Al Boum Photo in frame to strike Gold
Al Boum Photo can follow up success in the Cheltenham Festival blue riband in today's Coral Punchestown Gold Cup.
Paul Townend, who recently added another champion jockey title to his CV, retains the mount on Willie Mullins' first Cheltenham Gold Cup victor while stable jockey Ruby Wash will partner Kemboy - an Aintree winner following unseating the rider in the Gold Cup.
There's no shortage of local interest in the £300,000 feature with last year's winner Bellshill and Definitely Red both products of the local point to point circuit, however they finished behind the selection in the Gold Cup.
Snow Falcon, a Down Royal Festival winner last November, represents the Belfast-based Hunt family, while The Storyteller - winner of the Champion Novice race last year at the venue following a fiasco at the final fence when Al Boum Photo ran out - carries the colours of Templepatrick's Joe and Pat Sloan.
The syndicate, which includes Hurricane Fly's owner Rose Boyd, run Castlebawn West in the Grade 1 Novice Hurdle, while the Hunt family have First Approach, which cost £95,000 and was a Maze Festival bumper winner prior to scoring over hurdles.
Larne trainer Stuart Crawford runs Golan Warrior in the Red Mills Hurdle while Valdieu - winner of his bumper at Down Royal on Boxing Day before dual success over hurdles - contests the Fitzgerald Hotel Hurdle.
Navan trainer Noel Meade and top Banbridge amateur Mark O'Hare again join forces in the Champion Bumper with Beacon Edge, while Santa Rossa - owned by Draperstown-based Pat Conway - has major claims following third place in the Aintree Champion Bumper.
Trainer Arthur Moore seldom runs horses in bumpers so Fag An Bealach proved a 33/1 shock when winning on his debut on St Patrick's Day at the Maze.
Downpatrick amateur Declan Lavery partners Stops A Nation for his former boss Willie Mullins in the finale.
Meanwhile, Un De Sceaux produced another tremendous front-running display to successfully defend his crown in the BoyleSports Champion Chase yesterday.
The popular veteran was an 11-4 chance to strike gold on his return to action, with stablemate Min the 8-13 favourite to follow up his devastating victory in the JLT Chase at Aintree three-and-a-half weeks ago.
Un De Sceaux was soon bowling along at the head of affairs under Townend, with Min always his closest pursuer in the hands of Ruby Walsh.
The 11-year-old was ultimately well on top as he passed the post four lengths to the good.
Un De Sceaux was recording his 23rd career victory and his 10th at Grade One level.
Klassical Dream followed up his Cheltenham Festival triumph with a dominant victory in the Herald Champion Novice Hurdle.
The five-year-old provided Willie Mullins with a record sixth victory in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at Prestbury Park and was all the rage as the 8-13 favourite to add to his tally in a race the champion trainer had also won on six occasions.
Gordon Elliott's Aintree winner Felix Desjy adopted his customary pacesetting role from the outset. However, Klassical Dream was always on his tail under Ruby Walsh and after taking over the lead jumping the penultimate flight, he eased clear in the straight for a five-and-a-half-length success.
Felix Desjy boxed on to finish a clear second, with Mister Blue Sky best of the rest in third.
Mullins said: "Ruby said he was too settled and was not as pleased as he was in Cheltenham, but I thought in Cheltenham he just ran very free.
"You can't keep racing like that and I was much happier with today's performance, albeit the second horse has been to Cheltenham and Aintree and had two very hard races. He's a fair machine, but we were the beneficiary of him having those hard races today."
Paddy Power cut Klassical Dream to 5-1 from 8-1 for next year's Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham and Mullins confirmed his charge is likely to remain over the smaller obstacles.
He added: "I'm happy to stay over hurdles and try to make a Champion Hurdle horse out of him. I think he could be good enough, so we'll see."
◊ Down Royal have appointed a new head groundsman - Shane Webb was formerly based with the Ballydoyle operation and previously gained experience at the Curragh, Leopardstown and Royal Ascot.