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The Punchestown Festival starts today - and here are two tips to get you off to a flyer

It might pay to look towards the bottom of the weights in the Killashee Handicap Hurdle.

Delta Work and Davy Russell: can they add another Grade 1 to their collection?
Delta Work and Davy Russell: can they add another Grade 1 to their collection?
Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

La Sorelita (17/2)

1pt ew

Punchestown, 4.55pm

WILLIE MULLINS IS likely to be the dominant player in the first two Grade 1 races on the opening day of the 2019 Punchestown Festival. The champion trainer has four of the six headed by Klassical Dream in the Herald Champion Novice Hurdle, and supplies the top three in the betting in the BoyleSports Champion Chase.

Mullins’ influence extends to four of the 14 runners in the Killashee Handicap Hurdle, and here it may be worth taking a chance with his four-year-old filly La Sorelita at the foot of the handicap.

An instance of beaten favouritism at Ballinrobe hardly seems like an ideal preparation for a fiercely competitive event on such a big stage, but the French-bred should be suited by a return to a galloping track following her experience at one of the tightest Irish circuits.

In terms of form it was encouraging to see the Ballinrobe winner Sole Pretender bolt up off an 11lb higher mark at Wexford last Saturday, while runner-up Ejayteekay had won his previous race at Navan. Those two factors combine to suggest it was an above-average handicap for the venue.

La Sorelita was expected to be a Graded-standard juvenile hurdler when joining the stable after a win for Guillaume Macaire last summer. Expectations have been lowered, but her handicap debut in the Boodles Juvenile Hurdle at Cheltenham was not without merit, and she may find her level now in receipt of 23lb from top weight Golden Spear.

Delta Work (6/4)

2pts win

Punchestown, 6.40pm

The question of whether Cheltenham Festival form will stand up or otherwise will be a key element in assessing many of the major races over the next five days.

Four of the eight runners in the 3m Grade 1 novice chase were placed at Cheltenham. Perhaps the most intriguing aspect is how the quartet contested four different races. A Plus Tard was a runaway winner of the Close Brothers Novice Handicap Chase, Discorama slogged his way to a gallant second in the National Hunt Chase, Delta Work finished third in the RSA Chase and Articulum took the same placing in the Arkle.

Given the nature of today’s test, Delta Work, who counted two top-level wins in a sequence of three successes in the run-up to Cheltenham, makes most appeal by virtue of his effort against the British-trained pair Topofthegame and Santini in the RSA. His overall Grade 1 form trumps the claims held by the year-younger A Plus Tard, who is going beyond 2m4f for the first time. Impressive as he was at Cheltenham, this represents a much sterner examination.

Of the others, Discorama had a hard race in punishing conditions at the festival, while Articulum is untried in terms of stamina.

- Alan Sweetman

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