Cheltenham stars including Rachael Blackmore, Monkfish and Minella Indo to cap off season at A-list Punchestown Festival

THE curtain will come down on the Irish jumps season next week – and it is going out with a bang.

The five-day Punchestown Festival kicks off on Tuesday, and there will be a host of star names on show.

Rachael Blackmore, who has made history in recent weeks at Cheltenham and Aintree, will have a strong book of rides, while horses such as Minella Indo and Monkfish will strut their stuff. Here is what you can expect.


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Blackmore back for more

Rachael Blackmore, 31, has been busy making history in recent weeks.

She heads into Punchestown buoyed by a stunning Cheltenham Festival, where she finished as top jockey with six winners, and a victory in the Grand National under her belt.

She has an outside chance of catching defending champ Paul Townend in the Irish jump jockeys' standings – and her big rival is in a race against time to be fit for the big meeting.

She will have a strong book of rides for her boss Henry de Bromhead, who himself has enjoyed a stunning season.

There is no chance of any late drama in the trainers' title race, though, with Willie Mullins over £1 million clear of the banned Gordon Elliott. Mullins will collect his 14th straight trainers' crown on Saturday week.

Top-notch novices

There are some crack novice chasers and hurdlers in Ireland right now, and they will all be on show next week.

We could be set for a mouthwatering clash between Monkfish and Envoi Allen, with both horses entered in the Champion Novice Chase on Tuesday.

Monkfish preserved his unbeaten record in the Brown Advisory Novices Chase at Cheltenham, while Envoi Allen's winning streak ended when he fell in the Marsh Novices' Chase.

The exciting two-miler Energumene was a late scratching from the Festival after picking up a minor niggle, but he will be a hot favourite for the Ryanair Novice Chase on Thursday.

There are three rising stars in the hurdles ranks, too, with Supreme hero Appreciate It, ready Ballymore winner Bob Olinger and unbeaten Triumph victor Quilixios all set to light up the County Kildare track.

Going for Gold

Minella Indo came of age when a hugely impressive winner of the Cheltenham Gold Cup last month.

The Henry de Bromhead-trained chaser will look to follow in the footsteps of Sizing John, who won at the Festival in 2017 and followed up in Punchestown's equivalent five weeks later.

He will clash with Al Boum Photo, the dual Cheltenham Gold Cup winner whom he deposed in mid-March.

Kemboy won the last running of this race in 2019 and he is back for more, while dual King George hero Clan Des Obeaux leads the British challenge on the back of an emphatic success at Aintree in the Betway Bowl.

It's set to be a cracker on Wednesday.

Rematches galore

There are more Cheltenham rematches than you can shake a stick at next week.

The unbeaten superstar mare Honeysuckle will take on the likes of Epatante, Sharjah and Goshen in the Paddy Power Champion Hurdle on Friday.

Flooring Porter ran away with the Stayers' Hurdle at Cheltenham and will again to look to see off Sire Du Berlais in the Punchestown equivalent on Thursday.

Chacun Pour Soi flopped in the Champion Chase at Cheltenham, but he has been imperious otherwise and will look to get back on track against Dan Skelton's Nube Negra on Tuesday.

And in the Punchestown bumper on Wednesday, Sir Gerhard will look to confirm his superiority over Kilcruit.

TV guide and race times

All of the action starts on Tuesday April 27 and will be live on Racing TV and RTE in Ireland.

On day one, the first race is at 3.40pm and the feature race is the William Hill Champion Steeplechase at 5.25pm.

The racing starts at the same time on day two, with the feature Ladbrokes Punchestown Gold Cup due off at 5.55pm.

The Grade 1 Ladbrokes Champion Stayers Hurdle headlines day three and 5.25pm, while Paddy Power Champion Hurdle goes off at the same time on Friday.

And on Saturday, the first race is at the earlier time of 2.15pm and the Annie Power Mares Champion Hurdle is at 3.25pm.


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