Alex Hammond tips Flemenstar to edge out Sir Des Champs in Sunday's John Durkan Chase at Punchestown.
In Ireland, there is another potential thrilling head-to-head in the John Durkan Memorial Chase at Punchestown. It sees the clash of two top chasers, Sir Des Champs and Flemenstar. Flemenstar is Sky Bet's even-money favourite for this 2m4f Grade 1 and has the benefit of a win under his belt already this term. Peter Casey's star chaser was impressive in the Fortria Chase at Navan last month where he jumped particularly well. That was over two miles and I think his superior speed gives him another advantage over the 13/8 second-favourite.
Much was made of the fact that he will have improved for that run too and remember none of these top horses will be fully wound up at this stage of the season.
The Willie Mullins-trained Sir Des Champs is unbeaten since joining Ireland's champion jumps trainer. He capped a magnificent season with a win in the Grade 1 Champion Novice Chase over 3m1f at Punchestown in April.
As far as the Gold Cup is concerned, I'd rather be on Sir Des Champs (and I've already backed him for the Cheltenham race for which he is currently 5/1 second fav). He looks the much more convincing stayer of the duo, whilst Flemenstar has bags of speed. I think that speed and the fact he has had a run this season could see Flemenstar edge it on Sunday and I won't be ripping up my antepost voucher if Sir Des Champs is beaten. Sir Des Champs is a lazy horse and he may need an outing or two to get him spot on for targets later in the season.
The International meeting takes place in Hong Kong on Sunday with plenty of British interest. Star attraction Cirrus Des Aigles has been ruled out by a ligament strain, but watch out for the likes of Carlton House (Cup), Sea Moon, Dunaden and Red Cadeaux (Vase) amongst others. I'll bring you the latest news and market movers ahead of the races on Sky Sports News on Saturday. Have a great weekend's racing.
Flemenstar in the John Durkan Memorial Chase @ Evs with Sky Bet