Lee and Pauling gunning for first Punchestown Festival glory
David Metcalf | April 21, 2016
Lee hoping Gamble will pay off in Champion Chase
Two of the rising stars of the British training ranks, Kerry Lee and Ben Pauling, are bidding to saddle their first Punchestown Festival winners at the 2016 edition.
Lee, whose father Richard enjoyed success at this end of season Irish National Hunt Festival as a trainer, will saddle Top Gamble – a Grade 2 Fairyhouse winner last time out – in the Grade 1 Champion Chase on Tuesday, April 26th.
“Top Gamble has come out of Fairyhouse very well – he’s bouncing and is in great form at home,” said Kerry Lee. “You always hope that they will improve, although you’re never confident, and he has certainly earned a place to have a crack at the Champion Chase after a brilliant performance at Fairyhouse.
“Richard Johnson holds him in high regard and as long as the ground is on the easy side, he’s going there in fine form.”
Kylemore Lough in very good form ahead of Ryanair
Kylemore Lough gave Lee a first Grade 1 victory in the Ryanair Gold Cup at Fairyhouse on March 27 and he is set to bid for another race backed by the same sponsor – the Grade 1 Ryanair Novice Chase at Punchestown next Thursday, April 28th.
“Kylemore Lough has done really well, winning five chases this season and he’s been very impressive. When he started off in October, I had a lot of hope for him but you can never be too keen at that time of year. But saying that, he’s a horse I’ve always thought a lot of,” added Lee.
“He’s been in very good form – he really handled the journey over and the race in Ireland well and has come out of it very well. I couldn’t be happier with him and he’s very similar to Top Gamble regarding ground requirements.”
Options open for Pauling stable star Barters Hill
Barters Hill was unbeaten in his seven previous starts before finishing fourth in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham and has been kept back by trainer Ben Pauling for the Punchestown Festival.
The six-year-old is entered in both the 2m 4f Grade 1 Tattersalls Ireland Novice Hurdle on Friday, April 29th, and the 3m Grade 1 Irish Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle on Wednesday, 27th.
“I haven’t decided which race he’ll run in yet and it will depend on the ground. I’m quite tempted to go for the shorter race but we’ll see,” said Pauling.
Coming back to his best after Cheltenham
“I didn’t know if Barters Hill would run again after Cheltenham, but he’s in such good form I thought we probably would go to Punchestown. It was never the idea to go to Aintree after Cheltenham as unfortunately he wasn’t spot on at Cheltenham.
“It was well publicised that he wasn’t quite right three days before Cheltenham and he came back a bit stiff, so he did well to run as well as he did. I definitely think he’s a bit better than the fourth at Cheltenham.
“It looks like he’s come back to his best and I couldn’t be happier with him. He’ll do a couple of pieces of work and a schooling session before Punchestown and he’ll only go if he’s absolutely spot on as I’m not going to risk him.”
There’s plenty more to read about the Punchestown Festival over on Coral’s dedicated page.