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Elliott hoping Delta Work can finish on a high at Punchestown

 

Gordon Elliot
Gordon Elliot

By Ron McKnight

Klassical Dream (Champion Novice Hurdle) and Min (Champion Chase) spearhead Champion trainer Willie Mullins' and stable jockey Ruby Walsh's annual assault on the end-of-season Punchestown spectacular, which begins today.

Caroline Woods, who is physio to the Northern Ireland football side and daughter of Enniskillen trainer Lindsay, and her partner Peter Maher are a formidable team at their local venue.

The duo have twice won the race in recent years and are doubly represented in the opener with Enniskillen - who won in 2017 - and An Rinceoir Alainn.

The JP McManus-owned pair of Blue Templar and Youcantbeserious, trained by Enda Bolger, are likely to head the market due to the trainer's record in the contest.

The latter, with Champion amateur Derek O'Connor booked, makes most appeal.

The Belfast-based Hunt family introduce their £34,000 purchase Champagne Diva, trained by Noel Meade and with Banbridge rider Mark O'Hare in the saddle, in the Goffs Sales Champion Bumper.

Fiston De Becon represents trainer Robert Tyner, who landed the prize in 2017 and 2018. O'Connor takes the mount.

Meade and O'Hare again team up in the finale with the Gigginstown-owned Farceur Du Large, but the Gordon Elliott-trained Zambezi Fix - owned by the Cheveley Park Stud, which has assembled a very large and expensive team of national hunt horses in the past couple of seasons - also holds claims.

Elliott is hopeful Delta Work can get back on the winning trail in the Dooley Insurance Group Champion Novice Chase.

The Gigginstown House Stud-owned six-year-old has been the star performer in Ireland's staying novice division this season - winning his first three starts over fences, including successive Grade One wins at Fairyhouse and Leopardstown.

He could only finish third when a hot favourite to claim his second Cheltenham Festival success in the RSA Chase, but even a reproduction of that run will make him hard to beat today.

Elliott said: "It was always the plan to come back to Punchestown with Delta Work after Cheltenham.

"He ran well at the Punchestown Festival as a novice hurdler last year, so we know he likes the track.

"The ground should be ideal for him and I'm hoping he can end his season on a high."

Delta Work's chief rivals are Henry de Bromhead's Cheltenham handicap winner A Plus Tard and the Willie Mullins-trained Getabird, who has been off the track since suffering a narrow defeat at Limerick over Christmas, but is a three-time winner at Punchestown.

Mullins' assistant, David Casey, said: "Getabird is in good form. We missed Cheltenham and Aintree with him as he's definitely more comfortable going right-handed.

"He was unlucky not to win in Limerick over Christmas after making a bad mistake at the last.

"This looks a tough race, but he likes the track and I think the step up to three miles will be a huge help to him."

De Bromhead also saddles Chris's Dream, while Terence O'Brien runs Arkle Trophy third Articulum.

British hopes rest on the Rebecca Curtis-trained Drovers Lane, while Paul Nolan's Discorama and Aidan Howard's Winter Escape make up the field.

The latter is making a swift reappearance after finishing third in the Ryanair Gold Cup at Fairyhouse just over a week ago.

Frank Berry, racing manager to Winter Escape's owner McManus, said: "We were a bit disappointed with him in the Ryanair Gold Cup, but the ground was quicker than he liked.

"He has plenty to do on Tuesday as it looks a cracking race, but hopefully he can run well."

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