Punchestown Gold Cup – Preview
The highlight on Punchestown’s Wednesday card is the Ladbrokes Punchestown Gold Cup with nine contenders all looking to land the famous Grade 1 prize. Will Allaho dazzle once more? Or will the resurgent Clan Des Obeaux follow up on last year’s hard-fought victory? Check out our thoughts below on who will come out on top in this year’s renewal.
Al Boum Photo
A gallant second 12 months ago to Clan des Obeaux, AL BOUM PHOTO will look to go one place better this time around for trainer Willie Mullins.
The dual Cheltenham Gold Cup winner warmed up this season in customary fashion when recording his fourth success in the Savills Chase at Tramore on New Year’s Day before lining up once again in Cheltenham’s showpiece event.
Sent off 6/1 at the Festival, Al Boum Photo had little answer to Galvin, Minella Indo and eventual runaway winner A Plus Tard when trailing home in sixth place in first-time cheekpieces.
Now at the age of ten, Willie Mullins’ talented chaser appears vulnerable to a host of in-form/younger rivals and would be a surprise winner on Wednesday evening.
Five of the nine-strong field are represented by Willie Mullins and it’s little surprise to see Paul Townend has opted to ride ALLAHO as the eight-year-old returns to three miles for the first time since 2020.
Over two and a half miles, Allaho has simply been in a league of his own, winning all five of his last starts over that distance, including when following up last season’s wide-margin Ryanair Chase victory with another equally impressive performance in the Grade 1 contest last month.
The eight-year-old is likely to have his own way in front on Wednesday and whilst he is clearly effective over shorter, Willie Mullins’ charge has posted some solid efforts in the past over three miles and the step up in trip shouldn’t inconvenience him.
Clan Des Obeaux
First-time cheekpieces worked the oracle for CLAN DES OBEAUX in last year’s Bowl Chase at Aintree and first-time blinkers had the desired effect once again in this year’s renewal as Paul Nicholls’ smart staying chaser returned to winning ways.
Last year’s Punchestown Gold Cup winner returned this season with a creditable second behind Tornado Flyer in the King George before producing a below-par effort at Newbury in the Denman Chase in February.
However, the ten-year-old was foot perfect when seeing off the challenge of Conflated when last seen at Aintree and with connections deciding to take the identical path as last season, Paul Nicholls’ charge will be a danger to all now seemingly back to something like his best.
FAKIR D’OUDAIRIES arrives chasing a hat-trick of wins after landing the Ascot Chase in February before following up in impressive style in the Marsh Chase at Aintree earlier this month.
Joseph O’Brien’s charge has been in superb form this season, winning on three of his five starts. However, those two defeats this term have come at the hands of Allaho, where the seven-year-old was unable to cope with Willie Mullins’ three-time Grade 1 winner at Punchestown and Thurles, going down by eight lengths and twelve lengths respectively.
The step back up to three miles does also pose a question mark as he finished a well-beaten third in last season’s contest behind Al Boum Photo and Clan Des Obeaux. Although in form, Fakir D’oudairies is hard to warm to and others have more pressing claims.
Considered a Grand National type at the start of the year, GALVIN has gone from strength to strength this season for trainer Gordon Elliot over three miles.
After landing last year’s Challenge Cup at the Cheltenham Festival over 3m5f, the eight-year-old returned with his sixth consecutive victory, winning by half a length in Grade 3 company at Punchestown back in October.
Unable to reel in Frodon in the Ladbrokes Champion Chase at Down Royal, the eight-year-old produced a career-best performance when taking the Grade 1 Savills Chase at Leopardstown in December, staying on the best to defeat wide-margin Betfair Chase winner A Plus Tard by a short head.
Although no match for that aforementioned rival in the Cheltenham Gold Cup when last seen, Galvin was surprisingly ridden under restraint and could never get into any rhythm over the obstacles on that occasion. If making the most of his stamina on Wednesday, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Galvin bounce back to form and perhaps he is slightly overpriced as things stand.
The step back up to three miles should suit JANIDIL as Willie Mullins’ chaser bids for just his third win over the larger obstacles.
The eight-year-old returned this season with a creditable effort behind stablemate Allaho in the John Durkan back in December, going down by just two lengths at the line.
Readily beaten in the Savills Chase later that month, Janidil put in another sound performance to finish third in the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown, finishing behind Minella Indo and the impressive Conflated.
Fourteen lengths behind stablemate Allaho in the Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, the eight-year-old reappeared in the Grade 2 Devilish Chase at Fairyhouse just nine days ago but took a heavy fall when trying to justify odds-on favouritism under jockey Mark Walsh.
Although the step back up to three miles seems to be a positive move, the eight-year-old must bounce back following his recent tumble and he looks set to struggle once more as he returns to Grade 1 company.
KEMBOY defeated stablemate Al Boum Photo in this contest in 2019 but has subsequently struggled in his outings in the top grade, winning just one of his last twelve starts against Grade 1 opposition.
That win came in last season’s Paddy Power Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown, but since then, Kemboy has been unable to get competitive in his most recent outings, including when finish a distant fourth (beaten 44 lengths) in last season’s Punchestown Gold Cup.
Defeats earlier in the season behind the likes of Allaho and Galvin was followed by an underwhelming effort in the Bowl Chase at Aintree when proving no match for Clan Des Obeaux.
First-time cheekpieces on Wednesday will have to spark a dramatic turnaround and with recent form to turn around with a few of these, the ten-year-old is readily passed over on this occasion.
2021 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner MINELLA INDO lost little in defeat when chasing home stablemate A Plus Tard in this year’s renewal and Henry de Bromhead will be hoping his nine-year-old can sign off the season in style and get back to winning ways.
After shaping in need of the run behind Galvin and Frodon in the Ladbrokes Champion Chase on seasonal reappearance, Minella Indo was expected to triumph in the King George at Kempton on Boxing Day.
Sent off a well-backed second favourite, the nine-year-old never travelled or jumped with any conviction under jockey Rachael Blackmore and was ultimately pulled up three from the finish.
With question marks surrounding his well-being, Minella Indo displayed a much better attitude when chasing home Conflated in the Irish Gold Cup before again proving his liking for Prestbury Park when finishing second on his following start in this season’s Cheltenham Gold Cup.
It seems fairly significant that connections have opted to run him at Punchestown on Wednesday and after displaying encouraging signs in defeat on the last two occasions, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Minella Indo produce a big effort and land another famous victory.
TORNADO FLYER was no match for stablemate Allaho on seasonal return at Punchestown in the Grade 1 John Durkan back in December, however, Willie Mullins’ nine-year-old stepped up markedly on that first run for 262 days when producing a career-best effort when running away with the King George at Kempton over Christmas, defeating Clan Des Obeaux by nine lengths.
Despite that impressive staying performance on British soil, he was unable to follow up in the Cheltenham Gold Cup on his most recent start, jumping poorly from flag fall before being pulled up two from home.
Whilst there seemed to be no fluke about his victory in Kempton’s feature contest last December, the nine-year-old will have to brush up his jumping if he is going to play a hand in the finish on Wednesday and at this stage, is certainly not one for maximum faith given his profile.
Big Race Verdict
This promises to be a blockbuster contest with several holding a chance in some shape or form. Allaho is the obvious starting point after landing a second Ryanair success in dominant fashion at the Cheltenham Festival but will have to overcome some established three milers if he is going to land this. Galvin appears to have been somewhat overlooked in the market and a bold bid looks assured, however, the vote goes to MINELLA INDO, who ran admirably in defeat behind stablemate A Plus Tard at last month’s Cheltenham Gold Cup, and returns to Punchestown for the first time since defeating Allaho in a Grade 1 novice hurdle back in 2019. The nine-year-old is taken to come out on top and provide trainer Henry de Bromhead with his second victory in the famous contest.