We take a look at the ante-post betting for the Punchestown Gold Cup and pick out an appealing challenger who could walk away from Ireland’s premier Festival with a historic victory.
The feature contest at Ireland most celebrated National Hunt Festival is the Punchestown Gold Cup. Ever since the Punchestown festivities were introduced in the late 90s, the biggest and best three mile chasers have ventured to County Kildare, looking to take home the bounty of riches put up for grabs by the festival’s sponsors.
Despite the high-quality field of combatants who annually battle it out for the Irish Gold Cup, there have been plenty of notable upsets over the years – Barry Geraghty rode 20/1 shot China Rock to victory for Mouse Morris in 2012, with Richard Johnson leading the unfancied Planet Of Sound to the title for Philip Hobbs two years previous.
As little as five months ago, Sizing John
) was following Douvan over the line for the seventh time over two miles. Yet, he will come to Punchestown later this month as the dominant force in the three mile chasing division, having landed the Cheltenham Gold Cup just a few weeks after claiming Irish Gold Cup glory at Leopardstown.
In partnership with inform jockey Robbie Power, Jessica Harrington watched her seven-year-old saunter to the front of the field at Cheltenham and hold off all his rivals to claim Gold Cup glory. He is clearly in the form of his career and it would take a brave man to bet against him claiming a hat-trick of Gold Cup trophies at the end of the month.
(10/3 Paddy Power
) travelled like the most likely winner for the majority of the trip at Cheltenham, but as Sizing John pulled upsides Willie Mullins’ charge, he crashed through the second last fence and the loss of momentum lead to an underwhelming fourth place finish. The eight-year-old has won on two of the five occasions he has raced here at Punchestown and if he can put in a trouble-free round of jumping, he has an excellent chance of improving on his result at Cheltenham.
(16/1 Paddy Power
) tried to stay with Native River at Cheltenham, but he fell away as the leaders quickened around the final bend. Outlander
put in an unusually sloppy round of jumping on his Gold Cup debut and eventually trailed over the line as the final finisher. It would be a surprise to see both perform so poorly at a second Festival in a row, but they will have to bounce back in style if they want to challenge for this huge title.
Nico de Boinville (right) riding Coneygree to victory in the 2015 Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Mark Bradstock’s Coneygree
), who has only been seen on a track twice since winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2015, but this will be the scene of his latest return from injury and he has to be considered a strong contender for this title.
Since becoming the first novice chaser to win National Hunt racing's biggest prize in over 40 years, Bradstock’s eight-year-old has been plagued by injury problems. After hacking through the Haydock mud to finish second to Cue Card in the Betfair Chase, he was once again forced to miss a return to Cheltenham due to a minor injury. However, with the ground likely to come up favourably soft at Punchestown, Bradstock fancies his charge's chances of toppling Sizing John and adding the Punchestown Gold Cup to his collection.
Coneygree shouldn’t be overlooked, but it’s hard to get away from Sizing John at the head of the betting. At his current price, he offers very little value for money, unlike DJAKADAM, who currently sits at a very inviting price.
That decisive error at the second-last fence at Cheltenham ensured Willie Mullins will have to wait a little longer for a Cheltenham Gold Cup title, but there is no doubting Djakadam was travelling really well at Cheltenham before that fateful jump. The slightly shorter trip here at Punchestown should be a positive to his chances and he should have an excellent chance of reversing that Cheltenham result, given a clean run of jumping.
Elliott chose to bypass the Aintree festivities and, even though he does hold an entry into the Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse, this race is likely to be his end-of-season target. A return to Punchestown will certainly suit, as he has run well every time he has trod the turf here at Ireland’s premier track. If he can recapture the form that saw him take victory in the Lexus Chase earlier in the season, then he has to be given a serious chance of challenging for this prestigious title.
5:30pm Punchestown Gold Cup selection – DJAKADAM (10/3 Paddy Power)