It's the first day of the Punchestown Festival and Timeform's Irish team aim to start the meeting with a bang by highlighting three selections...
"Champagne Fever quite simply looked a different animal at Cheltenham to the one Jezki beat earlier in the season..."
Champagne Fever (16:20) looks a top-class chaser in the making, but he excelled in bumpers last term, winning the Weatherbys Champion Bumper at the Cheltenham Festival prior to following up in the Champion Bumper at this particular meeting on his final start. It would be fair to say that his debut season over hurdles has had its ups and downs, but he has progressed into a top-class novice and comes here on the back of excellent win over My Tent Or Yours (Grade 1 winner since) and Jezki in an enthralling Supreme Novices Hurdle at last month's Cheltenham Festival. The latter reopposes and, with the score tied at one apiece over hurdles, there will be plenty of people supporting Jezki to take this notional decider. However, Champagne Fever quite simply looked a different animal at Cheltenham to the one Jezki beat earlier in the season and he is taken to confirm his superiority this evening.
Mount Colah (16:55) has developed into a useful performer over timber this season, winning on three occasions, including when beating subsequent winner Barney's Honour by over seven lengths on his handicap bow at Navan last month. He followed that effort with a respectable sixth to Captain Arceus at Fairyhouse last time, but that only tells half of the story as he shaped better than the bare result would suggest that day, leading on the bridle two out and only just headed when making a chance-ending mistake at the last. This evening's event looks competitive to say the least, but Mount Colah races off the same mark and, if avoiding a similar mishap, he looks a good bet to reach the frame.
Chasing was always going to be the sphere in which Back In Focus (18:40) excelled and he has proven that point in no uncertain terms by winning all four of his starts over fences this term, including the Grade 1 Topaz Novice Chase at Leopardstown in December and the National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival last month. Both of those successes highlighted the fact that stamina is very much his forte and that is a quality that should stand him in very good stead in what looks a cracking contest at 18:40.
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