Punchestown are preparing for the race of the season so far as some of the National Hunt heavyweights are set to do battle in Sunday’s Grade One John Durkan Memorial Chase worth €85,000.
2017 Gold Cup winner Sizing John and Djakadam, winner of the last two renewals of the prestigious Grade One contest, are both set to start their season at the home of Irish National Hunt racing this weekend.
Horse of the Year Sizing John completed the historic Leopardstown, Cheltenham and Punchestown Gold Cup treble last season and trainer Jessica Harrington is excited about the prospect of starting her stable star off at her local track.
“I know I didn't take him to Haydock but there was nothing wrong with the horse and that was a good decision in hindsight,” Harrington said. “I was just worried about the ground at Haydock and he’ll head to Punchestown on Sunday and I’m very happy with him. He’s still only a seven-year-old so it is very exciting to get him back started for the season.”
Willie Mullins is responsible for four of the 14 remaining entries which include Douvan and Un De Sceaux but Djakadam is likely to head the team for the champion trainer.
Mullins said; “He schooled well on Tuesday morning and we are very happy that he will take his chance on Sunday, all being well. I’m not sure that he is as sharp as he was other years going to Punchestown but he’s in good enough form to run and having won the race twice it seems the right place to start. It looks a very good race this year and it’s going to be tough but that is what you are going to have if you want to win good prize money like is on offer at Punchestown this weekend.”
Gigginstown House Stud own six of the remaining entries and Noel Meade expects Grade 1 winner Disko to take his chance.
Disko claimed the Grade 1 Growise Novice Chase at the Punchestown Festival last season and was a Grade 2 winner on his seasonal debut at Down Royal last month.
Meade commented; “He is working to run on Sunday and I’m happy with the horse, he’s in good form. I need to talk to Michael and Eddie (O’Leary), they have a few options for the race but I couldn’t be happier with Disko. It looks like it is going to be a very good race.”
Fresh from his Grade 1 treble last weekend Gordon Elliott could be represented by A Toi Phil or Clarcam, while 2016 Punchestown Gold Cup winner Carlingford Lough is also among a stellar cast.
Last year’s Growise Champion Chase winner Zabana may return to Grade 1 company for trainer Andy Lynch and Kerry Lee could provide the sole British representation with Top Gamble being left in at yesterday’s five-day forfeit stage.
Also among Sunday’s entries are the high class bumper horse Getabrid who is included in the Corinthian Restaurant On Sale Now Maiden Hurdle and the Gain Support Laois GAA Beginners Chase has attracted the highly rated Any Second Now.
The Grade 1 John Durkan Memorial Chase is the feature of a seven race card that gets underway at 12.25 approx. Admission on the day is €15 or €12 for seniors and students. All children under 14 years of age race for free.