17 Grade 1 winners among early entries for John Durkan chase

The John Durkan Chase at Punchestown has attracted a combined total of 49 Grade 1 winners with 17 individual horses to have won at the top level among a stellar list of 23 entries for the feature race on Sunday, 8th December.

Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Al Boum Photo heads the early entries for the €85,000 contest which also includes British entry Waiting Patiently for Malton-based trainer Ruth Jefferson.

Al Boum Photo is one of 11 Willie Mullins-trained entries in the 2m4f contest which has recently been a stepping stone for Gold Cup winners such as Sizing John and Don Cossack.

Don Cossack was Gordon Elliott’s sole success in the John Durkan Memorial Chase to date but the County Meath-based trainer is hoping to change that with one of his five early closing entries, which include Grade 1 winners Delta Work and Shattered Love.

Elliott said on Wednesday morning: “We’ve got plenty of options for the John Durkan and we will just see how things go over the next few weeks but hopefully we will be well represented. Shattered Love had a lovely confidence booster in a mares chase at Clonmel last Thursday and that should have done her the world of good. She ran very well in the Durkan last year and hopefully we can get her back there in the same form this year.”

Other household names that could represent champion trainer Willie Mullins in the John Durkan include BellshillDouvanFootpadUn De Sceaux and the very exciting Ryanair Novice Chase winner from the Punchestown Festival, Chacun Pour Soi but it is last year’s winner Min who is likely to spearhead the Mullins assault on this renewal, which takes place on Sunday, 8th December.

“Min could start off in the John Durkan,” Mullins reported. “We were delighted with his performance at Aintree last season over two and a half miles and we’re looking forward to getting him started again. We’ve have other entries but will decide closer to the time.”

Presenting Percy could be one of the most fascinating inclusions in the John Durkan Memorial Chase this year after an interrupted campaign last season.

Pat Kelly’s two-time Cheltenham Festival winner only had two runs last season, including the Cheltenham Gold Cup when he finished eighth behind Al Boum Photo but suffered a set-back in the process.

Owner Philip Reynolds gave a positive update on Presenting Percy ahead of his possible seasonal debut at Punchestown next month.

“It’s so far so good with him and the plan is to head to the John Durkan Chase, all being well,” said Reynolds. “He still has an important few weeks ahead of him and the next week or so will be crucial. All being well he will start off at Punchestown but we’ll keep our fingers crossed between now and then.”

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