Clan Des Obeaux, part-owned by Sir Alex Ferguson, recorded the first victory for a British-trained jumps horse in Ireland for nearly two years when he made all the running under Sam Twiston-Davies to beat Al Boum Photo, the Cheltenham Gold Cup winner in 2019 and 2020, by a length and a half in the Punchestown Gold Cup on Wednesday evening.
British stables had drawn a blank from 38 runners in Ireland since 4 May 2019. It was a third win in the race for Paul Nicholls, Clan Des Obeaux’s trainer, and the first for a runner from Britain since 2010.
Twiston-Davies won a hunter-chase on Baby Run at the Punchestown Festival as an amateur in 2009 and the ride on Wednesday was only his third at the track since. “I came here as a kid to ride Baby Run and was very aggressive everywhere and kind of thought, I could have a good career out of this,” Twiston-Davies said.
“Halfway round, I was thinking, this is almost Baby Run-esque. You don’t believe you’re going to keep going. But Paul assured me that he was fit and he’d keep going.”
At Ascot on Wednesday, Stradivarius eased to his first success in four outings in the Group Three Sagaro Stakes and is now likely to head straight to the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot and an attempt to equal Yeats’s record of four successive wins in the meeting’s showpiece event.
“He’s been in great form at home and he has the same enthusiasm he has always had,” Frankie Dettori, the winner’s jockey, said. “He has got a turn of foot and when I asked him to quicken, he got there too soon. He is an incredible horse.” Stradivarius shortened to a top price of 15-8 for the Gold Cup on 17 June, having been available at 5-2 before on Wednesday.
Thursday’s best bets
Flooring Porter (5.25), the Stayers’ Hurdle winner at Cheltenham last month, is reunited with Jonathan Moore in the Punchestown Festival’s equivalent on Thursday evening, and Gavin Cromwell’s gelding would be a very popular winner since Moore ruled himself out of the winning ride at Cheltenham on the day of the race, having sustained an injury in a fall at Naas five days earlier.
Moore, who has never won a race at the Cheltenham Festival, was forced to watch as Danny Mullins landed his first ever win at the meeting on Flooring Porter. Vanillier, another horse that Moore was booked to ride, took the Grade One Albert Bartlett Novice Hurdle 24 hours later, to complete a miserable week for the rider.
Flooring Porter has improved dramatically since winning a handicap at Navan off 136 in December. One slight concern is that he threw away a likely victory at Gowran Park in October by hanging badly to his left in the closing stages and this is his first start since at a right-handed track. If he can stick to a true line, however, he will be very tough to beat.
While Flooring Porter took one of the “big four” feature events at Cheltenham, however, the biggest name on the Punchestown card is arguably Energumene (6.35), not least in terms of his potential as a rival to Shishkin in the two-mile chasing division next season.
Willie Mullins’s seven-year-old was a late absentee from what was due to be his first meeting with Shishkin in the Arkle Trophy at Cheltenham due to lameness, but he will set off at prohibitive odds to beat a field that includes Henry de Bromhead’s Captain Guinness, who was 13 lengths behind Shishkin in third at the Festival. Energumene is currently 12-1 for next year’s Champion Chase in a market headed by Shiskin at 6-4, but the odds could shift significantly after Thursday’s race.
On the domestic cards, Jadwal (2.30) is an interesting runner at around 6-1 at Lingfield Park, despite finishing five lengths adrift of Dragon Symbol on his return at Kempton earlier this month. On the face of it, the form of that four-runner contest is weak behind the easy winner, but the time was exceptionally fast and Jadwal ran well to get as close as he did on his first start since September. Dragon Symbol, incidentally, has an entry at Hamilton on Sunday and is also still entered for the two Group One sprints at Royal Ascot.
Arij (7.15) has been running well on the all-weather throughout the winter and could put his fitness advantage to good use against likely favourite Dawaam at Chelmsford City later, while Spirit Of Bermuda (3.50) and Mythical Madness (4.25) both have decent claims at Redcar.