Nico de Boinville admits that he is very excited about the prospect of tackling Cheltenham Gold winner Sizing John on home turf later this month.
At the moment it looks very much as if de Boinville will be staring down Jessica Harrington’s charge at Punchestown on his own former Blue Ribband-winning partner Coneygree.
The 2015 Cheltenham winner has been reported by trainer Mark Bradstock to be in fine fettle and destined for the Punchestown Gold Cup on April 26, a race he is now 7/1 to win.
It hasn’t been easy for Coneygree since his Cheltenham glory. He has raced on just two subsequent occasions, most recently when finishing second behind Cue Card in Haydock’s Betfair Chase back in November.
Some minor problems forced him onto the sidelines again since, with no chance to race at last month’s Cheltenham Festival given his recovery timeframe.
His trainer immediately pinpointed Punchestown over Aintree as a potential end-of-season target, with the likelihood of a more forgiving surface in Ireland set to be in Coneygree’s favour.
According to de Boinville, the 10-year-old will be going to Punchestown “fresh” and he cannot wait for the challenge.
De Boinville told the Irish Times: “It’s looking good and if we get him back to his best I’m really looking forward to the clash with Sizing John.
“It’s all good news coming from the Bradstock’s and he goes there fresh and well.
“He definitely wants a bit of rain but he excels in his jumping and travels so well. I’ve always wanted to come to Ireland with a good horse.”
Sizing John is the 5/4 favourite for the Punchestown Gold Cup after he confounded any doubts about his staying power when coming up the Cheltenham hill in real style last month.
It began a golden spell for jockey Robbie Power and trainer Harrington, who on Monday combined to win the Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse with an outstanding performance from the novice Our Duke.
Joining Sizing John and Coneygree at Punchestown on Wednesday will be the Willie Mullin-trained Djakadam. He has twice settled for second in the feature at the Kildare track – just as he had done before this year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup.
There, he was in a hugely promising position under Ruby Walsh only to paddle his way through the second-last fence and hand an initiative to Sizing John that he never looked likely to seize back as he finished in fourth spot.
Djakadam is 7/2 second-favourite to win the Punchestown Gold Cup at the third time of asking.
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