Giggonstown bid to round season off in style
It has been another outstanding season for Michael O'Leary's Gigginstown House Stud and the champion-owner elect is set to bid to finish off the campaign on a high at next week's Punchestown Festival, running from Tuesday to Saturday, April 25 to 29.
Eddie O'Leary, racing manager to his brother, revealed today that a string of Gigginstown's star names are set to run over the five days.
Brilliant mare Apple's Jade, winner of the Grade 1 OLBG Mares' Hurdle at Cheltenham, is set to line up in either the Grade 1 €250,000 Ladbrokes Champion Stayers Hurdle next Thursday, April 27, or the Grade 1 Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Champion Hurdle two days later.
"Apple's Jade is obviously very, very good," said Eddie O'Leary. "We were delighted with Cheltenham and touch wood she's done well since then. I don't think she'll be running in the BETDAQ Champion Hurdle over two miles - she'll either go for the three-miler or the mares' race and we'll decide in the next few days."
But Gigginstown will be going into the Grade 1 €250,000 BETDAQ Champion Hurdle on Friday, April 28, with a live chance thanks to the Henry de Bromhead-trained Petit Mouchoir, a dual Grade 1 winner this season who finished third to Buveur D'Air in the Champion Hurdle
"Petit Mouchoir goes for the BETDAQ Champion Hurdle," added O'Leary. "He ran very, very well at Cheltenham and was beaten by an extremely good horse. Now he's more settled in his races, I think that gives him a bit more of a chance.
"He'll be going over fences next season and we hope he's a nice three-mile chasing prospect."
The Gordon Elliott-trained Outlander is set to put a below-par run in the Cheltenham Gold Cup behind him when he takes on an all-star cast in the Grade 1 €250,000 Coral Punchestown Gold Cup on Wednesday, April 26.
"We were a bit mystified by Outlander at Cheltenham, no excuse has really come to light for that run," said O'Leary. "He's a horse that usually travels well in his races but he was never going in the Gold Cup. Hopefully we'll see a different horse at Punchestown and we will need to as it looks like it's going to be a really good race."
Sub Lieutenant, who finished second in the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham and the Melling Chase at Aintree, may also line up in the 3m 1f Coral Punchestown Gold Cup.
"There's a small chance Sub Lieutenant will run at Punchestown and if he does he'll go for the Coral Punchestown Gold Cup. He's a half-brother to Lord Windermere so I think he wants the longer trip."
Meanwhile one set to step back in trip is Tell Us More, who missed Monday's Irish National with a minor setback. The eight-year-old is entered in the €250,000 BoyleSports Champion Chase on Tuesday, April 25.
"Tell Us More was just a bit sore on Monday so didn't run but hopefully he'll be back for the Champion Chase," said O'Leary
The Noel Meade-trained Disko finished third in the JLT Novices' Chase at Cheltenham after winning the Grade 1 Flogas Novice Chase at Leopardstown in February. He will line up in the Grade 1 Growise Champion Novice Chase on Tuesday, April 25.
"Disko will go for the Growise Champion Novice Chase," commented O'Leary. "It just didn't happen for him at Cheltenham, he was never travelling in the race. We hope he's a bit better than he showed there but he would need to be."
Gigginstown also look set to be represented in the Grade 1 Ryanair Novice Chase on Thursday, April 27.
"We've got A Toi Phil, Atrribution and Ball D'Arc in the Ryanair Novice Chase over two miles. I'm not sure yet who will be in there but it's their last chance of the season so we'll see how they all are."
The highly-regarded Death Duty was undefeated over hurdles before being sent off a hot favourite for the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham, where he unseated jockey Bryan Cooper when looking beaten. He will look to make amends in the Grade 1 Irish Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle on Wednesday, April 26.
"We hopefully found a reason for Death Duty's disappointing run at Cheltenham and if he's OK he'll run at Punchestown," said O'Leary.
"He looked very good before that run at Cheltenham but just didn't travel at all in the race. We hope he's an exciting horse and we all believe he's a three-miler so he'd most likely go for the Irish Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle on the second day of the Punchestown Festival."
One that delivered a welcome surprise at Cheltenham was Champagne Classic, winner of the 23-runner Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle. He is set to step up to Grade 1 company, most probably in the Tattersalls Ireland Champion Novice Hurdle over 2m 4f on Friday, April 28.
"Champagne Classic deserves a chance at a decent prize after his Cheltenham win," said O'Leary. "The winners of that race have a decent record. The way Champagne Classic won at Cheltenham was a nice surprise but perhaps the better going was responsible.
"He maybe loved that ground and that made the difference. He'd had leg trouble and we thought he was a winter ground horse but perhaps we were wrong."
Former pointer Poli Roi, who won his only start on the track for Gordon Elliott in February, is set to line up in the Grade 1 €100,000 Racing Post Champion INH Flat Race on Wednesday, April 26. There is a chance he could be joined by stablemate Samcro, a 17-length winner at Fairyhouse on Monday.
"I think we'll run Poli Roi, who won well at Navan in February, in the Racing Post Champion Bumper," continued O'Leary. "Gordon was talking about running Samcro as well. He's come out of Monday's race very well but I think he's probably done enough for the season. We'll see.
"I think we'll also have a couple in the €100,000 Goffs Land Rover Bumper on Tuesday."
The Ground at Punchestown is currently Good, Good To Yielding in Places, and due to the settled forecast watering has commenced.