Major storylines to come out of Punchestown’s January meet

Horse racing action returned to Punchestown earlier this month for a stacked eight-race card headlined by the Grade 2 Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle. There were storylines aplenty to come out of the Irish meet – and with that in mind, read on as we take a look at the major takeaways from the event.

Royal Thief returns in style

After a 782-day break, the Henry de Bromhead-trained Royal Thief returned in style for the Qualified Riders Handicap Chase at Punchestown. Taking place over two miles and six furlongs, De Bromhead would’ve been hoping to see his thoroughbred produce similar form that saw him reign supreme in the Beginners Chase at Kilbeggan just prior to his two-and-a-half-year hiatus.

That’s easier said than done however, with a strong field of opposition that included the likes of Notice To Close and Balkito – both of whom had won two of their last three. As proceedings got underway, Royal Thief and the jockey atop him Patrick Mullins couldn’t have asked for a better start, jumping well and racing wide to sit nicely at the race’s halfway mark.

The pair then soon pressed the leaders roughly two fences out from the finish, before securing a clear run-in and romping up the straight to win dominantly by ten lengths from the Gordon Elliott-trained Fakiera and the aforementioned Notice To Close.

“I’m delighted with that. Patrick was brilliant on him,” De Bromhead said when speaking with the media post-race.

“He said there was a fresh strip out at the wing and he went that way so fair play to him. It worked really well.

“He hadn’t run for a long time so it’s great and I’m delighted for Gigginstown. He ran well in the Pertemps a few years ago, then won his beginners’ chase and got hurt.

“We’re in no panic with him now, we’ll enjoy today and have no major plans.”

Impaire Et Passe

This Willie Mullins-trained five-year-old’s reputation as a prospect to watch continues to go from strength to strength – and he showed why there’s so much hype and anticipation surrounding him with a sublime run in the feature race of the meeting – the Grade 2 Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle.

Entering the fixture as a short 1/3 favourite with those who bet on horse racing – he justified the short price and then some by cruising to a six-and-a-half-length victory from The Model Kingdom and Shecouldbeanything. It marks the French-bred thoroughbred’s third consecutive victory in as many tries, after winning convincingly in his opening two outings at Nancy and Naas by six and 18 lengths respectively.

Attention now turns to Impaire Et Passe’s upcoming races, which are expected in the Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown next month followed by an appearance in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March.

Impervious remains unbeaten over fences

Seven-year-old mare Impervious continued her unbeaten streak over fences with a narrow victory in the Grade 3 Madigan Group Novice Chase. After finding herself towards the rear for the majority of the race, jockey Brian Hayes made his move into second place heading into the last. The pair subsequently challenged leader Journey With Me up the straight and finished over the top of the De Bromhead-trained thoroughbred to reign victorious by half a length.

As a result of her triumph, Impervious is now the 6/4 favourite to take win the Mares’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March.

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