The days may be ticking until the curtain is drawn on the 2021-22 jump racing season, but there is still plenty to look forward to before the campaign is over — with the Jump Finale at Sandown on April 23rd bringing the UK season to a close, while the Punchestown Festival at the end of the month will mark the end of Ireland’s National Hunt campaign.
Running for six action-packed days on the outskirts of Dublin, the Punchestown Festival is often dubbed Ireland’s very own version of Cheltenham. 40 races, 12 of which are Grade 1s, take place throughout the meeting, with Irish racing’s star trainers and horses turning out in full force for the festival.
The Punchestown Gold Cup, which takes place on the second of the six days, is the highlight of the Irish National Hunt calendar and this year’s renewal of the €275,000 race looks set to be a cracker. So, with that in mind, read on as we take a look at the favourites in the Punchestown Gold Cup’s ante-post market.
The 2/1 favourite in the betting on horse racing online, Willie Mullins has entered Allaho in both the Champion Chase and the Gold Cup at the Punchestown Festival — but it seems the latter is the more likely destination for the Cheveley Park Stud-owned horse, as he’s behind stablemates Energumene and Chacun Pour Soi at 4/1 in the Champion Chase’s ante-post market.
Three for three this season — with victories in the Punchestown Chase, the Horse & Jockey Hotel Chase and the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham — the eight-year-old has certainly not disappointed. However, with an extended trip of just over three miles — a distance Allaho has won over just once in five attempts — this will be a real test of his mettle, and it could suit some of the other entries more.
Considering the trip, the Punchestown Gold Cup is arguably a race that suits Minella Indo more than Allaho. The Henry de Bromhead-trained horse missed last April’s renewal, picking up a stone bruise after his shock Cheltenham Gold Cup success, and hasn’t exactly lived up to expectations so far this season — yet to win any of his four races (3P22).
The nine-year-old finished second in his last two outings are certainly more convincing after a poor start to the season, but it’s worth noting that Minella Indo was well beaten in those races — finishing over six lengths behind Conflated in the Irish Gold Cup in February before lagging 15 lengths behind A Plus Tard on the defence of his Cheltenham showpiece. He could be there or thereabouts in this race though!
Clan Des Obeaux
Paul Nicholls-trained Clan Des Obeaux rolled back the years with an impressive outing at the recent Grand National Festival at Aintree earlier this month — holding off the more fancied Conflated by a length to defend his Bowl title. It was a victory not many seen coming after finishing second in the King George VI Chase on Boxing Day and third in the Denman Chase in February.
It has been confirmed that the 10-year-old, part-owned by Sir Alex Ferguson, will definitely head to Punchestown — where he will try and defend his Gold Cup crown after stunning A Plus Tard last year. However, it will take another epic run from Clan Des Obeaux if he is to get the better of the fresher Allaho and Minella Indo over in Ireland.
After a great start to the season — winning a Grade 3 Chase at Punchestown, finishing a close second to Frodon in the Down Royal Champion Chase and beating A Plus Tard in a dramatic Grade 1 Savills Chase — a lot was expected of Galvin in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. But, the Gordon Elliott-trained horse was a disappointing fourth — over 17 lengths behind the winner.
The Irish trainer, who missed last year’s Punchestown Festival due to his suspension from the sport, will be out to land his fair share of winners this year — especially with racegoers set to return for the first time since 2019. So, he’ll be hoping that the eight-year-old can bounce back in the Punchestown Gold Cup and put on the kind of performance that saw him beat A Plus Tard earlier in the year.
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