Andy Gibson's race review: Punchestown form offers useful pointers to Cheltenham

Horse racing analyst Andy Gibson looks back to one of last week's big races at Punchestown, which might have plenty of significance for the Cheltenham Festival in March.

The Grade Three Madigan Novice Chase at Punchestown on January 15 brought out a good performance from Impervious, who was giving weight to some decent geldings.

She is currently second in the betting for the Mares Chase in March and is a worthy rival to the Willie Mullins-trained favourite Allegorie De Vassy.

Impervious has been impressive in all three of her chases thus far and seems to be a straightforward and reliable mare, as well as very talented.

The lead was quite a busy one in this Grade Three chase, and Impervious may have benefited as the only hold-up horse amongst those still competitive going into the home straight.

It is difficult to weigh up Journey With Me's performance as his connections may have been disappointed to be beaten by the mare, albeit a very decent one.

Conversely, he has also beaten two horses with strong chase form very easily, and he is now a single-figure price in places for the Turners, which would appear to be the obvious target.

He has two very tough opponents to contend with in the opening race on day three of the Cheltenham Festival, and one would have to prefer the claims of both Mighty Potter and Appreciate It at this stage of the proceedings.

Rather like in his novice hurdle season, I feel it could be a case of running well without winning at Cheltenham for Journey With Me.

Back in third place in the Madigan Group Novice Chase came Minella Crooner, and his form from Fairyhouse with I Am Maximus may have taken quite a hit here.

Minella Crooner was under pressure from the second last fence and only rallied to take third place from a tiring rival.

It was still encouraging to see him stay on strongly in the closing stages, as his best form over hurdles was over further, and the Brown Advisory looks more likely than the Turners at this stage.

Given his hurdle rating of 142, the Ultima might be more interesting than either of those two, and if his rating for that handicap turned out to be important, then his wide-margin defeat here might not seem so concerning.

The Mullins-trained joint favourite Ha D'Or was taken on for the lead quite early on in this Punchestown chase, and this may have played a significant part in his tired finish.

He had all his own way out in front when winning impressively at Fairyhouse on his chasing debut, but nthat was not the case here. Maybe time will tell that Ha D'Or will prove to be at his best when he is allowed a much easier lead than the one he endured here.

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