IT’S difficult enough to look beyond Kauto Star in what is a weakly contested Grade 1 Guinness Gold Cup at Punchestown today.
All the evidence this season is he is nowhere near as a good as he was, but if the Kauto Star that ran in the Gold Cup at Cheltenham in March turns up then the likelihood is that will still be good enough.
Paul Nicholls’ 11-year-old began the campaign with a less than impressive success at Down Royal and then disappointed when a poor third behind Long Run in the King George at Kempton.
At Cheltenham, however, he hinted that there was life in the old dog yet with a cracking effort to fill third behind Long Run and Denman.
Kempes ran no sort of race in the Gold Cup, but prior to that landed the Hennessy at Leopardstown and also won over this course and distance a year ago. He will like the surface and has some sort of life.
The main danger, however, should be the grey Tom George-trained Nacarat, who benefited from a fine drive by Paddy Brennan to score at Aintree.
He will love the fast ground, but the problem is that he couldn’t beat a below-par Kauto Star in the King George.
The nap vote goes to Dermot Weld’s unbeaten four-year-old Waaheb in the betchronicle.com Champion Bumper.
He has been hugely impressive so far, winning twice at Leopardstown and then coasting home hard-held by seven lengths at Limerick.
This is far and away his toughest assignment to date, against some smart rivals, led by the Cheltenham third, Aupcharlie, but Waaheb is fancied to come through with flying colours.
The Grade 2 Irish Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle is some puzzle, hardly helped by four runners from the Willie Mullins yard.
The hopeful nod falls on one of them, Lambro, who seemed to be crying out for three miles when scrambling to a short head win at Fairyhouse just eight days ago.
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