Timeform's Irish team pick out their three best bets on day one of the Punchestown Festival...
"The pick to defy is advancing years is Somersby, who's found only Sire de Grugy too good on his last two completed starts over fences including the Champion Chase at Cheltenham last time..."
We kick off proceedings with what looks one of the bankers of the meeting in the Champion Novice Hurdle over two miles (16:20) in Faugheen. He comes here with an unbeaten record and hasn't been off the bridle over the multitude of trip's he's been tried at. He landed the Neptune in some style at Cheltenham last month despite making some errors in the jumping department and rates the type to do better still dropping back in trip. He has a serious engine and if the quicker pace improves his hurdling he should be a wide-margin winner.
It's the Grade 1 Champion Chase under consideration next (17:30) and the pick to defy is advancing years is Somersby. He's found only Sire de Grugy too good on his last two completed starts over fences, including the Champion Chase at Cheltenham last time, and with the cheekpieces which served him so well there fitted again today he looks sure to run another mighty race. Ryanair Chase runner-up Hidden Cyclone does look a danger but if it comes down to a battle in the closing stages Mick Channon's stable star looks the more likely to come out on top.
Our final bet of the day comes in another Grade 1 contest, the Champion Novice Chase over an extended three miles (18:40) where the one to keep on side is Djakadam. He was still going well when coming down four out at Cheltenham and is well worth another chance to show that he's capable of winning at the top level. He has a very handy 9 lb pull at the weights due to an age allowance and the services of Ruby Walsh to aide his cause. Morning Assembly looks the chief threat after his third in the RSA but the exuberance of youth may prevail here for this exciting five-year-old. NON-RUNNER
Timeform Irish SmartPlays
All at Punchestown
Back Faugheen @ 1.674/6 in the 16:20
Back Somersby @ 5.85/1 in the 17:30
Back Djakadam @ 3.613/5 in the 18:40 NR