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Nolan insists Joncol in fine fettle ahead of Hennessy assault

Paul Nolan believes Joncol is in peak condition ahead of his bid to land back-to-back successes in Sunday's Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown.

Just as he did last season, the giant eight-year-old finished a creditable third in the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas, and Nolan is hoping history will repeat itself again this weekend.

"We've had no setbacks since the Lexus and fingers crossed things continue the way they're going," Nolan said. "We're very happy with him at the moment and he's looking great. He'll have a good piece of work on Wednesday and that will be his final piece. He'll just do normal canters then up until the Hennessy.

"We had three or four months where we had a torrid time as he got a bit of an infection in his leg. It seemed trivial to start off with but you couldn't believe the size his leg swelled up to.

"We're going to have to improve another 20lb for him to be a Gold Cup contender, but we're hoping that he's improved eight to 10 lengths from the Lexus to have a good chance in the Hennessy."

Meanwhile, Captain Cee Bee is likely to take up his entry in the Queen Mother Champion Chase rather than the Ryanair at Cheltenham.

Eddie Harty gave his 10-year-old the safety net of the longer race but in light of recent results a run in the two-mile championship is now favourite.

With current champion Big Zeb losing to Golden Silver in the Tied Cottage on Sunday and Master Minded being pushed to a short-head by Somersby in the Victor Chandler Chase, Harty believes the Queen Mother looks an open affair.

Captain Cee Bee was last seen finishing fourth to Big Zeb over Christmas but Harty was quick to discount that run in heavy ground.

"Touch wood, everything is going perfectly at the moment. He looks good and it's fingers crossed for a clean run up to Cheltenham," said Harty.

Irish Independent