Rachael Blackmore now just four wins behind Cork's Paul Townend for Champion Jockey crown

Punchestown Festival will feature a series of top races
Rachael Blackmore now just four wins behind Cork's Paul Townend for Champion Jockey crown

Cavalry Master and Rachael Blackmore win the Minella Times Beginners Steeplechase. Picture: Healy Racing

ALL eyes will be on the Punchestown Festival which gets underway on Tuesday, Punchestown will play host to a homecoming of champions with 40 races over the five days including a dozen grade one contests attracting the highest-rated horses over hurdles and fences.

Chatham Street Lad is the big Cork hope on Tuesday, the Mick Winters trained runner is set to take his chance in the Grade 1 Dooley Insurance Group Champion Novice Chase.

The classy nine-year-old was not disgraced in the Marsh Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham, beaten less than 10 lengths by Chantry House. He made a swift return to action in the Hugh McMahon Memorial Novice Chase at Limerick and he certainly didn't disappoint, putting on a performance of the highest quality.

Chatham Street Lad and Darragh O'Keeffe win the Hugh McMahon Memorial Novice Steeplechase. Picture: Healy Racing.
Chatham Street Lad and Darragh O'Keeffe win the Hugh McMahon Memorial Novice Steeplechase. Picture: Healy Racing.

Darragh O’Keeffe sat Mick Winters' stable star in behind Defi Bleu and Full Time Score, and he left that pair behind in the straight to slam them by eleven lengths and forty-eight lengths. It was his first try over three miles and the outcome was never ever in doubt.

This will be his toughest task to date, but there's no doubt he has the class to mix it with the best. Waterford trainer Henry de Bromhead has already confirmed that Envoi Allen and Monkfish would clash in the grade one at Punchestown. Add Chatham Street Lad and Colveevy to the mix, it could be the race of the week.

Rachael Blackmore recorded her best seasonal total of winners as she narrowed the gap on the sidelined Paul Townend with a treble at Kilbeggan on Friday evening.

Blackmore showed she is determined to fight all the way and cap a tremendous season that has seen her crowned leading rider at the Cheltenham Festival and become the first female rider to win the Grand National, thanks to Minella Times.

She now trails the current champion by four (95-91). 

Roll on Punchestown.

Conor O’Neill, CEO Punchestown Racecourse said: “The performances and achievements by Irish horses, trainers, jockeys and owners throughout this season have been nothing short of outstanding. 

"It is an honour and privilege to welcome these flagbearers of our great sport back to the home of Irish jump racing for what is shaping up to be one of the best quality renewals of the Punchestown Festival in recent memory.

"Whilst this year’s Punchestown is not going to be the brilliant social event that we have all known and enjoyed for so many years we look forward to sharing the action with everyone through coverage on RTÉ, Racing TV and the various Punchestown social media channels. Believe us when we say that preparations are already underway for the much-anticipated return of crowds for the 2022 Punchestown Festival.”

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