If Punchestown’s €300,000 Day Three festival feature appears in one of its periodic dips in quality, a potentially superb main supporting event could go to the English raider Defi Du Seuil.
Barry Geraghty's broken leg means British champion jockey Richard Johnson renews his association with the Philip Hobbs-trained star in Thursday's Grade One Ryanair Novice Chase.
Johnson hasn’t ridden Defi Du Seuil in over a year although he did taste big-race glory on JP McManus’s runner in the 2017 Triumph Hurdle.
Last season’s lacklustre campaign suggested the diminutive French-bred might emerge as one of those Triumph winners with a limited shelf-life. But, with the Hobbs stable back to form this term, Defi Du Seuil has transformed himself into a top novice chaser with a pair of Grade One victories including Cheltenham’s JLT.
He drops back to two miles here in what might prove a crucial test of any 2020 Champion Chase hopes being considered in the light of Altior stepping up in trip next season. It looks like being no easy test either since three other horses come here on the back of Grade One victories.
The Cheltenham Arkle winner Duc Des Genievres is joined by the Aintree victor Ornua and Voix Du Reve who landed Fairyhouse's Grade One at Easter.
The seven runner field even contains a classic 'dark horse' contender in Chacun Pour Soi, a Willie Mullins runner whose Irish debut at Naas in March turned into a 31 length rout.
Ruby Walsh was due to ride Chacun Pour Soi rather than Voix Du Reve before he rode off into the Kildare sunset on Tuesday and Paul Townend maintains his Arkle partnership with Duc Des Genievres.
“Chacun Pour Soi might not have the experience for this but looks to have a huge amount of ability. He’s a very brave horse and has always jumped well,” Mullins reported.
So come 6.45 on Thursday evening a new Mullins two-mile star could have been confirmed and it might not even be the Arkle winner.
If the suspicion remains that Duc Des Genievres took advantage of an Arkle that fell apart he still won by 13 lengths and is officially rated 1lb superior to Defi Du Seuil for this.
The latter’s late pouncing style doesn’t readily lend itself to spectacular ratings performances even though that JLT form has been massively boosted at Liverpool by his old rival Lostintranslation.
It does however help keep Defi Du Seuil with a spectrum of options next season, always a sign of a potentially exceptional performer. He might need to be exceptional to win on Thursday.
For a race that hosted Faugheen’s superb return to winning form a year ago, and Quevega’s fabulous four in a row between 2010-13, this latest renewal of the Ladbrokes Champion Stayers Hurdle looks relatively underwhelming.
That Jetson’s shock 20-1 win in 2014 was followed a year later by victory for his top-notch half brother Jezki shows such quality fluctuations aren’t new.
Bapaume’s 160 rating is the highest of the ten runners after his fourth to the outstanding Paisley Park at Cheltenham.
That cross-channel star is absent but three other raiders take their chance including the veteran Unowhatimeanharry who won this two years ago.
Aux Ptits Soins comes here on the back of a handicap win at Liverpool and his trainer Dan Skelton caught the general sense when he said: "We were going to draw stumps but he's nine and there's no Paisley Park in there. The highest rated is Bapaume and perhaps this year it's worth having a crack."
Ordinarily Not Many Left's 143 mark wouldn't encourage top-flight ambitions and he certainly hasn't done a fraction of what his fellow six year old Bapaume has managed to date. However Jessica Harrington knows what's required to win this race and Not Many left is clearly on the upgrade.
He appeared desperately unlucky not to win at Fairyhouse over Easter when meeting interference a couple of times before closing on Rashaan all the way to the line. That isn’t Grade One form but this is a Grade One potentially open to an unexposed and improving contender.
Josies Orders faces a major task in Ireland’s longest race, the Mongey La Touche, but the topweight is Enda Bolger’s sole runners which could be significant considering the ‘Banks King’ has 14 La Touche victories already.
The two miles of the mares Listed hurdle may favour Black Tears more than her old rival Elfile. So considering Curious Times beat Black Tears at Down Royal in January it makes him interesting off 116 in the opener.