front-running display that could prove to be the perfect prelude to a tilt at the 160,000 euros Punchestown Guinness Gold Cup, run over three miles and a furlong.

Nacarat, also successful in the 2009 Racing Post Chase and this season’s Grade Two Charlie Hall Chase, had the likes of Denman, Follow The Plan and Deep Purple in trouble a long way from home before drawing clear for a six-length verdict over Carole’s Legacy at Aintree.

George, who trains close to Cheltenham at Slad, revealed today: “We are considering the Punchestown Guinness Gold Cup for Nacarat. It’s a Grade One race with prize money to match and it could be that he is one step better going right-handed on better ground. We always thought he was best going right-handed and Paddy (Brennan) has mentioned that in the past.”

George is hoping for similar ground conditions to those experienced at Aintree last week in Ireland.

He continued: “At Aintree, he showed everything that he has always promised to do when he gets his favoured ground. It doesn’t have to be good ground – he likes good to soft but not soft ground. He goes on heavy to a certain extent, but to perform at his optimum, he needs good to soft or good and I actually don’t think he would like it fast either.

“The better ground brings out the best in him. He loves jumping off it and he is much happier.

“He has come out of the race unbelievably well. He never even blew much and the only three times he has had the ideal ground were in the Racing Post Chase two years ago, the Charlie Hall Chase earlier this season and last week at Aintree.

“As it is, we have a month to see how he is and that is about the length of time he likes between his races. I know him well and he is a horse that I can get fresh quite quickly and easily at home – he is not a horse that takes a lot of work, so we can keep him happy.

“We would not run him on soft but if it were good or good to soft and if he is in good form, we would have to think very seriously about going over there. There is no point waiting until next December to find that we have heavy ground when this could be a chance on good ground.”

The Punchestown Guinness Gold Cup has a long and illustrious roll of honour that includes the legendary Arkle in 1963. Other outstanding winners include Fort Leney (1964), Carvill’s Hill (1989), Imperial Call (1999), Florida Pearl (2002), Beef Or Salmon (2004), Kicking King (2005) and War Of Attrition (2006).

Neptune Collonges landed the prize in 2007 and 2008 for Britain’s champion trainer Paul Nicholls and he is set to saddle the great dual Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Kauto Star in the race.