DEFENDING Irish champion jockey Paul Townend is having a special boot made in his battle to be fit for next week's Punchestown Festival.
Townend is desperate to make it back from an injury he sustained over Easter in time for a strong book of rides – and to fend off the title challenge of Rachael Blackmore.
The top jock has been on the sidelines since the Irish Grand National meeting when he sustained a foot injury in a fall from Egality Mans.
He missed the rest of that big fixture at Fairyhouse – as well as three days at Aintree – but he still holds an eight-winner lead with 10 days of the season remaining.
However, Grand National winner Blackmore has a strong book of rides at Kilbeggan over the next few days.
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And she will look to emulate her stunning Cheltenham Festival performance at Punchestown, which begins on Tuesday.
Among her big rides will be Champion Hurdle winner Honeysuckle, who is odds-on to follow up in the Paddy Power-backed equivalent.
Townend would also have multiple chances at the five-day meeting, with the likes of Monkfish, Chacun Pour Soi and Al Boum Photo among his potential rides.
But his recovery is taking longer than expected and he is pinning his hopes on a special boot speeding up the healing process.
Townend's boss Willie Mullins said: “It is progressing, but very slowly.
“I didn’t speak to Paul for a few days, but I just said ‘let’s not talk, you just do what you have to do and get your boots made’.
“He is going to have to have a protective boot made for the leg that is injured.
"I just said ‘get yourself ready and I’ll talk to you the morning we are doing declarations and we’ll see how he is’.”
Townend is bidding to win his third straight Irish jumps jockeys' title.
He currently sits on 95 winners from just 284 rides – a 33% strike-rate – compared to Blackmore's 87 from 539.
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