Thursday 14 December 2017

Djak faces big ask to turn Gold Cup form around

Our string has strong chances on day two, but take Sizing John to back up Cheltenham victory in the showpiece

Cilaos Emery (right), with David Mullins on board, clears the last on the way to winning The Herald Champion Novice Hurdle from Melon (left), partnered by Ruby Walsh, at Punchestown. Photo: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images
Cilaos Emery (right), with David Mullins on board, clears the last on the way to winning The Herald Champion Novice Hurdle from Melon (left), partnered by Ruby Walsh, at Punchestown. Photo: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

Patrick Mullins

Poor old Djakadam, for the third time, ran well in defeat in a Cheltenham Gold Cup last month and, unfortunately, it may be the same in today's feature at Punchestown on day two.

Our Rich Ricci-owned chaser contests the Coral Punchestown Gold Cup (5.30), which of course entails another clash with the winner in the Cotswolds, Sizing John. Djakadam came out of Cheltenham fine and one could argue that the mistake he made two out cost him being second.

That said, I don't think he should turn the tables on Sizing John, which ought to be really hard to beat again. You think back on the Gold Cup winners who followed up in Co Kildare - such as Kicking King and War Of Attrition - and I am expecting that he can do the same under Robbie Power.

Some say that the lesser yardage may be the making of Djakadam but I don't think the trip will make much difference to him. Would Sizing John not have beaten Djakadam at Cheltenham with the same authority, were the race run over three miles?

The opening Grade One of the day, the novice hurdle (4.55), is a real cracker. We have four of the eight runners in what appeals as a hugely intriguing renewal for these novices.

You have the first and second which ran in the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham clashing again, not to mention brilliant Pertemps winner Presenting Percy, and he was hugely impressive in that handicap.

I think our Penhill can edge Monalee again. For one thing, he is in sparkling form, and he has so much Flat speed, so the track can hardly be blamed in any way. I suppose Monalee will find its less demanding attributes more to his liking, as he was keen at Cheltenham, but I'm sticking with the mount of Ruby Walsh.

Stablemate Al Boum Photo steps up to three miles after winning a Grade Two contest at Fairyhouse and I feel he will appreciate the step up in yardage. If Penhill doesn't fire he's a good second-string to have.

As for our two other entries, Bon Papa was really disappointing in the Neptune at Cheltenham, after which nothing came to light. We hope that he can return to his earlier promise. Tin Soldier ran respectably in the Coral Cup, but perhaps we had him in a tough race for a novice. Things didn't go his way.

This is a really smashing card from start to finish and the Grade One bumper (6.05) lives up to any amount of anticipation. No doubt many Punchestown patrons will have been waiting to see Cheltenham heroine Fayonagh back in action and here she is.

Fayonagh's Cheltenham performance was astounding. I've never seen the like of it and she will be incredibly difficult to beat on that evidence. On the downside, it may be a difficult double for a filly to do, and we must take into account that there has been no little chat about her stablemate, Poli Roi. Gordon Elliott is very sweet on him but his form hardly stacks up.

My mount Carter Mckay was disappointing at Cheltenham but nearly ran to his form, as Carter Mckay, Bakmaj and West Coast Time all finished close enough together, and he must step up again. As far as I can see, Fayonagh sets the standard and will be hard to beat.

There are some fascinating races on the undercard. Our runner in the opener, Wood Breizh, had a good run on the Flat recently and definitely has a race of the nature of the opener (3.40) within his grasp. Niall Kelly, our stable conditional, took this race last year.

His claim amounts to a big asset and I'm expecting a nice show from the grey. He is rated 120, Niall takes off four and he ran well off this figure at Leopardstown earlier in the term.

The Louis Fitzgerald Hotel Hurdle (4.20) is quite a deep contest. Battleford has top-class bumper form, which we must concede has not quite translated over hurdles. That said, his Clonmel offering behind Monalee reads very well at this stage.

I've great respect for handicapper Noel O'Brien, who gives Battleford a few pounds to find with Minella Till Dawn, but I think this race will suit the Andrea and Graham Wylie runner: the trip and small field will be to his liking. I feel he can now start fulfilling his immense hurdling potential.

C'est Jersey wears blinkers for the first time so we are hoping they can bring about some improvement. He was disappointing at Cheltenham and needs to improve more than Battleford does.

In the handicap chase, Polidam (6.40) rates an intriguing recruit from France. He was bought by Anthony Bromley, that well-known bloodstock agent, with a view to being a potential Aintree National horse next season. Indeed he was entered in the Irish National.

He wears a hood - he sported one in his native land and we didn't change that - and I expect him to be very competitive off this mark. He works really well at home, though I guess it is difficult for a horse coming from French chases into a tough Irish handicap.

Onto the finale (7.15) in which my sole other ride of the afternoon takes her chance. I was deeply disappointed with Mystic Theatre at Naas, where she could not go with Bluegrass Princess, the mount today of Derek O'Connor.

That said, being by King's Theatre, this good ground will potentially bring out the best in her and possibly I went too fast on her in Naas in any event.

We may change tactics and with the change of ground I look forward to re-opposing the top horse in what is a competitive race. With it being a Graded race, no rider can claim here, so it is an advantage for Jamie Codd and I, as we battle for the amateur title. Hopefully I can stay in touch.

PATRICK'S PICKS 3.40 Wood Breizh 4.20 Battleford 4.55 Penhill 5.30 Sizing John 6.05 Fayonagh 6.40 Polidam 7.15 Mystic Theatre

Irish Independent Sport Star Awards

Pick our magic sports moment of the year and win a trip for two to London. To view the shortlist and cast your vote click here.

Indo Sport

Promoted Links

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport