Rubi taken to light the way
The Grade One John Durkan Memorial Chase takes centre stage at Punchestown today as we move ever nearer to the busy Christmas period.
The two-and-a-half-mile contest has fallen victim to awful weather conditions in recent years but with no obvious concern today, racing will go ahead with hopefully a big crowd to match a quality race.
The previous two winners of the John Durkan, Tranquil Sea and Joncol, meet here having both won on their respective seasonal appearances but preference is for Robert Alan Hennessy's Rubi Light.
The six-year-old son of Network improved with every run last season, culminating in a third-place finish in the Ryanair Chase, which was a very impressive performance given his tender years.
He looks to have come back even stronger this season and did everything right against Tingle Creek winner Sizing Europe last time until falling at the last with the race at his mercy. Provided there are no ill effects from the fall he should take all the beating here.
The gigantic Joncol is to be respected as he is admirably consistent at the top level and should once again head to this year's Lexus Chase with a leading claim. However, today's two-and-a-half-mile trip might just be on the short side for him.
Tranquil Sea comes into the race following the same preparation he had last season, with a win in the Grade Two Clonmel Oil Chase. He too should go well again, but he seemed to have the run of the race when winning here last year and with guaranteed pace up front today it could be a different type of scenario for him.
Outside of the big three in the betting, Kempes is an intriguing runner. Willie Mullins' gelding went into the Cheltenham Gold Cup as short as 9/1 but pulled up on the day before running equally disappointingly at Punchestown. He made a satisfactory reappearance over hurdles at Cork and it will be interesting to see how he gets on here back over fences.
The valuable two-mile novice hurdle earlier on the card lacks any real depth in class with just five runners due to go to post.
The Dr Lambe-owned Lake Windermere and Gigginstown Stud's Ballysteen both won their maiden hurdles impressively but are therefore difficult to analyse stepping into Grade race category now. The likely favourite is Noel Meade's Dylan Ross and he looks the most appealing despite a short price.
The son of Shantou is highly thought of at home and with proven form in this sort of company he looks like a more solid selection.
The other race of real significance on the card is undoubtedly the two-and-a-half-mile novice chase taking place straight after the feature event. Joncol made a successful debut over fences here three seasons ago, while Jim Dreaper's Notre Pere also won here on his second start over fences.
The betting is likely to revolve around Big Eared Fran and Lios A Choill. Preference is marginally for the former, which looked like a smart hurdler last season for David Pipe and could be a useful recruit over fences now for Edward O'Grady.
Elsewhere, Golden Silver should be able to reel off a hat-trick of wins in the Grade Two Hilly Way Chase in Cork. Willie Mullins' nine-year-old is likely to go off a very short price with just four rivals to contend with, none of which look capable of winning on official ratings.
Sunday Indo Sport