All eyes will be on Punchestown on Sunday with the two most exciting staying chasers in Ireland set to clash for the first time in the John Durkan. It's a mouth-watering clash between two horses who are both well fancied for the Gold Cup at Cheltenham in March and it should offer plenty of ante post clues. The bookmakers are struggling to choose between the pair with Flemenstar likely to start the slight favourite having already run this season as opposed to Sir Des Champs who will be returning to the track for the first time since the Punchestown Festival. There has been plenty of excitement surrounding both of these progressive chasers over the past 18 months and the race on Sunday could go a long way to to sorting which of the two is the more likely Gold Cup contender. We know that Sir Des Champs loves Cheltenham having won at the Festival for the past two years and based on that he is currently the shorter of the two horses in the ante post betting for the big race in March.
On the other hand trainer Peter Casey has deliberately kept Flemenstar away from Cheltenham in the past as he has progressed through the ranks. He has won his last six races on the bounce with increasing style and he looked better than ever last month at Navan when he won the Fortria Chase over two miles in testing conditions. That was a good run for a seasonal debut and connections are convinced that three mile is the trip that will suit him best going forward. The John Durkan Chase is run over 2m4f which should cause no problem for either horse with Sir Des Champs winning the Jewson Novices Chase over the same distance last season and Flemenstar also comfortable at the trip. Taking that into account his race looks almost impossible to call with Flemenstar perhaps the one to beat based on the fact that he is likely to be fitter following his win at Navan last month. Sir Des Champs is clearly a class act though, he is a dual Cheltenham Festival winner, he remains unbeaten for Willie Mullins and is many punters ante-post pick for the Gold Cup.