Townend in a race against time to be fit for Punchestown

Decision will be left until later but Mullins optimistic champion jockey will be available

Rachel Blackmore: will continue her pursuit of the jockeys’ championship at the Punchestown festival.Photograph: Oisin Keniry/Inpho

Rachel Blackmore: will continue her pursuit of the jockeys’ championship at the Punchestown festival.Photograph: Oisin Keniry/Inpho

 

A decision on whether or not champion jockey Paul Townend can ride at Punchestown next week will be left until as late as possible.

Townend hurt his foot in a fall at Fairyhouse on Easter Sunday and hasn’t ridden since amid some confusion as to the extent of the injury.

His absence has thrown open the possibility of a final push by Rachael Blackmore to secure a historic jockeys’ championship by the time the season ends at the Punchestown Festival on Saturday week.

Blackmore trails her rival by eight winners (95-87) and her chances of bridging the gap would be considerably boosted if Willie Mullins’s number one rider is forced to miss next week’s action.

Mullins however is working on the basis that Townend will be back in time for the festival.

“The plan is to have him back for Punchestown. I said I didn’t want him riding this week anyway, as I wouldn’t even if he hadn’t [been injured].

“It’s something we will leave as late as we can. I’m not looking for him to come back before Punchestown anyway. He will know himself,” Mullins said on Tuesday.

If Townend is ruled out it will leave the champion trainer forced to make alternative riding arrangements for some of his hugely powerful team, including, ironically, perhaps giving opportunities to Blackmore.

She rides out regularly for Mullins and two of her six winners at the Cheltenham Festival were for him, Allaho in the Ryanair Chase and Sir Gerhard in the Champion Bumper.

Allaho has entries in both the Champion Chase at two miles and the Gold Cup at three miles next week.

“At the moment we are leaning towards the two-mile race. He had a very hard race at Cheltenham, jumped very well, and I just think I’d rather come back half a mile. That’s the way I’m leaning at the moment,” he said.

Big guns

Blackmore can count on most of the big guns among Henry De Bromhead’s all-conquering team next week but the Co Waterford trainer isn’t underestimating the task his rider faces if she is to crown an already historic season with the jockey’s championship.

“I don’t know what the situation is with Paul and whether or not he is back for Punchestown but it’s going to be tough even if he’s not back.

“It will be incredible if she achieves it. We will be trying to do our best and trying to support her as best we can. But it would be fantastic if she was,” De Bromhead said.

Before that Blackmore and De Bromhead will be in action at Sandown this Saturday at the final day of the British National Hunt season.

Plan Of Attack will represent the in-form team in the Best 365 Gold Cup after falling three out when still in contention in the Kim Muir at Cheltenham.

“Rachael is very keen to go over and ride him,” De Bromhead added.

In other news, last year’s Irish Derby hero Santiago looks set to return to action in a potentially star-studded feature at Navan on Sunday.

Santiago is one of 14 entries still left in the Vintage Crop Stakes, a Group Three contest that could turn into a clash of proven top-flight winners.

Also in the mix after Tuesday’s forfeit stage are the Irish Leger heroine Search For A Song, the Melbourne Cup winner Twilight Payment, and Princess Zoe, winner of last autumn’s Prix Du Cadran.

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