Willie Mullins’s airtight grip on Ryanair Chase looks safe with Energumene
Champion trainer targets six-in-a-row in Thursday’s Grade One race at Punchestown
Paul Townend on Energumene wins the Irish Arkle at the Dublin Racing Festival. photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
Energumene looks set to maintain Willie Mullins’s vice-like grip on Thursday’s Ryanair Novice Chase at Punchestown.
The champion trainer is targeting six-in-a-row in the €115,000 Grade One which he has won with some of his brightest stars.
Chacun Pour Soi’s spectacular 2019 victory was preceded by odds-on victories for Footpad, Great Field, Douvan and Un De Sceaux, who scored at a prohibitive 1-10 in 2015.
A handful of opponents means the horse whose name roughly translates from French as ‘Weirdo’ is also likely to be a short price.
Considering a clash with the outstanding English novice Shishkin in Cheltenham’s Arkle was so eagerly anticipated until a late muscle issue ruled out the Irish star, Energumene looks a stand out in this company.
His stable companion Janidil won at Grade One level at Fairyhouse on Easter Sunday but faces a big task dropping back to the minimum trip here.
Energumene’s Irish Arkle victory at the Dublin Racing Festival in February was superb and anything close to that should ensure a comfortable win.
Paul Townend diverts from his Grade One focus this week to team up with Gauloise in Thursday’s Listed mares’ novice hurdle and the move could be significant.
Gauloise has a lot of ground to make up on Magic Daze from Cheltenham, where the latter chased home her stable companion Telmesomethinggirl.
The Mullins runner obviously didn’t fire on that occasion but subsequently did much better when pressing Skyace all the way to the line at Fairyhouse on Easter Sunday.
Bigbandandbeautiful is an intriguing contender on the back of winning her sole start over flights to date.
Gauloise, however, is a battle-hardened mare who at her best can successfully concede weight all-round.
JP McManus could enjoy a productive day three at the festival even if Janidil comes up short in the big novice event.
He owns both of Enda Bolger’s runners as the trainer goes for a 15th success in the La Touche over the banks.
Stand Up And Fight has a touch of quality for the longest race on the Irish racing calendar but Blue Templar is a proven winner over the banks and had an encouraging warm-up effort at Cork.
Entoucas came agonisingly close to winning the Grand Annual at Cheltenham, just failing to overhaul Sky Pirate who prevented an unprecedented clean-sweep for Irish trained horses on the day.
A blunder at the second last might have proved decisive but some compensation could await Mark Walsh’s mount in the two-mile handicap chase.
Walsh can look forward to riding McManus’s 2020 Champion Hurdle winner Epatante for the first time in Friday’s Punchestown feature.
Epatante is one of seven opponents to the current title-holder Honeysuckle, who will try to extend her unbeaten record to 12 in the Paddy Power Champion Hurdle.
Walsh takes over from Aidan Coleman who rode Epatante when third to Honeysuckle at Cheltenham. Coleman had ridden the mare in her two other starts this season, including when winning the Fighting Fifth in Newcastle.