Wednesday 21 February 2018

Joncol can clear up stamina question

Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

Although Cooldine has eased slightly to 9/4 for tomorrow's Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown, his continued position at the head of the market is intriguing. On the back of his Lexus outing, you simply couldn't back Willie Mullins' horse at that price given his opposition, yet that doesn't make the job of picking the winner any easier.

With the ground officially heavy, Money Trix cannot be written off with any conviction. The British challenger stayed on dourly in the Lexus last time, and is the obvious pick on form now.

That said, it's hard to know if he has much scope for improvement at 10 years of age. Notre Pere is the other confirmed mud-lover in the field. Jim Dreaper's horse ran a fine race to be second to Neptune Collonges in this 12 months ago, and showed signs of returning to something like his best when fourth in the Lexus.

If he can build on that, there is every chance he will make his presence felt but, at the same time, we know that he is vulnerable to a horse with an extra gear. Joncol certainly has gears. A good second to Tranquil Sea on his seasonal debut at Naas over two miles, he subsequently won a first Grade One over two-and-a-half in the John Durkan Memorial at Punchestown.

The question now is, on the back of his last-gasp defeat in the Lexus and having also been beaten on his only previous effort over the trip, does he have the stamina for what is sure to be a gruelling three miles? At a general 11/4, this corner is willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

By his connections' own admissions, a lack of tactical restraint had a lot to do with Joncol's reversal last month. While it's far from certain that was the sole cause of the defeat given a similar result when he tried three miles at the Punchestown festival last April, neither is it clear that he doesn't stay, period.

If he does truly get three miles, as a progressive seven-year-old, he should win.

Zaarito also warrants a second chance in the Dr PJ Moriarty Chase. Impressive when scoring here in December, Colm Murphy's horse has jumping problems.

He took the third fall of his career, and his second over fences, when tipping up before the race started in earnest in the Arkle Chase last month, and you couldn't back him with much confidence now. Nonetheless, Zaarito will have maximum assistance from the saddle once again with Davy Condon up, and Totesport and Sky Bet's 9/2 will look big if he puts in a clear round.

Irish Independent

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