NEWS: Ryanair hero Un De Sceaux and Melling Chase winner Fox Norton are set to meet in the BoyleSports Champion Chase on the first day of the Punchestown festival.

Fox Norton will lead British hopes on day one of the festival. UK-based horses won half a dozen races at last year’s festival and made a particularly significant impression in 2011 with eight victories.

Fox Norton made up for a narrow defeat in the Champion Chase at Cheltenham when sweeping to success at Aintree and will now take on Un De Sceaux.

The nine-year-old, Sceaux, took his winning run to three with a superb round of jumping to claim the two-mile-five-furlong title at Cheltenham last month.

God’s Own, won Punchestown race last year and returns to defend his crown again this time. The field is completed by Ballycasey, Realt Mor, Rock The World, Sir Valentino and The Game Changer.

The other two Grade 1s on the Tuesday card are for novices. The Herald Champion Novice Hurdle, run over two miles, will stage a rematch of the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle as winner Labaik takes on runner-up Melon. The start will be as keenly anticipated as the finish given Labaik’s previous reluctance to set off.

An interesting subplot during the meeting will be the trainers’ title battle between reigning champion Willie Mullins and current leader Gordon Elliott.

Elliott will be hoping Labaik can win the €100,000 contest to increase his €403,855 advantage over Mullins, who in addition to running Melon is also represented by Bunk Off Early and Cilaos Emery.

Pingshou, down the field in the Supreme but a Grade 1 winner at Aintree, is also in the line-up, while Peter The Mayo Man and Forge Meadow complete the seven-strong field.

Melon has been installed as the general 11-8 favourite, with Labaik available at a best price of 11-4 with BetVictor. Paddy Power have priced Labaik at 5-4 with starter insurance, meaning the bet is void if he refuses to race.

At the other end of the scale is the Growise Champion Novice Chase over an extended three miles. Four of the seven runners – A Genie In Abottle, A Toi Phil, Alpha Des Obeaux and Disko – will race in the colours of Gigginstown House Stud.

Source: Racing Post

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