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Punchestown Festival preview: Champion Novice Chase (18.40)

Don Poli is one of the most exciting staying novice chasers I have seen for a long time, and can maintain his unbeaten record over the larger obstacles in the Grade 1 Champion Novice Chase at Punchestown today (18.40).

The Willie Mullins trained gelding was a smart hurdler who has taken his form to a new level since being switched to fences this term, winning all three of his starts.

In the first of those over 2m 4f at Gowran Park, Don Poli jumped really well for the vast majority of the race and only had to be pushed out to readily pull clear and beat Wounded Warrior by 2 1/2 lengths.

The son of Poliglote then took the step up into Grade 1 company in his stride when comfortably beating Apache Stronghold by three lengths in a very strong renewal of the Topaz Chase at Leopardstown.

Don Poli jumped impeccably and found plenty on the run-in to win going away at the line, and was sent off the heavily backed 13/8 favourite for the RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival on the back of that success.

The six-year-old never gave his supporters never had an anxious moment in the 3m 1f contest, travelling well on the heels of the leaders before taking up the running two from home and storming clear on the run-in to win going away by six lengths from Southfield Theatre.

It was a performance which had future Cheltenham Gold Cup winner written all over it, and Don Poli is currently is currently Coral’s 5/1 joint-favourite for the 2016 running of chasing’s blue riband event.

Granted a clear round, it will be a major surprise if Don Poli doesn’t take this with the minimum of fuss.

Apache Stronghold fell last time out, but had previously shown a high level of form and is an intresting contender now stepped up in trip.

Trained by Noel Meade, the gelding chased home Don Poli in the Topaz before landing a Grade 1 at Leopardstown in game style from Valseur Lido.

The seven-year-old was then far from disgraced when runner-up to the brilliant Vautour in the JLT Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, and looks sure to give it his best shot.

Meade also trains Wounded Warrior who ran a very good race to finish third to Don Poli in the RSA last time out.

The six-year-old has always been held in the highest regard, and is an improving out-and-out stayer who may well belie his odds and give Don Poli most to think about.