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Punchestown Gold Cup preview

Punchestown stretches over five days but perhaps a little strangely, the main event is run on day two. But then again, the feature races are strung out across the festival so perhaps it's not such a bad thing. Anyhow, it's a quality field well known to punters on both sides of the Irish Sea. Making his debut on the blog with the preview is Mark Boylan, a young Irish racing enthusiast and talented musician, often writing about the sport of kings. Follow him @markcboylan or on his Facebook page - Facebook.com/MarkBoylanMusic

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Lieutenant To Command Gold Cup Rivals

Mark Boylan

On Wednesday, the feature race of the day and for some, the entire festival is TheTote.com Punchestown Gold Cup. This race showcases the much anticipated clash between Long Run and Sir Des Champs.

Long Run is returning from a very creditable third in the Cheltenham Gold Cup last month and connections from Seven Barrows Stables appear to be exuding confidence in their six-time Grade 1 winning star. Cheek-pieces are expected to be fitted once again and owner Robert Waley-Cohen has reported that the horse has come out of Cheltenham in superb form.

The Willie Mullins trained Sir Des Champs will be at the head of many punter’s shortlists after the seven year-old son of Robin Des Champs produced a career best performance when earning a second place finish to Bob’s Worth at the Cheltenham Festival – two and three parts of a length ahead of Long Run.

Whether or not Long Run is capable of reversing the form with Sir Des Champs remains to be seen, but personally I feel that if Long Run is ridden less aggressively and much more patiently, the former Cheltenham Gold Cup winner can add another big prize to his already impressive tally.

Although these two will more than likely dominate the market, the ultra consistent First Lieutenant could be the ‘fly in the ointment’ for the Mouse Morris team having produced some outstanding performances already this season.

Other notable contenders include the Philip Hobbs trained Captain Chris who is sure to appreciate the right-handed track and Jimmy Nesbitt’s lightly campaigned nine year-old Riverside Theatre. After studying his run in the Ryanair Chase behind Cue Card repeatedly, I feel that this extended three miles will help his style of racing and level of stamina.

Former Irish Champion Hurdle and Queen Mother Champion Chase winner Sizing Europe held an entry but elected to take on Sprinter Sacre instead today in a very gallant performance.

A trio of competitors from the Aintree Grand National were nominated to line up in the Blue Riband of the week - but only Chicago Grey from the Gordon Elliot team paid up. He'll be the longshot of the field

This looks to be an outstanding renewal of the race and if First Lieutenant lines up, he’ll be a major player in my opinion. The form of horses who have won the Betfred Bowl at Aintree and have come to this race afterwards, read 1st/ 1st/2nd and earlier this month, Mouse Morris’ stalwart wore his heart on his sleeve once again to win that particular race.

All in all, we are sure to be treated to a thrilling contest, perhaps the most keenly contested of renewals for years. Based on the consistency of his performances this season, the brave FIRST LIEUTENANT looks to have enough in him to land another big prize for Gigginstown House Stud.

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