The return of Cheltenham Gold Cup hopeful Don Cossack is the highlight of today’s action at Punchestown, and the Gordon Elliott-trained eight-year-old is impossible to oppose in the Grade 3 Irish Daily Star Chase.
Beaten just once in seven outings last season, when an unlucky third behind Uxizandre in the Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, his victories included this race, in which he readily accounted for Loosen My Load.
The son of Sholokov ended the term on a mark of 175, which makes him a standout here, even allowing for his trainer’s assertion he will need the run.
If allowed to take his chance — connections will not risk him on fast ground — he should make a successful first step on the road to the Gold Cup.
His four rivals include two stable companions, Roi Du Mee and Bright New Dawn, and the former looks the one to chase him home.
Bright New Dawn, having his first run for Elliott, is more interesting with the future in mind, and today’s two-mile-seven trip may stretch him on his first start of the season.
Elliott should also pick up the Grade 3 Buck House Novice Chase with The Game Changer.
In rude health this term, he proved too good for one of today’s rivals, Sizing Platinum, last time out, and should have little trouble confirming the form on 2lb worse terms.
The runner-up may have to settle for the same position once more, though The Game Changer’s stable companion, Miss Dinamic, has Ruby Walsh on board for the first time, and is progressive enough to have a say where the minor money goes.
The nap goes to Whatever It Takes, in the two-mile handicap hurdle.
Niall Madden’s horse has won two similar contests in the past, the first off a higher mark than he runs off today, and one off the same mark.
The eight-year-old has been in good form on the Flat, and his most recent effort, at Dundalk, has seen him raised to a career-high mark.
That augurs well for his return to hurdling and, with conditions to suit, looks certain to run a big race.
Jarob can carry top weight to victory in the two-and-a-half-mile handicap hurdle.
Andrew Lynch’s horse has been in great form recently, winning over hurdles in August and over fences last month, and there could be more to come. With Finny Maguire taking off a very handy 7lbs, the in-form selection can complete his hat-trick at the expense of Burrenbridge Lodge.
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