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John Durkan Memorial Chase Preview

A spate of feral weather in the UK and Ireland has put several meetings at risk, so let's hope the Grade 1 John Durkan Memorial Chase goes ahead at Punchestown on Sunday. It'll almost certainly be a heavy track.

Making his first appearance on the blog with no fear about the going or the uncertainty is Neal Murphy, @njmurphy1985. Welcome aboard!

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John Durkan Memorial Chase
Grade 1, €80,000, 2m4f
1350 local 0050 AEDST
Likely Going; Heavy

Clarcam

Having shaped quite nicely on seasonal return needing the run in Gowran, his effort in Down Royal was tremendously disappointing. He travelled through the race without his usual verve and didn’t land any sort of blow on the day. On the back of that run and the pick of his form last season beating an out of sorts Vautour at Christmas and Vibrato Valtat in Aintree, I think he will find his level short of open Grade 1 company this season. Unlikely to feature on Sunday.

Djakadam

A serious player in this season’s Cheltenham Gold Cup given his tremendous second last season, Djakadam opened on Monday as best price 13/8 favourite for this race. Six pounds clear of Foxrock on official ratings, one can see on the back of the Gold Cup performance, potential improvement with age and connections why odds-compliers placed him top of the market. The positives are hard to argue with but two negatives make the opposition a viable choice. Firstly, Willie has one race in mind for this horse and it is not this. Like all his superstar stable mates he will definitely need the run on seasonal bow and will be seen to better effect next day out. Secondly, the trip will be inadequate for a horse that appears to want every inch of three miles. He’s an archetypal Gold Cup candidate and while Road To Riches recently won a Grade 1 over 2.5 miles, he is a more talented individual with a few more gears than this fella.

Flemenstar

Just seeing him back on the track would warm the iciest of hearts but like us all, Father Time waits for no man and particularly given the long spell on the side-line, his Rolls-Royce engine appears to lack the glorious ferocity of yesteryear. Now trained by the owner’s son, Anthony Curran, connections were bullish re his seasonal comeback and he shaped nicely, showing enthusiasm of old but once they hit two out he emptied worryingly like his runs last season and spluttered home a very tired horse. This race is over an extra four furlongs and should be run to a true enough pace and with that, the head rules the heart and gives him no chance. The romantics amongst us will have a stab at 33s and I can see why but if he is to win this season, I think it will be in a lesser grade over the minimum trip.

Foxrock

While a good second in last season’s Irish Hennessy, a look through the field would not inspire and his subsequent outing in the Ryanair at Cheltenham was a non-event after being supplemented. A prep run over hurdles will have him fit and is a winner of a valuable handicap off 149 over the trip but I think he’ll come up short on Sunday given the opposition.

Gilgamboa

After promising a lot in his Grade 2 win in Limerick at Christmas, Gilgamboa’s subsequent runs last season and even including a Grade 1 win, were disappointing in comparison. He was taken out his comfort zone by Un De Sceaux in the Irish Arkle, beaten by Rawnaq over an inadequate trip (2m1f) in Navan and laboured in a hard fought win in the Ryanair Gold Cup (formerly Powers Gold Cup) when the two market principles, Apache Stronghold and Valseur Lido, failed to fire 3 weeks post Cheltenham which he skipped. He was also fortunate The Tullow Tank only woke up after the last, just failing to reel him in in the dying strides. While he will enjoy conditions on Sunday, there is uncertainty over best trip (trainer said in a recent stable tour he will step up to 3 miles), more than likely will need the run on seasonal debut and most pertinently of all, have to answer serious questions over his class to mix it in open Grade 1 company this season. Currently available best price 9/2, I think he is the poor value and to be avoided at the prices.

Hidden Cyclone

A consistent performer over the years and a very good horse on his day, particularly over two miles. The winner of this season’s Fortria Chase, it is questionable form given the market principles failed to fire and they all finished very tired horses having needed the run. While he has placed in a Grade 1 over this trip before, this is likely to be a real test of stamina with conditions and I can see him struggling to get home.

Valseur Lido

Proved himself as a high quality novice chaser last season on the back off two Grade 1 victories and a placed effort behind Vautour and Apache Stronghold at the Cheltenham festival. He is a horse to look forward over the coming seasons but I do feel his Punchestown Grade 1 over three miles flatters him as they went a steady pace and all were coming off the back of a long season. Irish Cavalier’s proximity four and a bit lengths behind besmirches the form in my book. It was also very surprising when the stable suggested him as a possible Grand National horse in a recent stable tour as I’d have thought he was held in higher regard than that. With him more than likely to need the run and the stable mentioning handicap targets in April, the best price 3/1 looks skinny.

Summary

This is a very difficult race to have a confident selection given the question marks raised above. Djakadam and Valseur Lido will need the run; do Clarcam, Gilgamboa, Foxrock have the class and Hidden Cyclone is far more at home over two miles. Djakadam was beaten off 142 last season in the Hennessy first time out and many will highlight this is why he can’t win on Sunday. However, he travelled well in the race looking like the winner for much of it, tiring badly around four out and struggling to get home over the 3m 2f trip. It is no coincidence the winner that day, Many Clouds, went on to win the Grand National the following April. He opened best price 13/8 earlier in the week and is now available at 9/4 with Valseur Lido vying for market favouritism. This looks an overreaction and with the heavy ground and no standout opposition he looks the best bet at the prices. The seven runners ruin any EW consideration and while he does lack gears, his run in the Gold Cup shows he is absolute Grade 1 class and this should see him prevail.

1. Djakadam
2. Valseur Lido


Neal Murphy njmurphy4@hotmail.com @njmurphy1985

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