The Grade 1 Coral Punchestown Gold Cup takes centre stage this afternoon at the Punchestown Festival with two Cheltenham Gold Cup winners among a small but select field of six for the feature race.
In today’s feature Jessica Harrington’s 2017 Gold Cup victor sizing John lines up against his 2015 counterpart Coneygree who has been absent since finishing a distant second to Cue Card in the Betfair Chase at Haydock back in November.
Sizing John bids to become the first horse since War Of Attrition back in 2006 to win the Cheltenham/Punchestown Gold Cup Double.
The first Grade 1 on today’s card is the 3 mile Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle and three Cheltenham winners line up in a quality race. First and second in the Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle Penhill and Monalee re-oppose and they are joined by the winner of the 3 mile Pertemps Hurdle, Presenting Percy, and by Champagne Classic, winner of the Martin Pipe Hurdle.
Gordon Elliott will be hoping to bite back in the Irish trainers’ title race today and the current pacesetter has strong claims in the Racing Post Champion Flat Race (6.05) with Cheltenham winner Fayonagh who will be ridden by Jamie Codd.
The superb seven-race card at Punchestown begins at 3.40 and the going is currently good to yielding.
Un De Sceaux pipped on Day One
On Tuesday, the Colin Tizzard-trained Fox Norton got the better of Un De Sceaux in a thrilling finish to the Grade 1 Boylesports Champion Chase at Punchestown to take the prize back to Britain for a second successive year.
Un De Sceaux and Ruby Walsh took over in the lead soon after halfway traveling well, but they were joined on either side approaching the last and it was Fox Norton who kept on the better. Last year’s winner God’s Own was third.
It was another big winner for Robbie Power, who had three winners at Cheltenham, four at Aintree and landed the Irish Grand National on Our Duke earlier this month as well.
Fox Norton was returned at odds of 5-2 and won by one and three-quarter lengths from Un De Sceaux.
Disko got one back for punters and continued Noel Meade’s fine run with novice chasers at the big spring festivals this year when running out a decisive winner of the Grade 1 Growise Champion Novice Chase at Punchestown under Bryan Cooper. He was returned the 13-8 favourite.
Cooper had Disko on the quarters of Acapella Bourgeois, who unlike for his previous Grade 1 win was not given a healthy start, and took over before the third-last fence.
Turning in, several still had a chance, mostly in the same Gigginstown House Stud colours of the winner. A Toi Phil, A Genie In ABottle and Anibale Fly all laid down a brief challenge, but Disko shrugged them all off and extended after the last to win by five lengths. Anibale Fly stayed on to beat A Genie In Abottle into third, making a one-three for Meade.
Cooper said: “I’m delighted for him. He jumps really well and he stayed – Noel said he would. He loves this good ground. He showed more gears than I thought he would when I sent him on, and he only made that one mistake three out and other than that he was grand. It’s great to get one on the board nice and early at this meeting.”
Disko was third in the JLT at the Festival last month and was cut across the boards for Cheltenham glory next year. He is now a general 25-1 chance for next year’s Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup, having been 50-1 this morning.
Additional reporting Denis Kirwan and HRI.