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Punchestown Festival preview: Gold Cup (17.30)

Don Cossack can round off what has been a terrific season by landing the spoils in cracking renewal of the Grade 1 Punchestown Gold Cup (17.30).

The Gordon Elliott-trained gelding has won five of his six starts this season, with his only defeat coming when an unlucky in-running third to Uxizandre in the 2m 5f Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.

Prior to that, Don Cossack had been very impressive when beating Boston Bob by four lengths in the Grade 1 John Durkan Memorial Chase over 2m 4f at this venue on his third start of the campaign, and comes into the contest on the back of a career-best performance in the Grade 1 Melling Chase over 2m 4f at Aintree.

The eight-year-old jumped for fun and surged clear two from home to slam Cue Card by 26 lengths, and had the likes of Johns Spirit and Champagne Fever in behind.

It was a stunning performance which earned Don Cossack at official rating of 171, and that gives him 3lb and upwards in hand on today’s rivals.

Although Don Cossack has yet to win in three starts over this afternoon’s trip, the son of Sholokhov is now far more mature and has developed into the real article.

I can’t see it being a problem, and another plus is that Don Cossack runs the track well having won two of his four starts over fences at it.

Djkadam and Road to Riches, who finished second and third respectively behind Conyegree in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, are the obvious dangers.

The former is trained by Willie Mullins and put in a cracking effort for a six-year-old when going down by just 1 1/2 lengths in chasing’s blue riband event.

That was just Djakadam’s sixth start over fences, but the gelding did have a very hard race indeed for one so inexperienced and it would be no surprise if that race has left it’s mark.

Road To Riches also had a gruelling race in the Gold Cup when finishing two lengths behind Djkadam, but seems to thrive on his racing and is the more battle hardened of the pair.

The Noel Meade-trained eight-year-old, who like the selection carries the famous Gigginstown House Stud colours, had shown himself to be a top class performer prior to Cheltenham when bagging a brace of Grade 1 contests and looks sure to give it his best shot in the hands of Bryan Cooper.