Punchestown Festival preview: Champion I.N.H Flat Race (18:05)
Trainer Nicky Henderson does well with his Punchestown raiders, and Altior looks to hold leading claims of providing him with another success in the Champion I.N.H Flat Race there today (18:05).
The gelding looked an exciting prospect when running out an impressive winner on debut in at Market Rasen last May, travelling on the bridle throughout and showing a smart turn of foot to quicken clear and win by 14 lengths without coming out of second gear.
Altior was then on the sidelines for 265 days before reappearing in a Listed bumper at Newbury and finishing an eye-catching third of 11 to Barters Hill under different riding tactics.
After being held-up towards the rear in a slowly run race, the five-year-old made steady headway three from home before keeping on to be beaten 3 1/4 lengths without being unduly knocked about.
It was an excellent effort given how the race panned out, and the form has a strong look to it as the race-fit winner has gone to to land the Champion Bumper at Aintree and is now unbeaten in four starts.
Altior is sure to come on a bundle for that run, and it’s interesting that connections resisted the temptation to run him at the Cheltenham Festival and Aintree.
The son of High Chaparral, who is held in extremely high regard, has clearly been saved with this race in mind and comes into the contest a fresh horse.
That is a big plus, and Altior looks primed to run a huge race in the hands of talented young jockey Kate Harrington.
Champion Irish trainer Willie Mullins has won two of the last three runnings of the contest, and Pylonthepressure could well prove the pick of the County Carlow handler’s five representatives in this year’s renewal.
The five-year-old is unbeaten in two starts under rules, and put in very taking performance last time out when making all and staying on strongly to score by 8 1/2 lengths at Naas.
It was an effort which suggested the gelding needed keeping firmly onside, and the fact that Pylonthepressure bypassed Cheltenham and Aintree suggests this has long been his target.
Another big player has to be the Noel Meade trained Disko.
The Gigginstown House Stud owned four-year-old looked a very exciting prospect on racecourse debut when sauntering clear to win easing down by 15 lengths over course and distance, and has the services of crack amateur rider Nina Carberry in the saddle.