The Gold Cup could see a serious shake up this weekend, with two of Ireland’s leading lights locking horns in the John Durkan Chase at Punchestown.
Sir Des Champs and Flemenstar are prominent in the betting for next March’s Cheltenham highlight on the back of brilliant novice campaigns. The former is unbeaten in seven career starts, including a victory at last term’s Festival, and trainer Willie Mullins has made no secret of the regard he holds the six-year-old in.
Flemenstar is a year older and he has been beaten just once since going over fences, to Bog Warrior who reopposes on Sunday. But while Bog Warrior’s career has gone backwards, Flemenstar has done nothing but improve. He beat Big Zeb on his seasonal debut and has race fitness on his side.
The bookmakers favour Flemenstar on Sunday and he looks made for the two-and-half-mile trip. Sir Des Champs does not lack for speed, but he looks the stouter stayer and even if he is beaten his price could well contract for the Gold Cup.