Posted: 11th Dec 2016
Djakadam is challenged by Outlander (white cap) and Sub LieutenantPICTURE: Caroline Norris (racingpost.com/photos)
Report: Punchestown, Sunday
John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase (Grade 1) 2m4f, 5yo+
IF there had been some eyebrows raised by Ruby Walsh's decision to ride Djakadam at Punchestown instead of heading to Cork to ride Douvan then the performance the seven-year-old put in may have answered the question why.
Racing over a trip much short of his best - despite the fact he won the race last year - Djakadam jumped impeccably at all bar the penultimate fence and determinedly saw off the ferocious challenges of Sub Lieutenant and then Outlander to take victory.
Unlike his stablemate Douvan, Djakadam does not really do fireworks. What he does do is stay, battle and jump - and he did all three of those with aplomb at Punchestown.
Taking a lead from Sub Lieutenant, Djakadam travelled and jumped smoothly under Walsh, who was sporting the familiar colours of owners Rich and Susannah Ricci.
Down the back straight for the second time Djakadam produced a superb leap to pass Sub Lieutenant and despite clinging on, it was clear he was not going to be able to take victory.
Outlander, on the other hand, had been creeping closer and closer under Davy Russell and a scruffy jump from Djakadam at the second last opened the door for his rival.
Head down and neck stretched, Djakadam produced a much better leap at the final fence and powered on to take victory against two race-fit and talented rivals.
The performance was good enough for Betfair and Paddy Power to cut him to 8-1 (from 10) for the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup. He remained unchanged at 12-1 with William Hill.
Winning trainer Willie Mullins said: "That was a good effort first time out. He was able to find a leg when he made his only bad mistake at the downhill fence but other than that he jumped very well.
"We hadn't made a plan beyond today but I'd imagine we'll be looking at some of the top Grade 1s including the Cheltenham Gold Cup in which he ran second last season and the season before."
Walsh added: "It was a good performance bar one mistake and it was good to win the race for the second year in a row up, beating two race-fit horses in Outlander and Sub Lieutenant."
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