It’s been a frustrating week with Clonmel going, Un de Sceaux missing out on Sandown and then Navan getting cancelled on Saturday.
Un de Sceaux was a bit flat last week when getting ready for the Tingle Creek so Willie decided not to send him. Cork’s Hilly Way card was abandoned too and even though it’s rescheduled for next Sunday it’s getting very close to Christmas to run there and then pitch up in something like the Paddy Power Dial-A-Bet Chase a fortnight later.
As things stand Punchestown think there’s a good chance they’ll race but there is an inspection at 8am on Sunday. It’s going to be very testing regardless and whoever deals with the conditions best are going to get their heads in front.
John Durkan Memorial Chase 2m 4f 1.50pm
Djakadam is the highest rated runner in Sunday’s Grade One feature – but there’s a slight doubt whether the 2m 4f trip will suit him as much as some of the others.
He has rock-solid form though having been second to Coneygree in the Cheltenham Gold Cup last March and Don Cossack at Punchestown and they’re the two highest-rated chasers in training.
His stablemate Valsuer Lido won a beginners chase at this track last season and was very impressive when winning the Grade One Drinmore Novices Chase last season in similar conditions to what we’ll face on Sunday.
The fact that Bryan Cooper has chosen him over Clarcam (who I rode to win a Grade One at Aintree) would indicate where he is in the pecking order of Gigginstown’s chances.
Gilgamboa ended last season with a win in the Grade One Novice Steeplechase at Fairyhouse under some lad called McCoy. He hasn’t run since but it was soft to heavy that day so if he’s straight first time up – he could be a serious player too.
My dad’s horse Foxrock really improved last year and was second in the Irish Hennessy to Carlingford Lough. His form tailed off a bit after that career-best run but he blew off the cobwebs with a prep over hurdles at Navan last month so he’ll be fitter now.
Whether he’s good enough we’ll soon find out but he’s the second highest rated runner in the race after Djakadam.
Yorkhill was meant to run in an amateur race at Clonmel before it was called off so I’ll hopefully reap the benefit after it was abandoned.
He was a good bumper horse and has been doing things nicely at home. Hopefully will prove hard to beat in the maiden hurdle.
The Pont about it is…
There’s no knowing really how Pont Alexandre will perform as he’s been off the track for nearly three years now. I think he’s the best horse in the race by far and if he can transfer his hurdles form when a dual Grade One winner to fences then we should be ok.
He’s been working well and has schooled really well but given his absence you can only take it one day at a time. I won’t be thinking about longer-term plans until Sunday’s done.
Dad’s Seabass isn’t getting any younger but was third to Neptune Collognes in the 2012 Aintree Grand National for Katie and has won around Punchestown before. He hasn’t won since February 2012 and has dropped a few pounds in the handicap. He’s working well though and can hopefully build on this run in time for Christmas.
The bumper looks a decent contest and Blow by Blow is a strong, powerful horse at home and looks tailor-made to handle very testing conditions.
There was plenty of chat about Jessica Harrington’s Jett last year who has had a couple of runs in bumpers. I just wonder if speed rather than stamina will be his game because I don’t think a speed horse will win this on Sunday.