COOLDINE, Ireland’s principal hope for next year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup, can continue his relentless climb up the ladder in the boylesports.com Champion Novice Chase at the opening stage of the Punchestown Festival this evening.
The seven-year-old has, essentially, always been a good horse, but his performance when winning the RSA Chase at Prestbury Park in March was exceptional and far in advance of anything he had previously achieved.
A swinging gallop throughout saw his massive stamina kick in and he crossed the line a whopping 16 lengths clear of compatriot, Horner Woods.
What was just as eye-catching was Cooldine’s jumping, which was crisp and accurate and, hopefully, he will produce a similar exhibition now. If he does then surely there can only be one result!
Gone To Lunch, pulled up in the RSA, is probably the main danger, having bounced back to form when finishing half a length runner-up behind Hello Bud in the Scottish National at Aintree. But he had a particularly hard race and it was only ten days ago.
Master Minded is, of course, the big draw in the Kerrygold Champion Chase and only if running way below the standard we have come to expect, or taking an uncharacteristic tumble, can he meet defeat.
The imposing six-year-old simply lives in a different world to his five rivals, arriving now on the back of a smooth seven lengths success in the two-mile Champion Chase at Cheltenham.
A year earlier, Master Minded produced a mind-boggling performance to destroy Voy Por Ustedes in the Champion Chase and it will be a surprise should the likes of Conna Castle, Big Zeb or Mansony be good enough to trouble the hot-pot.
Hurricane Fly, who had to miss Cheltenham with a splint problem, is reportedly back on track and gets the vote to take the Evening Herald Champion Novice Hurdle.
He put up a stunning display at Leopardstown at Christmas to slam Go Native by ten lengths and currently has to be regarded as our best chance of regaining the Champion Hurdle.
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