Punchestowns surged to the head of betting for the RSA Chase at Cheltenham after cruising to an impressive victory on his chase debut.
The Grade 2 at Newbury proved to be wholly unproblematic for the Nicky Henderson trained gelding and he looked comfortable throughout; moving towards the front of the field with four to jump, before going on to win by seven lengths from Martys Mission.
A fine hurdler, Punchestowns finished second only to Big Bucks in last season's Ladbrokes World Hurdle and hopes were high that he could make the step up to chasing, with Henderson remarking in September that: “That's what he's bred to do.” A disappointingly small field of four, was certainly not enough to stop him in his tracks and Henderson will now be hoping that Punchestowns can build on the victory and go on to compete with the very best.
The on form trainer said: “I read in the Racing Post this morning that Newbury aren't happy with the small number of runners in these novice races but they are imperative for us trainers.”
He added: “I won't be in a hurry to go over three miles because he's not a slow horse. At this trip we've got the likes of Long Run, who just arrived about ten days ago.”
After the race, jockey Barry Geraghty, was also full of praise for the six year old. He said: “That was terrific. It was a sheer joy to ride him. He's got plenty of pace and that trip was fine for him.”
With those in the know already predicting a serious challenge and unpredictable odds for the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2010, the name Punchestowns is set to be on everybody's lips for years to come.