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All eyes on brilliant Ballyburn at Punchestown

All eyes on brilliant Ballyburn at Punchestown
All eyes on brilliant Ballyburn at Punchestown

Given that even Willie Mullins expressed his surprise with how easy Ballyburn won at Cheltenham, his appearance in the Alanna Homes Champion Novice Hurdle at Punchestown is hugely anticipated.

Despite having won at the Dublin Racing Festival from subsequent Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner Slade Steel by seven lengths, Mullins was refusing to get carried away by the Ballyburn hype.

However, his 13-length romp in the Gallagher Novices’ Hurdle forced Mullins to concede Ballyburn “could be anything” and he faces just five rivals, three of them stablemates.

His stable companions taking him on are Jimmy Du Seuil, second at Cheltenham to Ballyburn but only fourth at Aintree, Mirazur West, who missed Cheltenham and Aintree, and Predators Gold.

Patrick Mullins, assistant trainer to his father, said: “Willie has decided to keep Ballyburn at the intermediate distance.

Paul Townend celebrates on Ballyburn at Cheltenham
Paul Townend celebrates on Ballyburn at Cheltenham (David Davies/PA)

“He won at the Festival last year when he beat Dancing City and Slade Steel, two Grade One winners. That was quite a strong bumper, ironically, as it wasn’t the Champion Bumper!

“He should be very difficult to beat again. We’ve been delighted with him since Cheltenham and hopefully he can finish his season out on top.

“This season hasn’t been straightforward for Mirazur West and he seems to be slightly better going right-handed but at this distance he would need to settle a lot more effectively than he has been.

“Predators Gold was below-par in Cheltenham, but we do think he’s much better than that and he could be an interesting outsider. I would think he’s overpriced as an each-way option and he is a Festival winner already, as he won the Goffs Defender Bumper last year.”

The field is completed by Gordon Elliott’s Staffordshire Knott, who chased home his stablemate Brighterdaysahead at Aintree and Jessica Harrington’s Jetara.

Lark In The Mornin and J J Slevin impressed in the Fred Winter
Lark In The Mornin and J J Slevin impressed in the Fred Winter (David Davies/PA)

Joseph O’Brien’s Fred Winter winner Lark In The Mornin reappears in the Uniquely Novice Hurdle, while Brides Hill takes on Allegorie De Vassey in the Hanlon Concrete Irish EBF Glencarraig Lady Francis Flood Mares Chase.

In the Event Power Champion Hunters’ Chase, the Emmet Mullins-trained Its On The Line is out again having finished second at Cheltenham and won at Aintree.

The veteran Billaway, Ferns Lock, Samcro, Lifetime Ambition and Famous Clermont take him on.

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