Altior (left): Champion Chase winner could face formidable challenge from Willie Mullins team

Michael Steele

This year’s Punchestown festival could begin with fireworks after Queen Mother Champion Chase winner Altior featured among the entries for the opening-day feature, the €275,000 Boylesports Champion Chase.

Altior could face a potent challenge, predominantly from Willie Mullins’ stable. The champion trainer, who will be eager to eat into Gordon Elliott’s €550,801 lead in the race for the  trainers’ title, has entered the likes of Min, Douvan, Great Field and Un De Sceaux in the two-mile showpiece.

Samcro: a clash between Elliott’s unbeaten star and Mullins’ brilliant mare Laurina could well be on and it would most certainly raise the roof at Punchestown

Alan Crowhurst

One of the most eagerly anticipated clashes of the season could also be on the cards on the opening Tuesday, with Gordon Elliott’s unbeaten Samcro and Mullins’ brilliant Laurina featuring among the star-studded entries for the Grade 1 Herald Novice Hurdle over two miles.

Elliott has a strong supporting cast, including Supreme Novices’ Hurdle third Mengli Khan and Pallasator, who won a Grade 2 at Fairyhouse on Sunday.

Mullins’ other entries in the race include Getabird, a 12-length Grade 2 winner at Fairyhouse on Monday while Colin Tizzard has entered Slate House.

Great Gold Cup on the cards

Entries were also revealed for Wednesday’s Grade 1s, including the feature €275,000 Coral Punchestown Gold Cup, which has attracted Ryanair Chase winner Balko Des Flos.

Easy does it: Balko Des Flos and and Davy Russell cruise to victory in the Ryanair Chase and the Punchestown Gold Cup could be next

Alan Crowhurst

Trainer Henry de Bromhead said: “We are thinking of the Coral Punchestown Gold Cup, although he’ll also be entered at Aintree in the two-and-a-half-mile race. He seems in good form.”

He added: “I don’t think a step-up in trip at Punchestown is an issue as he ran very well at Leopardstown over three miles and he has won a Galway Plate over two miles six and a half furlongs. He’s got Grade 1 form over three miles so we’ll see. Some nice jumping ground would be ideal.”

Irish Gold Cup winner Edwulf, Gold Cup fourth Road To Respect and Irish Grand National hero General Principle are other eyecatching entries in the race.

Some noteworthy British entries include Minella Rocco, American and Sizing Granite, while the home team is completed by Our Duke, Anibale Fly and Disko.

There were 38 entries for the Grade 1 Irish Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle – also on Wednesday – with Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle winner Kilbricken Storm joined by Elliott’s Cheltenham festival scorers Blow By Blow and Delta Work.

Mullins’ squad could be headed by Grade 1 winner Next Destination, last seen finishing third behind Samcro at Cheltenham last month.

The five-day festival begins on Tuesday April 24 and boasts over €3 million in prize-money. 

Read exclusive previews from 6pm daily on racingpost.com



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