No need to oppose Denman

I have little hesitation siding with Denman in the Guinness Gold Cup at Punchestown today.

He came right back to something approaching his best in the Cheltenham Gold Cup and there’s every chance he could be even better now.

I know, from talking to Paul Nicholls, he looks better than he did before Cheltenham and lots of sunshine of late appears to have brought him on. He is currently doing things right at home and there are no worries regarding his ability to travel, having won a Lexus at Leopardstown.

There are those who hold the view he may not be as good travelling right-handed, but that would not concern me at all.

It’s just that most of the races Denman has been aimed at happened to be left-handed, but he has won at Exeter and Wincanton.

You can’t knock Joncol, but at the same time I just don’t think he’s good enough to win. He beat Cooldine in the Hennessy at Leopardstown, but Willie Mullins’ horse wasn’t match-fit that day.

In the final analysis, I believe this is going to be a straight battle between Paul and Willie.

My opinion is that Cooldine - he was much too keen in the Gold Cup - is the best chaser in Ireland, but whether he’s good enough to trouble Denman only time will tell.

Willie also fires another arrow at Denman in the shape of J’Vole, who ran an absolute cracker against Albertas Run and Poquelin in the Ryanair at Cheltenham.

Poquelin performed way below par at Aintree, but Albertas Run won there, so the form is rock solid.

Cooldine is well capable of taking on Denman at the front, if that’s the plan, whereas J’Vole will try to go past late on.

It’s a good position for Willie to be in, but I still have to row in with Denman.

Whatever Willie’s fate in the feature, I want to be with him in the opening handicap hurdle with Sivota.

He used to be trained by Mick Murphy, who now works for the Aga Khan, and had his first outing for Willie at Fairyhouse.

Sivota ran with promise to take fourth to Un Hinged, but I don’t think that race was run to suit him at all.

I rode the second that day, C’Est Ca, and can tell you there was no pace in the contest.

Sivota was held up and then caught flat-footed when we quickened. You’d imagine they will go a fair lick here, with 25 runners, and an extra half mile is a plus.

Tom Cooper’s Son Amix is the form horse, on his fourth in the Fred Winter at Cheltenham, in the conditions hurdle for four-year-olds.

He certainly sets the standard, although Willie has a strong hand with Doctor Deejay and Final Approach.

Doctor Deejay ran well when third at Fairyhouse, but got bogged down in the terrible ground and has a chance.

But I favour Final Approach, which I won on at Downpatrick.

I’m well aware it’s a long way from that track to Punchestown, but he jumped and travelled super and I was quite taken by him.

The Grade 3, three mile novice hurdle seems pretty open to me. Magnanimity stays well and Ad Idem has a life, while I’d expect Definitive Edge to be the best of Willie’s.

But, at a big price, maybe you might risk a little each-way on Tom Nagle’s American Job, which I partnered to finish third at Cork.

He has been crying out for a trip and a bit of good ground.

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Saturday, January 23, 2021

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