The Punchestown Festival begins today - and these are the 3 races you don't want to miss

Three Grade 1 races — and a lot of familar horses — to look forward to as the five-day festival begins at the Naas track.

Faugheen ridden by Ruby Walsh clears the last to win Ruby Walsh steers Faugheen to the Neptune Novices Hurdle. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

4.20pm: Herald Champion Novice Hurdle

Willie Mullins’ Faugheen was one of the most impressive Irish winners at Cheltenham last month, skating home to a four-and-a-half length win in the Neptune Novices Hurdle.

He will be a short-priced favourite for the first Grade 1 of the day, where he comes up against a number of faces that will be familiar to punters from the Supreme Novices Hurdle: Sgt Reckless (fourth), Wicklow Brave (sixth), Western Boy (seventh), Valseur Lido (10th) and The Liquidator (11th).

It’s a strong field full of interesting young pretenders. One or two of these have the potential to be stars for many years to come.

Dynaste ridden by Tom Scudamore (Left) beats Hidden Cyclone ridden by Andrew McNamara on the way to victory Hidden Cyclone, right, ran Ryanair winner Dynaste close at Cheltenham. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

5.30pm: Champion Chase

This was the race won by the awesome Sprinter Sacre last year and though injury prevents him from making another appearance, there’s plenty of quality still on show.

England’s top two chances — Somersby (ridden today by AP McCoy) and Module (Barry Geraghty) — proved their two-mile credentials when they chased home Sire de Grugy to finish second and third in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham.

The aging Sizing Europe finished fourth while Mouse Morris’ Baily Green fell, and the latter in particular could go close today.

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Don’t forget about Hidden Cyclone either. Shark Hanlon’s charge ran a career-best when second to Dynaste in the Ryanair. He hasn’t been seen since and would be a very popular winner.

Pat Fahy with Morning Assembly Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

6.40pm: Growise Champion Novice Chase

Morning Assembly carried a lot of Irish hopes (and money) at Cheltenham and although he only finished third in the RSA Chase that was still better than Ballycasey (fourth), Carlingford Lough (sixth) and Don Cossack (fell), all of whom go again in today’s penultimate race.

Ruby Walsh — who returned to racing at the weekend following a five-week injury lay-off — has chosen to ride Djakadam of Willie Mullins’ three runners so you can expect to see plenty of support for the youngest horse in the field.

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Niall Kelly

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