Aside from Djakadam, six horses have won two renewals of the John Durkan Memorial Chase (in its various guises), however – unlike Deirdre Barlow – none of that fine half-dozen were able to add a third notch to the bedpost. Djakadam will be the latest to try when he bids for a big-race hat-trick at Punchestown on Sunday in the John Durkan Memorial Chase 2.05pm, and Willie Mullins’ charge has plenty in his favour.
As Timeform chief correspondent Jamie Lynch wrote earlier this week: “The Gold Cup is his nemesis, but the John Durkan is his saviour, the only race he’s managed to win in his last two seasons, and first time out on both occasions.
“For Sizing John, the Gold Cup is his Gold Cup, while the John Durkan has become the Gold Cup for Djakadam, and he’ll be 100% primed for it, tipping the scales in his favour on Sunday, small margins making a big difference in their relationship, just a short head separating them in the Punchestown Gold Cup.”
Lynchy’s got it spot-on – it looks a two-horse race, as the other four all have a bit to find on Timeform ratings – and Djakadam is fancied to get the better of Sizing John, on this occasion at least. Admittedly, Willie Mullins has warned that Djakadam might not be as sharp as he has been in other years, but Mullins also told us that Douvan was heading to Sandown and that Father Christmas was real.
Sizing John made history when winning three Gold Cups last season, and probably deserves a bit more credit than he has actually received, but he was beaten on his reappearance last year and you couldn’t blame connections if their eyes were on prizes later in the season.
The meeting begins at 12.30pm with a novices’ hurdle that has been won previously by the likes of The Game Changer and Rock The World, and this year’s renewal looks more competitive than Gary and Phil Neville pulling a Christmas cracker.
Low Sun was backed as if defeat was out of the question when scraping home at Bellewstown in August, but he will need to brush up his jumping to beat the Gigginstown duo of Roaring Bull and Trainwreck. The nod goes to Roaring Bull, who had to do the donkey work when only third at Gowran last time and, assuming Us And Them front-runs again, he should fare better here.
The following maiden hurdle 1pm has plenty of history – Yorkhill beat Road To Respect and Mall Dini in 2015 – and Getabird will be a short price to give Willie Mullins another win in the race. He was sent off at 10/1-on when winning his second bumper last season, and should be good enough to see off fellow hurdling debutants Gun Digger and He’s No Molly.
Getabird is a fictional half-brother to the much tougher Keepabird, the well-known daughter of Dontforgetherbirthday and Dontforgethername from the family of Noiwontdothatthatsdisgusting. I’ll get my coat…