Weekend racing round-up: Aintree action, Punchestown and Sandown
David Metcalf | December 7, 2015
Coral look at some of the key performances in a cracking weekend of action at Aintree, Punchestown and Sandown and the impact they have had on the ante post markets for the 2016 Cheltenham Festival.
Sire de Grugy terrific in Tingle Creek
Sire de Grugy bounced back to form by winning a second Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown, and is now 10/1 (from 25s) with Coral to win the 2016 Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
Gary Moore’s stable star, who won the 2014 running of the Queen Mother, travelled and jumped well throughout and found plenty on the run-in to beat Special Tiara by 3/4 of a length.
The stewards held an enquiry after Sire de Grugy jumped left at the last and collided in mid-air with the runner-up, but the result was never really in doubt and he was confirmed as the deserved winner.
It was a massive step back in the right direction for the nine-year-old following a disappointing display when only fifth on Sire de Grugy’s reappearance at Exeter in the Haldon Gold Cup, and Moore has clearly done wonders to get him to back to something like his best.
There is no reason why Sire de Grugy should not continue to go forward, and on the pick of his form he would be a big contender next March if doing so.
Don Poli delivers in style at Aintree
Don Poli underlined his Cheltenham Gold Cup credentials when making an authoritative winning return to action in the Lotto Chase at Aintree.
An impressive winner of last season’s RSA Chase at Cheltenham before failing to fire at Punchestown in April, the Willie Mullins trained six-year-old overcome adversity to get the the better of last season’s Grand National hero Many Clouds.
Don Poli’s girth strap went with about half a circuit to run, and jockey Bryan Cooper did tremendously well to stay in the plate and steer him to success.
Although Don Poli only scored by four lengths, he is a lazy sort who only does what is required and forged clear 200 yards from the line to win with far more in hand than the winning margin suggests.
To me the Gigginstown House Stud-owned gelding looks the ideal type for the Gold Cup, and he is now 6/1 (from 7/1) with Coral to land chasing’s blue ribbon event next March.
Yorkhill new favourite for Neptune after impressive hurdling debut
Yorkhill is the new 8/1 clear favourite with Coral for the 2016 Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle after making an impressive winning debut over the obstacles at Punchestown.
The Willie Mullins trained gelding looked a top notch prospect last season when unbeaten in two bumpers, and confirmed thea view when putting a faultess jumping performance to score easily by 8 1/2 lengths.
Yorkhill didn’t do jockey Ruby Walsh any favours when pulling hard in the early stages, but cruised into contention to challenge the pacesetting Road To Respect in the straight.
It was then just a case of when Walsh pushed the button, and when he did approaching the last Yorkhill quickened smartly to put the race to bed. Having been 14/1 for the Neptune before the race, Yorkhill was immediately cut into 12s by Coral.
However, that price was quickly snapped up, along with 10/1, and he is now the market leader at 8/1. Stable companions Bellshill, like Yorkhill owned by Andrea and Graham Wylie, and Long Dog are next best in at 12/1 and 14/1 respectively.
Djakadam dazzles in John Durkan at Punchestown
Last season’s Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up Djakadam made an impressive start to the new campaign with a runaway victory in the John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase, and is 6/1 (from 7s) with Coral to go one better in the 2016 renewal of chasing’s blue ribbon contest.
The six-year-old ran a fantastic race to beat all bar Coneygree in the Prestbury Park showpiece back in March, and looked as good as ever when beating stable companion Valseur Lido in the 2m 4f Grade 1 feature contest at Punchestown on Sunday.
Djakadam was soon bowling along at the head of affairs and jumping fluently in the hands of Ruby Walsh, and when Valseur Lido briefly looked like throwing down a challenge rounding the home turn stretched clear to score easily by 12 lengths.
It was a most taking performance over a trip which is arguably too sharp for Djakadam, and he looks the type who is open to further progress and sure to be a major contender for Gold Cup honours.
Pont Alexandre overcomes absence to make winning chase debut
Pont Alexandre defied a near 1,000-day absence to make a successful debut over fences in the Buy Your Go Racing In Kildare Badge Beginners Chase at Punchestown, and is now 10/1 (from 25/1) with Coral for the 2016 RSA Chase.
The Willie Mullins trained seven-year-old, who was a grade 1 winning novice hurdler, had been off the track since finishing third behind The New One in the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle at the 2013 Cheltenham Festival.
But that did not deter backers see him being sent off the 4/6 favourite, and his supporters never had an anxious moment.
After flying the first fence to take the lead he was then never headed and jumped superbly throughout.
Balbir Du Mathan briefly threatened to make a race of it at the top of the home straight, but Pont Alexandre quickened clear between the final two fences and scored easing down by 8 1/2 lengths.
Mullins believes that he is one of the most exciting chasing prospects he has trained, and providing Pont Alexandrre can remain sound he looks sure to be a big player in the RSA.