Cheltenham Festival News

Diverge books Cheltenham ticket with Punchestown romp

Mon 30 Jan 2023

Diverge gave High Definition’s form a major boost ahead of this weekend’s Dublin Racing Festival with a wide-margin victory in the opening race at Punchestown on Monday.

One-time Derby favourite High Definition made a smart start to his hurdling career at Leopardstown over the Christmas period and is set for an intriguing clash with Facile Vega in the Grade One Tattersalls Ireland Novice Hurdle on Sunday.

Diverge was beaten 20 lengths into sixth place by High Definition on what was his Irish debut, and on the strength of that form he was a 10-11 favourite to open his account for Willie Mullins in Punchestown’s Bar One Racing “Best Odds Guaranteed All Races” Maiden Hurdle.

Those who took the cramped odds will have had few concerns for the duration of the two-mile contest, with the five-year-old son of Frankel pulling 23 lengths clear of his nearest pursuer Mon Coeur – leaving Mullins to consider a possible tilt at the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

“He did it well and improved a lot from the last day,” said the champion trainer.

“We changed the tactics as he was very free in Leopardstown. I said to Paul (Townend) ‘don’t be fighting him too much’. We thought there might be enough pace in the race, but our fella just seemed to want to jump past Danny (Mullins, on Stellium) so Paul let him on and let him enjoy himself. He loves jumping.

“He has entries at Cheltenham and we’d probably be looking at the Supreme. Any horse that wins his maiden by 23 lengths on his second run has to. He looks like he’s booked a place on the team anyway.”

Paul Townend tells us more about Diverge

The Closutton handler doubled up in the Bar One Racing ‘We’ll Lay You A Bet’ (C & G) Maiden Hurdle – but it was his apparent second string Haxo who claimed top honours.

Sir Argus was the 4-11 favourite under Townend, but he was reeled in on the run-in by 7-2 chance Haxo and Danny Mullins, who was also completing a double of his own following a dead-heat victory aboard Princess Zoe, trained by his father Tony.

“For jumping Haxo deserved to win that and that’s what won it for him in the end,” Willie Mullins added.

“He’s a second-season novice and jumped really well. He’s a nice type and looks a chaser in the making.

“Sir Argus, I think, just lost his confidence after his fall the last day in Clonmel. He’s done plenty of schooling, but on the racecourse he seems to have lost his confidence. We’ll have to keep him schooling and try to get him back right.”

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