Timeform Punchestown Champion Hurdle Preview: Henderson has the Power

The Punchestown Champion Hurdle is the feature race on day four of the Festival
The Punchestown Champion Hurdle is the feature race on day four of the Festival

Timeform preview Friday's Punchestown Champion Hurdle on day four of the Punchestown Festival and recommend a bet...

"He ran well when third in a Grade 1 novice at this meeting last year and it would be no surprise to see him bounce back with a big run..."

The latest renewal of the Punchestown Champion Hurdle on Friday has a fairly open look to it, with connections of this season's dominant two-mile hurdler, Buveur d'Air, opting not to pursue a third consecutive Grade 1 victory. Trainer Nicky Henderson is still represented by My Tent Or Yours and Brain Power, however, and will be hoping one of that pair can provide him with a second victory in this contest, following on from Punjabi in 2008.

My Tent Or Yours wasn't at his best when third here 12 months ago, but showed he retains plenty of ability when chasing Buveur d'Air home at both Cheltenham and Aintree, while Brain Power had looked progressive before failing to meet expectations when only ninth at Cheltenham. He ran well when third in a Grade 1 novice at this meeting last year and it would be no surprise to see him bounce back with a big run.

Vroum Vroum Mag was a late substitute for Annie Power in this race last year and showed herself to be a smart performer in her own right when giving trainer Willie Mullins a sixth victory from the last seven renewals. She took another step forward when beaten just a short-head behind Apple's Jade on her return to action in the Hatton's Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse, but has failed to reproduce that level of form in three subsequent starts, including when beaten even further behind that rival in the Mares' Hurdle at Cheltenham last time.

Mullins has a solid second option here in Arctic Fire, who was returning from a 14-month absence when defying top weight in the County Hurdle at Cheltenham. He clearly retains the same sort of ability as when chasing home stablemate Faugheen in the 2015 Champion Hurdle and heads the field on Timeform's weight-adjusted ratings, although it remains to be seen how much his recent exertions will have taken out of him after so long off the track. Diakali, Ivan Grozny, and Wicklow Brave complete a quintet of runners for the Mullins yard, but that trio all have something to find on form.

Henry de Bromhead is also set to field multiple runners here, namely last year's runner-up Identity Thief and Petit Mouchoir. The former has something to prove after a series of below-par displays over both hurdles and fences this season, though, and Bryan Cooper has understandably chosen to ride last month's Champion Hurdle third, Petit Mouchoir. The six-year-old has been a revelation this season, recording Grade 1 victories in the Ryanair Hurdle and the Irish Champion Hurdle, both at Leopardstown, and would appear to hold sound place claims once more here.

Gordon Elliott will be represented by Labaik and Tombstone in Friday's feature, but that pair each have questions to answer at present. Indeed, Supreme Novices' Hurdle winner Labaik will continue to be a risky proposition having all but refused to race here again on Tuesday, and the application of a visor for the first time fails to inspire much confidence. Tombstone, on the other hand, has failed to meet market expectations when well-beaten the last twice and is yet to show form good enough to suggest he can play a hand in a race of this nature, a comment that also applies to the Colin Kidd-trained Rashaan.

In summary, this looks as competitive as the current betting would suggest - the majority of firms are going 7/2 the field - and it is difficult to be too dogmatic about the form given that this race comes at the end of a long season. BRAIN POWER is the recommendation, having left the impression something was amiss when well-beaten in the Champion Hurdle last time. He remains less exposed than most in this line-up and deserves another chance to confirm the promise of his big handicap victories at Sandown and Ascot earlier in the season.


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