Punchestown Festival preview: Champion Novice Hurdle (18.05)

Alpha Des Obeaux has a progressive profile and looks decent value to land the Grade 1 Champion Novice Hurdle at Punchestown today (18.05).

The gelding won his sole start in a 3m point at Tinahely by 20 lengths, cruising home in a race run 15 seconds faster than average on the day.

Alpha Des Obeaux joined trainer Mouse Morris after that success, and surprisingly got turned over at odds-on on his hurdling debut when runner-up at Cork.

However, the five-year-old stuck to the task well over a 2m trip which was too sharp and went on to score easily by eight lengths next time up over course and distance.

Alpha Des Obeaux backed that up with two solid efforts, chasing home Black Hercules at Cork over 3m and then finishing a 3 3/4 length runner-up to Douvan over 2m at this venue.

Although no match for the easy winner in the latter, the son of Saddler Maker kept on well to be beaten 3 3/4 lengths and the winner is a very smart sort who has gone on to bolt up Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival before following up in facile fashion in a Grade 1 here earlier in the week.

That is strong form, and Alpha Des Obeaux was in the process of running a huge race last time out in a Grade 1 at Aintree when a length down and rallying when coming to grief at the last in a race eventually won by Thistlecrack.

The pair were miles clear of the rest when disaster struck for Alpha Des Obeaux, and the winner is a rapidly improving sort who got beat just 1/2 a length in a Grade 1 contest at this meeting on Wednesday.

Alpha Des Obeaux also remains open to stack of improvement after just five starts under rules, and providing the tumble at Aintree hasn’t left its mark can land the spoils at a track which he runs well.

Nichols Canyon is favourite to give trainer Willie Mullins yet another Grade 1 winner at the meeting and is the obvious danger to the selection.

The five-year-old has won four of his six starts over hurdles, and put in an improved performance last time out when landing the Mersey Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree by 4 1/2 lengths from Parlour Games.

That form sets the standard, but Nichols Canyon is prone to clouting the odd hurdle and has had a long hard season having been on the go since November and raced six times.

It could be the case of going to the well once too often, and at the odds on offer the fresher Alpha De Obeaux looks worth siding with to lower Nichols Canyon’s colours.