Gold Cup runner-up Anibale Fly could kick start his season in Sunday’s Grade 1 John Durkan Memorial Chase at Punchestown as 14 horses have stood their ground following the latest forfeit stage.
Last year’s winner Min is one of five possible runners for champion trainer Willie Mullins, while Ruth Jefferson has left Waiting Patiently in the €85,000 contest as she considers her options between Punchestown and Sandown this weekend.
Another stellar renewal of the race is in store with the Pat Kelly-trained Presenting Percy also on track for a seasonal debut at Punchestown this weekend and the Grade 1 winning Shattered Love looks likely to spearhead Gordon Elliott’s quest to go one better than last year and win this race for a second time.
Anibale Fly’s trainer Tony Martin reported his stable star to be in good form ahead of a possible assignment this weekend.
“The plan is to do a piece of work with Anibale Fly tomorrow (Wednesday) morning and see how he goes there but he’s in great form,” Martin said.
“He’s working away nicely at home and I think he is ready to run but we’ll just give him a spin in the morning and go from there. He has the option of the John Durkan at Punchestown on Sunday and he ran well over that trip last season so it wouldn’t be a worry starting him there. Long term the aim would be to get him back to the Gold Cup or a Grand National and we’ll just see how he progresses as the season goes on.”
Elliott has been pleased with Shattered Love since her emphatic victory at Clonmel last month and is hoping she can recapture her form from last year.
“Shattered Love ran really well in the John Durkan last year when she was second to Min and goes into Sunday on the back of a lovely confidence booster at Clonmel,” Elliott said.
“I think the Clonmel race has done her the world of good and if she comes back to the form she was in this time last year she must have a chance of running well on Sunday.”
A seven race card at Punchestown on Sunday is also due to feature the Voler La Vedette Mares Novice Hurdle and fresh from the success of Honeysuckle at the weekend, owner Kenneth Alexander will be hoping to unearth another promising mare with three potential runners in this race.
Blazing Emily, Carries Des Champs and Minella Melody have all been entered for Sunday’s Listed race and the latter is on course according to trainer Henry de Bromhead.
“Minella Melody won well in Cork and she seems to be a nice mare,” de Bromhead commented. “The third and fourth placed horses from Cork have won since and this race should tell us where we are with her. I’ve been happy since Cork and she likes an ease in the ground so we are looking forward to the weekend.”
As well as Carrie Des Champs, trainer Gordon Elliott could run Ard Abhainn and Mount Ida in the race also.
“This has been the plan for Ard Abhainn since Clonmel,” Elliott confirmed. “I was pleased with how she won that day and I think she’ll come forward for that run. There is a strong chance I could run all three mares. Carries Des Champs is a useful type and it makes sense to target this black-type race, while Mount Ida won in Galway and the form of that race has worked out very well since.”