The Punchestown Festival is one of the highlights of the Irish sporting and social calendar and it all starts in earnest this week from Tuesday through till Saturday.
The Punchestown Festival is considered the grand finale of the jump season with top class horses from both sides of the Irish Sea converging on Kildare to settle scores and confirm reputations. The quality of racing during the week is unrivalled with a total of 12 Grade One contests taking place.
Another festival highlight is the famous La Touche Cup which is run over the cross country course and is a fan’s favourite.
We took a look at some of the biggest races this week - for those interested, the full Punchestown Festival race schedule can be found here: https://www.punchestown.com/racing/festival-race-programme.
The opening day has three Grade One races including the feature Champion Chase. The other two Grade One’s are The Herald Champion Novice Hurdle over 2 miles and the Growise Novice Chase over 3 miles. There are a total of seven races this day.
Douvan faces nine rivals as he bids to atone for a fall at Cheltenham in the Champion Chase.
The top class two-miler came down at the fourth-last when going well in the Queen Mother Champion Chase on his first start since finishing seventh in the same race a year ago.
The eight-year-old is one of four runners from the Willie Mullins stable along with Queen Mother runner-up Min, Ballycasey and Un De Sceaux, who was second in this race behind Fox Norton 12 months ago.
Champion trainer rival Gordon Elliott saddles A Toi Phil, Doctor Phoenix, Tell Us More and The Game Changer.
The highlight of the Irish chase calendar with the Grade One Punchestown Gold Cup. This day also features the hotly contested Racing Post Irish Champion Bumper, The Grade One Irish Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle over 3 miles and the Weatherbys GSB EBF Mares Flat Race.
Noel Meade's Road To Respect was not disgraced when finishing fourth in last month's Cheltenham Gold Cup and is on target for Wednesday’s feature race. A couple of superb runs earlier in the campaign culminated with a win in the Leopardstown Christmas Chase, formerly known as the Lexus.
Gordon Elliot won the Coral Punchestown Gold Cup in the past with Don Cossack and three time Grade One winner Outlander is his main representative next Wednesday with Irish Grand National winner General Principle also a potential runner.
There are two Grade One races including the Champion Stayers Hurdle and the Ryanair Novice Chase over 2 miles, not to mention the entertaining La Touche Cross Country race on day three of the Festival.
Identity Thief is on course to clash with Penhill, winner of the Stayers' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival last month, in the Champion Stayers Hurdle.
The Henry de Bromhead-trained eight-year-old put in a star performance at Aintree just over a week ago when he landed the Ryanair Stayers Hurdle at his first attempt over three miles.
Warren Greatrex is hoping that a wind-op will help La Bague Au Roi bounce back to form in the Champion Stayers Hurdle.
The Lambourn trainer is stepping the seven-year-old back up to three miles in the Grade One prize after she suffered her first defeat of the season when last of seven finishers in the OLBG Mares' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
Friday’s card is regarded by many as the jewel in the crown of the Punchestown Festival. The day is a favourite with race goers, locals and socialisers alike. This day sees the largest crowds passing through the turnstiles and has a real party atmosphere. The quality of the racing is superb with the best two mile hurdlers around battling it out for the Champion Hurdle title.
Samcro could take on his elders in the Punchestown Champion Hurdle to help aid Gordon Elliott’s title bid. Gigginstown House Stud boss Michael O'Leary has left the option open for the exciting unbeaten six-year-old in order to help Elliott out.
Champion Hurdle runner-up Melon is one of six entries for Willie Mullins. He could also saddle the likes of Faugheen, Coral Cup winner Bleu Berry and impressive Fairyhouse scorer Coquin Mans.
Veteran hurdler, My Tent Or Yours has been given the green light by Nicky Henderson to contest the race after finishing fourth at Aintree recently on only his second start of the season.
Since its introduction as an extra Festival day, the Saturday has become the second biggest day of the entire Festival. The Irish Stallion Farms EBF Annie Power Mares Champion Hurdle is one of the feature races of the day.
Apple's Jade is bidding to to atone for a disappointing Cheltenham Festival run in the EBF Annie Power Mares Champion Hurdle.
Benie Des Dieux, Mares' Hurdle runner-up Midnight Tour, Laurina and Forge Meadow are among her possible rivals.
You can find all these races and many more on our 888sport website. Just follow this link to the horse racing markets: https://www.888sport.com/#/racing/horse_racing/ante-post
Have an enjoyable Punchestown Festival!
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*