Punchestown Champion Novice Chase

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The Punchestown Champion Novice Chase is a Grade 1 race over an extended three miles at the Punchestown Festival meeting.

The Champion Novice Chase takes place on the 30th of April 2024.

The race was only established in its current format in 2007 but Trainer Willie Mullins has already won it four times, notably with the high-class Sir Des Champs (2012).

Other significant winners include the Gordon Elliott trained duo, The Storyteller (2016) and Delta Work (2017).

The Punchestown Champion Novice Chase is the Irish equivalent of the Cheltenham Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase and is one of the top novice chase races of the entire jumps season.

Find out more about the Punchestown Champion Novices Chase:

Punchestown Champion Novice Chase

Race Overview – Punchestown Novices Chase

The Punchestown Novices Chase – currently known as the Dooley Insurance Group Champion Novice Chase – is a Grade 1 National Hunt steeplechase for horses aged five and up.

It is run at Punchestown racecourse over a distance of approximately 3 miles and a half furlong, with seventeen obstacles to be jumped.

The race is for beginner chasers and takes place each year in late April or early May during the Punchestown Festival.

Ellier Developments initially sponsored the race, which was first held in 2007. In previous years, there had been two similar events: a Grade 2 race over a shorter distance (also sponsored by Ellier) and a handicap race over the same distance. Boylesports supported the new version in 2009, and Growise supported it from 2010 until 2018.

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Dooley Insurance Group Champion Novice Chase Previous Winners

Check out the previous winners for this race:

2013Mount Benbulben8Danny MullinsGordon Elliott
2014Carlingford Lough8Tony McCoyJohn Kiely
2015Valseur Lido6Ruby WalshWillie Mullins
2016Zabana7Davy RussellAndrew Lynch
2017Disko6Bryan CooperNoel Meade
2018The Storyteller7Davy RussellGordon Elliott
2019Delta Work6Davy RussellGordon Elliott
no race 2020 [a]
2021Colreevy8Danny MullinsWillie Mullins
2022Capodanno6Mark WalshWillie Mullins
2023Feronily6Donagh MeylerEmmet Mullins

Famous Punchestown Champion Novice Chase Winners

The race was introduced to the Punchestown Festival to entice horses from the top staying novice chase at Cheltenham.

The inaugural running in 2007 was won by Offshore Account, trained by Charlie Swan and ridden by Dennis O’Regan.

The following season brought the first, and so far only, British-trained winner in Air Force One. He was trained by Charlie Mann and ridden by Noel Fehily and had finished fifth in the RSA Chase at Cheltenham.

Willie Mullins claimed his first success in the race with Kempes in 2010, the mount of Tony McCoy. The Champion jockey would later win the race aboard Carlingford Lough (2014) for trainer John Kiely. The horse would go on to win the Irish Gold Cup in consecutive seasons (2015 and 2016) in the colours of JP McManus and returned to the festival meeting to win the Punchestown Gold Cup in 2016.

2012 winner Sir Des Champs won ten of his nineteen races under rules including the Irish Gold Cup and Punchestown Gold Cup in 2013. He won this race by 36 lengths but almost unseated Davy Russell when making a mistake at the final fence.

Sir Des Champs was fancied for the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2013 but was beaten by Nicky Henderson’s Bobs Worth.

Delta Work (2019) was another high-class winner of this race. He won the Savills Chase in 2019 and the Irish Gold Cup in 2020 but could finish only fifth in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. He lost his form the following season but returned to form to beat dual Grand National winner Tiger Roll at the 2024 Cheltenham Festival. He then finished a creditable third in the Aintree Grand National carrying 11st 9lbs.

Key Punchestown Champion Novice Chase Trials

Although this race was designed to attract runners from the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase (formerly the RSA Chase), the shorter Turners Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham has also been a useful form guide. Three of the last eleven winners ran in that race while the other key trial has been the Fairyhouse Gold Cup Chase at the Irish Grand National meeting. That race has already produced four winners of this event, although none of them had won the Fairyhouse contest.

Four of the last eleven winners of the Punchestown Champion Novice Chase ran in the Cheltenham Gold Cup the following season. Sir Des Champs fared best when finishing runner-up in 2013. Two winners went on to run in the Ryanair Chase with Valseur Lido (2015) finishing runner-up.

Favourites have a mixed record in this race with three successful market leaders in the past eleven seasons; Sir Des Champs (2012), Disko (2017) and Delta Work (2019). Sir Des Champs was the shortest-priced winner at 2-7 favourite.

Five of the remaining winners were either second or third favourite but the race has thrown up one or two surprises.

Mount Benbulben was a 14-1 winner for Gordon Elliott and Danny Mullins in 2013.

The Storyteller returned two points longer at 16-1 when successful for the same trainer in 2018.

Horses aged six and seven tend to do best here, although Mount Benbulben (2013), Carlingford Lough (2014) and Colreevy (2021) all won at the age of eight.

An official rating of 150 or higher is normally required to win this race.

Zabana (rated 145) did win here in 2016 while the highest rated winner was Sir Des Champs (2012) with a rating of 162.

Previous Punchestown form is almost essential with nine of the last eleven winners having had at least one previous start here, four of them claiming at least one course victory.

Class usually comes to the fore with all but one of the last eleven winners having already been successful in a Grade 1 to 3 race.

Punchestown Champion Novice Chase – Top Trainers and Jockeys

Trainer Willie Mullins leads the race standings, as he does at so many of the Punchestown Festival races, with five winners; Kempes (2010), Sir Des Champs (2012), Valseur Lido (2015), Colreevy (2021) and Capodano (2023).

He is closely followed by Gordon Elliott who has three victories to his credit; Mount Benbulben (2013), The Storyteller (2018) and Delta Work (2019).

Davy Russell has ridden winners for both trainers among his record five Punchestown Champion Novice Chase victories. His winners were Quito De La Roque (2011), Sir Des Champs (2012), Zabana (2016), The Storyteller (2018) and Delta Work (2019).

Summary of the Dooleys Punchestown Novices Chase

The Punchestown Novice Chase is the final clash of the year between the best of the novice chasing division.

It has unsurprisingly been dominated by the Irish and Willie Mullins, with many successful at Cheltenham coming to finish their season in style.

A high-class race, it is one of the big races of the week.

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