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Punchestowns Misses Cheltenham Festival

Punchestowns, a one-time candidate for honours in the totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup and also a potential challenger for the Ladbrokes World Hurdle, will almost certainly miss this month’s Cheltenham Festival after failing to please handler Nicky Henderson, writes Elliot Slater.



In a frank press conference at Cheltenham racecourse on Wednesday the Seven Barrows trainer told it how it is, stating that his horse is not good enough to win either of the showcase races so there is no point in running. He prefers looking ahead to possibly running at Aintree, and according to Irish racing tips may even travel his horse to Ireland in late April to tackle one of the feature events, quite appropriately, at the Punchestown Festival.

Runner-up to Big Buck’s in the 2009 renewal of the Ladbrokes World Hurdle, Punchestowns appeared to have justified all the hype when showing himself to be a very capable novice chaser last term, winning a Grade 2 event at Newbury on his fencing bow before stepping up to Grade 1 class to win last year’s Scilly Isles Novices Chase at Sandown, beating the useful Tchico Polos by an impressive eight-lengths. On the back of that effort the now eight-year-old gelding was sent off 2/1 favourite to land last season’s RSA Chase but eventually finished a well beaten fifth behind Irish racing’s Weapons Amnesty.

A long odds-on shot when beaten by the ill-fated Pride of Dulcote on his first outing this term in December, Punchestowns was sent off an 11/10 favourite for the Grade 2 Argento chase at Cheltenham at the end of January but ran poorly, finishing a distant third behind Neptunes Collonges, beaten 35-lengths. His odds-on victory a couple of weeks later at Kempton was small compensation, but maybe after a short break he will return to form for Aintree or Punchestown later in the term.

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