Family day marks the end of this year's Punchestown festival on Day 5 after a stellar week of National Hunt racing. Willie Mullins battled his way back to the head of the trainer's championship on Friday with a host of winners, and Gordon Elliott will be hoping to bounce back with a few winners of his own today.
In the 15:10, the second race on the card, there are a number of interesting runners, including WHITE ARM, a winner last time out from a nice low weight. SAMBREMONT has the ability for Willie Mullins but has been sorely disappointing of late, pulling up on his two latest visits to the track. CALL IT MAGIC (7/1) is the one I like as he gets the good ground he has been crying out for. Trainer Ross O'Sullivan is sending this significantly one up in trip, but he's been hitting the crossbar recently. His last win came on ground similar to today when he beat BLACK FRANKS ANGEL by a whopping 12 lengths last October. Carrying just 10st 8lbs, he may be able to see out the 3M 6F trip, catching a few of the others off guard. WARRANTOR (8/1) is an intriguing English raider for Warren Greatrex and can certainly make his presence felt.
In the 15:50, APPLE'S JADE (10/11) looks a cut above her rivals, but her win over VROUM VROUM MAG at Cheltenham was diminished slightly by that rival's performance in the Punchestown Champion Hurdle on Friday. So, a risk is taken that Willie Mullins' KARALEE (9/4) can prove to be a little out of the ordinary. With just two runs in Ireland under her belt, this may be coming a little too soon against classy rivals, but it was hard not to be taken with her 15-length win last time out over GOULANE DAVINA. Ruby Walsh has chosen her over Willie's other runners, and that speaks volumes, considering the presence of the more experienced trio of AUGUSTA KATE, WHITEOUT and AIRLIE BEACH in this field.
The 16:25 race sees another clash between MEGA FORTUNE (9/4), BAPAUME (2/1) and LANDOFHOPEANDGLORY (9/2). These three have clashed numerous times over the winter and at Cheltenham when they all lost out behind the hugely impressive DEFI DU SEUIL. MEGA FORTUNE was second that day with BAPAUME third and LANDOFHOPEANDGLORY fifth. I think MEGA FORTUNE (9/4) can hold that form and finish ahead of both of those rivals again today. He lost to BAPAUME in December but had three lengths to spare over the same rival in February. LANDOFHOPEANDGLORY can get closer back on good ground, but may still find a couple too good.
The 17:35 is a strong handicap hurdle where Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott account for a sizable contingent. The likes of RENNETI, THOMAS HOBSON and OPEN EAGLE go for the Carlow handler, while horses like MILSEAN, AUTOMATED and SIRE DU BERLAIS take their chance for Gordon. BONBON AU MIEL (10/1) is the choice of Ruby Walsh on his handicap debut, but he'll have to come on from his latest win over LILSHANE in Cork to figure in this one. I think this could go to an English raider in the shape of Harry Fry's runner, AIR HORSE ONE (8/1). He won three on the bounce before finishing fourth in the County Hurdle at Cheltenham behind ARCTIC FIRE last month. That form was franked on Friday when ARCTIC FIRE finished third in the Punchestown Champion hurdle behind WICKLOW BRAVE, coming home ahead of plenty of classy rivals, including MY TENT OR YOURS and LABAIK. Harry Fry has been in the winner's enclosure on a number of occasions already this week and hasn't brought his string here to make up the numbers. He can crown a good week with a win for AIR HORSE ONE in this one.
15:10 - Call It Magic - WIN - 7/1
15:50 - Karalee - WIN - 9/4
16:25 - Mega Fortune - WIN - 9/4 (NAP)
17:35 - Air Horse One - EW - 8/1 (NB)