The Punchestown Festival begins this afternoon and it is impossible to oppose the unbeaten Faugheen (4.20) in the first Grade 1 on the card despite the gelding dropping back in trip from his memorable success at Cheltenham in the Neptune Novices’ Hurdle over 2m 5f.

The Willie Mullins trained 6-y-old has won over 3m already this season but he is certainly not short of pace and the trainer must be running the horse over the minimum trip to see if he has the necessary pace with next year’s Champion Hurdle in mind.

He is 8/11 from 5/6 at BetVictor for the race where he may have most to fear from Sgt Reckless fourth to Vautour in the Supreme and then an excellent second to Josses Hill at Aintree.

It is worth noting that Faugheen beat Josses Hill by 22 lengths in a Punchestown Bumper last May on decent ground so he certainly doesn’t lack pace.

In the build up to the Festival many people offered their thoughts about the Mullins’ banker of the week but I was always of the opinion that Faugheen was the real deal and he must be followed in whatever company until meeting defeat.

Having had a Grade 1 two mile Chase at Sandown on Saturday we have another one this afternoon although this is a much more competitive event with Horse of the Year Sire De Grugy safely tucked away in West Sussex for the summer months.

There is plenty of pace in the race and I hope that Baily Green (5.30) can get his head back in front having fallen four out in the BetVictor Queen Mother Champion Chase on his penultimate start when not having been asked a serious question.

Twinlight will have to jump better than he has done in recent starts, Module and Somersby are exposed but reliable and Hidden Cyclone, another dropping back in trip, might be the biggest danger but it is Baily Green (8/1 at BetVictor) for me in a cracking race.

The third Grade 1 on the card is the Champion Novice Chase over 3m 1f and it is another wide open contest but Morning Assembly (6.40) is four from five at Punchestown and ran a cracker on ground quicker than ideal when third in the RSA (Ballycasey, Carlingford Lough behind) last time.

The ground is currently good to yielding with showers forecast and 11/4 looks a fair price for a horse with such a good track record.

In the finale Alamein would be of interest if the market spoke in his favour but Sizing John (7.15) showed plenty of promise on debut at Limerick on heavy ground and should appreciate the better ground in the finale.

Last year’s winner was Very Wood who went on to land the Albert Bartlett at this year’s Cheltenham Festival so it is certainly a race to bear in mind for the future.

At Nottingham Kingscombe is undeniably well handicapped on his return to turf after winning his last four on the spin on fibresand but Kleitomachos (3.45) is down to his last winning mark, will love any more rain and has had a recent spin at Windsor over an inadequate trip earlier in the month.

Kieren Fallon takes the ride for the yard of Stuart Kittow who had a welcome winner at Brighton last week.

At Yarmouth Shyron must go well for George Margarson with a 6lb penalty for his Yarmouth win especially when you consider he was 3lbs out of the handicap on that occasion and thus is, arguably, only 3lbs worse off today.

The dogs were barking Equitable (3.05) when he won at Lingfield on debut and the handicapper had a difficult time assessing the merit of that performance.

With James Doyle at Lingfield (tip in itself?) Martin Lane takes over and he is a fascinating runner on a very good card.

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