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Diakali set for Punchestown Juvenile honours in Our Conor’s absence

Saturday’s big race at Punchestown will a much closer affair for the defection of star attraction Our Conor after the four-year-old who massacred his juvenile contemporaries in Cheltenham’s Triumph Hurdle was withdrawn due to the heavy ground. The race is now set up as a something of a stable pecking-order decider for Willie Mullins four-year-olds with four of the trainers horses entered and one that will be taken by Diakali.

While of there are infinite facets to it’s interpretation seldom does a race have such a comprehensive form to back up punters’ decision making as Punchestown’s Champion Four Year Old Hurdle, due off at 5:00.

Blood Cotil beat Stockton’s Wing and One Fine Day in the Grade 2 juvenile hurdle at Leopardstown’s Christmas meeting, whilst Stockton’s Wing beat Dogora and Djakadam in a lesser event at Fairyhouse in February. Blood Cotil was beaten five lengths by Diakali when the pair followed Our Conor home at Leopardstown the same month.

Any hopes Blood Cotil may have had of turning the tables on his Closutton stable-mate have been scotched by the heavy going underfoot.The former finished fourth on his sole run on heavy ground at Auteuil whereas Diakali has twice scored on the same going including when smashing subsequent Fred Winter Juvenile hurdle winner Flaxen Flare over course and distance in January.

Blood Cotil finished some 15 and a half lengths behind Flaxen Flare in that Cheltenham handicap giving that rival 17lbs on good to soft going in a performance the handicapper rated his best so far.

Also Diakali’s favour is the fact that of four Willie Mullins runners in the contest he’s the chosen mount of stable jockey Ruby Walsh, whilst the application of racing hood for the first time likely to keep the front runner up to the task as he attempts to makes.