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Townend back in action for Punchestown as title race with Blackmore nears end

Champion booked for three rides on day one after foot injury.

Paul Townend and Willie Mullins.
Paul Townend and Willie Mullins.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

PAUL TOWNEND IS set to return from injury with three rides on the opening day of the Punchestown Festival.

The reigning champion jockey has been sidelined since injuring his foot in a fall at Fairyhouse’s Easter meeting, but he has a trio of Grade One mounts to look forward to on Tuesday.

Townend will be aboard Chacun Pour Soi as he clashes with fellow Willie Mullins-trained runner Allaho in a fascinating renewal of the William Hill Champion Chase.

Mullins said: “Paul rode out yesterday and today. It’s great to have him back.”

The pair along with a third Mullins runner, Cilaos Emery, are among seven declared for the Grade One over two miles and arrive on the back of contrasting performances at Cheltenham.

Townend’s title rival Rachael Blackmore partners Allaho, owned by Cheveley Park Stud, who won the Ryanair Chase over an extended two and a half miles. Chacun Pour Soi was only third in the Queen Mother Champion Chase when sent off the odds-on favourite.

rachael-blackmore-on-allaho-celebrates-after-winning Rachael Blackmore on Allaho celebrates after winning the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham. Source: Dan Abraham/INPHO

Chacun Pour Soi, who had won two Grade Ones at Leopardstown previously, will have to turn the tables on Dan Skelton’s Nube Negra, runner-up that day.

The Kim Bailey-trained First Flow, who finished sixth, renews rivalry while Castlegrace Paddy and Daly Tiger complete the field.

Monkfish and Envoi Allen will square up for an intriguing showdown in a four-runner Dooley Insurance Group Champion Novice Chase.

Townend will be aboard the Mullins-trained Monkfish. The seven-year-old has won all his four starts over fences, the latest coming in the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham.

Envoi Allen lost his perfect record over the bigger obstacles there when falling in the Marsh Novices’ Chase. Henry de Bromhead’s charge, wearing the Cheveley Park colours, steps up in trip to an extended three miles for the first time.

Mullins is also responsible for the two other runners in the race, Franco de Port and Colreevy, winner of the Mares’ Chase at Cheltenham.

Townend’s first ride back is set to be on Blue Lord in the other Grade One race on the card, the eComm Merchant Solutions Champion Novice Hurdle.

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Mullins has a strong hand, saddling both Blue Lord and Echoes In Rain, but he does not run impressive Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner Appreciate It.

The seven-year-old is entered in the Alanna Homes Champion Novice Hurdle over two and a half miles later in the week, but is not certain to take his chance there either.

Mullins said: “We’ll see. We’re going to play it by ear.”

Just five horses have been declared with Colonel Mustard, Dewcup and Uhtred completing the line-up.

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