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Djakadam can be as good as gold for Willie Mullins

By Thomas Kelly

Trainers from this side of the Irish Sea hold a very strong hand in the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup on March 18, with Willie Mullins responsible for a quarter of the 32 entries.

Despite Mullins' domination of the Festival in recent seasons, he has never won the Blue Riband event, but he will surely never have a stronger hand.

His gang of eight is led by last year's runner-up Djakadam, with last season's RSA winner Don Poli a strong second-string.

King George second Vautour, a winner at the last two Festivals, is also in the mix along with Sir Des Champs, the 2013 Gold Cup runner-up. Boston Bob, Valseur Lido, 2014 runner-up On His Own and Ballycasey are other possibles for Mullins.

Gordon Elliott's Don Cossack is also a huge threat for the raiders. He fell two out in the King George when staying on strongly.

In the absence of the injured reigning champion, Coneygree, the home team's defence is led by Cue Card, winner of the Champion Bumper in 2010 and still right at the top of his game for Colin Tizzard.

Two interesting novices have been given the option - the Elliott-trained No More Heroes and Sandy Thomson's Seeyouatmidnight - but Jonjo O'Neill has decided against entering More Of That.

Road To Riches, third behind Coneygree last March for Noel Meade, could be joined by stablemate Wounded Warrior, and the Co Meath handler is looking forward to the big day.

"I could not be happier with Road To Riches," said Meade.

"We had a bit of a blood disorder and snotty nose with him at Christmas, but all is well now and the plan is to go to Leopardstown for the Irish Gold Cup (formerly the Hennessy) on February 6."

Newbury's Hennessy winner Smad Place, O'Faolains Boy, Holywell, Grand National hero Many Clouds and 2014 Gold Cup winner Lord Windermere are also in the shake-up - as are Carlingford Lough and the long-absent Morning Assembly.

Cue Card's renaissance has been the feel-good story of the season, having won the Charlie Hall Chase before landing the first two legs of a £1million bonus on offer from Jockey Club Racecourses for winning the Betfair Chase at Haydock, the King George and the Gold Cup.

Cue Card has this season struck up a good rapport with Paddy Brennan, who said: "I think he has a massive chance as he loves Cheltenham, it brings the best out in him.

"It boils down to the Irish horses and it will be interesting to see where Vautour goes.

"I wouldn't rule him out but Don Cossack is the one I fear as he was unlucky in the King George."

Belfast Telegraph


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