Irish Grand National hero Our Duke heads 10 confirmed runners for Irish Gold Cup
Irish Grand National hero Our Duke heads the 10 confirmed runners for the Unibet Irish Gold Cup, Sunday's feature race on day two of the Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown.
Trained by Gold Cup-winning trainer Jessica Harrington and owned by the Cooper Family Syndicate, Our Duke was a sensational winner of last year's Fairyhouse showpiece as he defied his novice status to skate to victory.
The son of Oscar suffered a back injury when disappointing at Down Royal in November but regular pilot Robbie 'Puppy' Power reported the eight-year-old to be in flying form on the gallops ahead of a crack at Sunday's €200,000 prize.
Our Duke is a general 11/4 favourite but faces stiff competition in the shape of the JP McManus-owned pair of Anibale Fly – a comfortable winner of the Paddy Power Chase at Christmas – and the Jonjo O'Neill-trained Minella Rocco, second in last year's Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Champion trainer Willie Mullins saddles two with Djakadam and the intriguing Killultagh Vic, already a dramatic chase winner at the track and a horse who made a successful comeback from a long lay-off when winning over hurdles last time.
Owners Gigginstown House Stud have a trio of runners in the feature event with Alpha Des Obeaux, Outlander and Valseur Lido while they will be hoping that the exciting Samcro can maintain his unbeaten winning streak in a mouth-watering renewal of the Grade 1 Deloitte Novice Hurdle, the third race on Sunday's card.
The Gordon Elliott-trained six-year-old – who has been odds-on favourite in all six of his races thus far and is a warm order favourite again on Sunday – looks the one to beat but the Mullins-trained quartet Sharjah, Duc Des Genievres, Whiskey Sour and Real Steel will give him his stiffest test to dat along with last year’s Cheltenham champion bumper runner-up Debuchet, trained by Mags Mullins.
Unbeaten records will already have been tested in the Tattersalls Ireland Spring Juvenile Hurdle when Espoir D'Allen lines up for the first Grade 1 of the day. Trained by Gavin Cromwell, he is unbeaten in four runs but like Samcro faces his toughest battle with the Mullins-trained Mr Adjudicator and the Gordon Elliott-trained Farclas among five rivals.
Preceding the feature race is the penultimate Grade 1 of the day, a thrilling-looking Flogas Novice Chase. The Henry De Bromhead-trained Monalee fluffed his lines at Christmas when falling at the Foxrock track but will try and make amends here. He is one of 11 high-class young chasers in the field with Sutton Place, Snow Falcon, Tombstone and Invitation Only all out to enhance already lofty reputations.