A mouth-watering eight-race card will take place at Punchestown on Thursday afternoon, as a host of top quality performers take to the track, and there could be some early Cheltenham Festival clues throughout the afternoon, with the likes of Samcro and Death Duty aiming to enhance their already lofty reputations.
However, the feature race of the day is the Grade 3 Irish Daily Star Chase at 4:10pm, which will see last season's Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up Minella Rocco make his seasonal reappearance, and currently a 16/1 chance with Betfred bookmakers, the Jonjo O'Neill-trained raider will be hoping to start his campaign on a winning note after chasing home Sizing John in March in the Prestbury Park extravaganza.
The JP McManus-owned charge will be in receipt of a significant weight pull from a host of classy horses, with Outlander one of his adversaries giving 10lbs to the Jackdaws Castle inmate, but that Irish challenger will be hoping to cement his place as a potential Gold Cup contender, a race he is currently 50/1 for.
Henry de Bromhead's Sub Lieutenant finished second in the Ryanair Chase earlier in the year, and currently a 20/1 chance for that race with Paddy Power, the Gigginstown House Stud-owned gelding will be another notable challenger for this prize, while Carlingford Lough and Road To Respect add more depth to what is a stonking renewal.
Super Samcro Makes Hurdling Bow
A novice hurdler on most people's lips heading into the new Jumps campaign is the Gordon Elliott-trained Samcro, who blossomed on the level last season, and was earmarked as a potential top-class novice hurdler in the 2017/18 season, and he will line up in the Buy Your 2018 Annual Badge Maiden Hurdle at 2:05pm.
Already a clear 9/1 favourite with Betfair Sportsbook for the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle in March, Samcro has been one of the talking horses of the summer, and Elliott has been bullish about his chances for the season ahead, and the £335,000 purchase from the Aintree Goffs sale will be aiming to follow in the footsteps of last year's winner of this Punchestown event, Labaik, who used it as a springboard to Supreme Novices' Hurdle glory, a race Samcro is currently 20/1 for.
A Grade One-winning novice hurdler last season, Death Duty has already been seen once over fences this campaign, winning a beginners' chase at Tipperary, and featured heavily in our first Jumps Racing Podcast, but some were left unimpressed with his chasing bow, and the six-year-old will get his chance for a second spin over the larger obstacles at 3:40pm in the Grade 3 Buck House Novice Chase.
He produced some ponderous leaps in that Tipperary contest, and it's interesting to see that Elliott has elected to drop him back in trip on Thursday, and he will be hoping that a quicker pace could well see him jump more efficiently.
A 16/1 chance for the RSA Chase, and a 20/1 poke for the JLT Novices' Chase in March, Death Duty should come through unscathed with the likes of Woodland Opera and Tout Est Permis likely to pose little worry, but fans of this exciting talent will be hoping for a more improved jumping display, if he is to turn into a top notch novice chaser this season.