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Lancashire Telegraph Racing Column
7:55am Tuesday 29th April 2014 in Sport
The National Hunt season may have come to an end in Britain at Sandown on Saturday, but it continues apace across the Irish Sea, with five high-octane days of jumping action at the Punchestown Festival getting under way.
The feature event on day one is the Boylesports.com Champion Chase and there would surely be no more popular winner than Henry de Bromhead's veteran Sizing Europe.
The 11-year-old may not be the force he once was, but with Sire De Grugy not making the trip and Sprinter Sacre on the sidelines, he might not need to be.
It promises to be another huge week for champion trainer Willie Mullins and he should be in the winner's enclosure after the other two Grade Ones.
A drop to two miles is unlikely to stop the hugely-exciting Faugheen proving too good for his rivals in the Herald Champion Novice Hurdle, while stablemate Ballycasey can gain compensation for his late fall in the Powers Gold Cup by clinching the Growise Champion Novice Chase.
Horsted Keynes has done very little wrong during his relatively short career and is a confident pick in the Riverside Rentals At Horning Handicap at Yarmouth.
The son of Giant's Causeway has clearly shown plenty to his trainer Roger Varian since day one as he was a heavily-backed favourite for his juvenile debut at Wolverhampton 18 months ago.
Although the money went west, the youngster could hardly have run a more promising race in defeat, doing pretty much everything wrong in the early part of the contest before flying home to go down by a diminishing nose.
It was no surprise to see him go one place better at Kempton a couple of weeks later and he appeared to be a really exciting prospect for connections to go to war with as a three-year-old.
For whatever reason, he did not surface in 2013 until September, but it was worth the wait as he dotted up in a Wolverhampton handicap before again striking with a degree of comfort in better company at Lingfield.
He was unable to complete the hat-trick at Kempton in November, but ran a fine race to finish third behind Common Touch and Chookie Royale, with the latter now rated 107 on the all-weather and 111 on turf.
Horsted Keynes makes his return to action off a mark of 89, which is undoubtedly workable, and it is no surprise Varian has decided to bring his charge to a track where conditions are invariably on the quick side, as his breeding suggests he ought to excel when the ground is lively.
The Brendan Powell-trained Uncle Dermot has kicked off the turf season in excellent form and sets the standard in the ROA Owners Jackpot Handicap at Nottingham.
The six-year-old rounded off the last campaign with a smart all-the-way victory at Yarmouth and although a mid-winter effort on the all-weather at Southwell was less inspiring, he appears to have benefited from a break and a return to the grass.
A comeback third at Leicester at the start of this month was perfectly satisfactory and he built on that with another domination of his rivals from the front at Brighton the other day.
Kieren Fallon appears to get a particularly good tune out of the miler, guiding him to three of his four career victories and keeps the ride.
Provided his recent exertions have not taken too much out of him, he looks a good thing to follow up under a penalty.
The third and final turf fixture of the day comes from Newcastle, who stage what is likely to be a well-attended evening meeting.
Royal Holiday rarely runs a bad race and as a dual course winner at Gosforth Park, should go well again for trainer Marjorie Fife in the Jewsons Handicap.
Big Orange may have bumped into a really smart one in Romsdal when runner-up at Kempton earlier in the month and he can go one better for Michael Bell in the Felcourt Median Auction Maiden Stakes at Lingfield.
Godolphin trainer Saeed bin Suroor has been banging in the winners with regularity in recent weeks and his Fast Delivery is impossible to oppose in the Quicksilverslots Open After 10pm Median Auction Maiden Stakes at Wolverhampton.
LINGFIELD: 1.25 Little Big Man, 1.55 Big Orange, 2.25 Slemy, 2.55 Moonspring, 3.25 Crystalized, 3.55 Bustopher, 4.30 Lily Edge, 5.00 Claude Monet.
NEWCASTLE: 5.20 Indian Keys, 5.50 Mitchell, 6.20 Royal Holiday, 6.50 Bentons Lad, 7.20 Taqneen, 7.50 Cape Samba, 8.20 Captain Royale.
NOTTINGHAM: 1.45 Majorities, 2.15 Uncle Dermot, 2.45 Reimpose, 3.15 Twenty Roses, 3.45 Entihaa, 4.15 Ashdown Lad, 4.50 Jofranka, 5.25 Dynamo Walt.
PUNCHESTOWN: 3.40 Fade Away, 4.20 Faugheen, 4.55 Diplomat, 5.30 Sizing Europe, 6.05 Very Much So, 6.40 Ballycasey, 7.15 Alamein.
WOLVERHAMPTON: 6.00 Hello Sweetness, 6.30 Fast Delivery, 7.00 Knight Charm, 7.35 Sexy Secret, 8.05 From Frost, 8.35 Pretty Bubbles, 9.05 Aran Sky.
YARMOUTH: 2.05 Wolfofwallstreet, 2.35 Starlite Jewel, 3.05 Finn Class, 3.35 HORSTED KEYNES (NAP), 4.05 Meet Me Halfway, 4.40 Taro Tywod, 5.10 Wasabi.
DOUBLE: Horsted Keynes and Uncle Dermot.
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