Three Grade 1s highlight stellar opening day

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While the UK jumps season came to an end at Sandown on Saturday, the action continues unabated over in Ireland, where Punchestown provides us with five days of top-class national hunt action starting on Tuesday.

A plethora of Grade 1 races spread throughout the week will allow us one final chance to see some of jumping’s top performers before the majority are put out to grass for their summer breaks.

The first day treats us to no less than three Grade 1 races, though it’s probably fair to say that none of them are particularly attractive from a punting perspective, despite the star names involved.

Sir Gerhard looks sure to take plenty of beating

The Bective Stud Champion Novice Hurdle (16:15) is the first of the trio of Grade 1 races on the card, and it will be something of a surprise if Willie Mullins doesn’t take the prize back to Closutton.

Both Sir Gerhard and Dysart Dynamo represent the master handler in here, with the former coming into the race on the back of a convincing win in the Ballymore at Cheltenham, where he took the step up in trip in his stride despite not settling fully.

Sir Gerhard is very much a chaser on looks, though connections are apparently considering a Champion Hurdle campaign for him next season, something that would be a mouth-watering prospect with the likes of Honeysuckle and Constitution Hill standing in his way.

Speaking of Constitution Hill, it’s unlikely that Dysart Dynamo would have ruffled that one’s feathers in the Supreme at the Festival, though he was still in front when taking a fall three from home.

He’d looked very promising before then and has a chance to get back on the up here, though if Sir Gerhard is to be the Champion Hurdle contender that connections are hoping for, you’d like to think he’d have a little too much in his armoury for this one.

A no-bet race for me.

Mullins pair to dominate Champion chase

Again, we won’t be having a bet in the Champion Chase at 17:25, but what a clash this promises to be, as Willie Mullins pits Chacun Pour Soi and Energumene against each other once more.

Unfortunately, we never got to see whether Chacun Pour Soi would have pushed his stable companion close in the Champion Chase at the Festival as he uncharacteristically unseated Patrick Mullins at the ninth fence.

However, what isn’t in doubt is Chacun Pour Soi’s record in his native country over the last few years, where he has been pretty much unbeatable.

It’s also worth noting that he’s still rated 1lb higher that Energumene on official ratings, even though the market has them the other way round.

Paul Townend has remained loyal to Energumene, who may well still have his best days in front of him, though it wouldn’t be any surprise whatsoever if he was on the wrong one.

The race of the day – if not the entire festival for me – and it’s one we can watch and savour without needing a financial involvement.

Back Millers without Bob

You don’t need me to tell you that Bob Olinger was the luckiest winner of the week at the Cheltenham Festival, as he was well held by Galopin Des Champs before being handed the Turners Novices’ Chase when that one crashed out at the last.

Henry De Bromhead’s charge will have his unbeaten chase record put to the test once again in the Champion Novice Chase at 18:35, a race where he’ll likely be sent off a short-priced favourite.

It would be wrong to judge Bob Olinger too harshly on his Cheltenham performance – yes he was in the process of being well beaten, but he was being well beaten by a horse who could well be a superstar over the bigger obstacles.

He doesn’t face anything of Galopin Des Champs’ calibre in here and he obviously has a very strong chance of retaining his unbeaten record.

I’m not in a rush to oppose the fav, though I’m happy to have a dabble in the ‘without’ market, where English raider Millers Bank could provide a bit of value.

Alex Hales’ charge has taken a little while to put it all together over fences but now he’s got his jumping in order he looks a class act in the making.

Having tinkered with his wind following a second unseat in a row at Cheltenham in January, Millers Bank was a solid runner-up to Pic D’Orhy at Kempton the following month.

He then took his form to a new level at Aintree last time, coming home a 10-length winner of the Grade 1 Manifesto Novices’ Chase.

There’s every chance he can serve it up to Bob Olinger here if continuing his progression, though the percentage call for me is to play him in the market without that one, allowing us a decent return if he doesn’t prove quite good enough to overhaul De Bromhead’s runner.
Bob Olinger - 1280.jpg

Gua a Large price in handicap hurdle

Our other bet on the card will be an each-way play in the fiendishly difficult handicap hurdle at 16:50, where the market looks to have underestimated the chances of Gua Du Large.

This one gave weight and a beating to Glan on his penultimate start, yet that one is vying for favouritism in here while Gua Du Large has been somewhat overlooked at 14/1.

Perhaps that’s because he ran down the field behind Slate Man in the County Hurdle at Cheltenhaam last time, though it’s worth noting that Gua Du Large was returning from the best part of a four-month break there and was entitled to get a little tired.

I’m expecting Henry De Bromhead’s lightly-raced type to be much closer to form this time, and he looks a no-brainer each-way bet to me, particularly with enhanced place terms available on the Sportsbook.