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Thursday 2 February 2023 Dublin: 10°C
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# Cheltenham
Punchestowns to give Cheltenham a miss
Trainer Nicky Henderson reveals that the eight-year-old is likely to run in Punchestown and Aintree instead.

PUNCHESTOWNS LOOKS SET to finally make his debut at the Irish racecourse which gave him his name after trainer Nicky Henderson indicated that horse was unlikely to compete at Cheltenham.

The eight-year-old had been entered in both of the festival’s three-mile feature events, the World Hurdle and the Cheltenham Gold Cup, and was still available at prices as low as 16/1 for the World Hurdle with some bookmakers this morning.

However, speaking at a pre-festival press conference yesterday, Henderson told reporters that “I think we can say Punchestowns won’t be here.”

I don’t think he’ll win a Gold Cup or a World Hurdle so we are better to stay out of it.

There’s Aintree and we’ve always said he should run at Punchestown one year. Maybe it could be this year. That would be over fences.

Henderson’s comments indicate that his charge will attempt to improve upon his recent progress over fences rather than reverting to hurdles.

As a six-year-old, Punchestowns was a highly-rated hurdler, impressing in a number of wins before placing second to Big Buck’s in the 2009 Cleve Hurdle and World Hurdle.

He then switched his attention to chasing at the start of the 2009/2010 season but has failed to reach the same standards of success. He could only manage to place fifth in last season’s RSA Chase, finishing 24 lengths behind eventual winner Weapon’s Amnesty.

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Henderson’s apparent decision to skip Cheltenham will allow him some extra breathing space to make sure that the horse is in optimum form. This year’s Aintree Festival takes place from Thursday 7 April to Saturday 9 April, with the world-famous Grand National taking place on the final day of racing.

Some of Britain and Ireland’s finest horses will then turn their attention to the annual Punchestown Festival where racing will take place from 3 – 7 May. The five-day event at the Naas Racecourse is often the last fixture of the season for much of racing’s top talent.