/ Racing

Friday's Punchestown meeting preview

Updated: Thursday, 01 May 2014 15:55 | Comments

Jezki is one of three runners in the Racing Post Champion Hurdle
Jezki is one of three runners in the Racing Post Champion Hurdle

Punchestown's Racing Post Champion Hurdle may have attracted just the three runners but it is a fascinating renewal.

Jezki wasn't at the top of most shortlists for a vintage Champion Hurdle last month and he was overlooked by Tony McCoy, but he powered up the Cheltenham hill to fend off My Tent Or Yours to claim the crown for Jessie Harrington.

Hurricane Fly's fourth-placed finish on that occasion appeared to many to signal the beginning of the end for the record-breaking 10-year-old, but it is worth remembering that he put Jezki in his place twice at Leopardstown during the winter, and he has won this race for the past four years.

Jezki's stablemate Steps To Freedom completes the trio and will pick up 18,000 euro at least just for getting round.

The other Grade One on Friday's card is the Tattersalls Ireland Champion Novice Hurdle, in which Vautour steps up in distance.

Willie Mullins threw a curve ball when swerving the two-mile contest on the opening day of this Festival with his brilliant Supreme Novices' Hurdle hero, but he took that anyway courtesy of the exciting Faugheen, and two and a half miles should prove no problem for Vautour, who lifted the 2m2f Deloitte in February.

Mullins and Ruby Walsh teamed up to claim the Aon Novice Handicap Chase for three consecutive seasons between 2007 and 2009, and this year's representative is Balnaslow, who landed the odds at Tramore after making the frame in the Kim Muir.

Nicky Henderson and Barry Geraghty have already enjoyed success this week and are responsible for Ericht, but they have stronger claims in the SeanieMac.com EBF Mares Handicap Chase with Utopie Des Bordes, who tackles the bigger obstacles for the first time since leaving France, where she was a Grade One winner.

Aintree scorer Warne takes on On The Fringe in the Donohue Marquees Champion Hunters Chase, while Johnies Star tries to repeat his 2013 heroics in the opening KFM Hunters Chase (3.40).

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