D-Day For Gold Cup Hope Punchestowns


Tagged under: 3.20 Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup Steeple Chase 3m 2 1/2f

The Nicky Henderson trained Punchestowns was expected to put himself in the Gold Cup picture when sent off the 11/10 favourite to win Cheltenham's Argento Chase at Cheltenham last month, but the gelding proved a huge disappointment, when trailing home over 30 length behind all the way winner Neptune Collonges.

The trainer subsequently blamed himself for the poor run, saying: " I think he needed Cheltenham badly."

The son of Morespeed has three entries at the festival. As well as the Gold Cup, for which the horse can be backed at odds of 40/1, the eight-year-old also has the Ryanair Chase and Ladbrokes World Hurdle as possible options.

The former World Hurdle runner-up will drop back to 2m 4f for today's 40% Better Off On Betfair SP Graduation Chase at Kempton, and how the horse performs will determine any future plans, with Henderson saying: " Im not worried about taking a step back in distance.

" These races are great opportunities for horses to try to get some practice and confidence and get back on track, which I sincerely hope he will do.

" This is a very important one for him. I accept that after Cheltenham we have something to prove. If I prove that he wasn't as straight and as sharp as he should have been at Cheltenham then that's all good news."

Faced with two decent rivals in the shape of Crack Away Jack and Pasco, nothing less than a convincing victory for Punchestowns will suffice, yet if he handles the challenge of the reduced trip well enough it is possible that the Ryanair may turn out to be the most realistic festival target, making the 20/1 available with Coral and Stan James an attractive proposition.

With the 2011 totesport Gold Cup looking a seriously competitive contest it would need an outstanding performance at Kempton today to convice that Punchestowns has any chance of championship glory, otherwise, connections will have to lower their sights in just over four weeks time.

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