Sir Des Champs: John Durkan Chase pencilled in as starting pointPICTURE: Patrick McCann (racingpost.com/photos)
Sir Des Champs set to clash with Flemenstar
SIR DES CHAMPS, ante-post favourite for the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup, looks like starting his season in the John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase on December 9 trainer Willie Mullins has revealed.
The six-year-old went through his novice season unbeaten, winning at the Cheltenham and Punchestown festivals in the spring but he could face a tough test in the John Durkan with that race also earmarked for Sunday's impressive Fortria Chase winner Flemenstar.
"I imagine we are gearing this year towards the Gold Cup. He'll probably start off in the John Durkan and he's entered in the King George, but he'll be entered in Leopardstown (the Lexus Chase) at Christmas too," said Mullins.
"He's a lovely big horse, he's built to carry 12 stone over three miles which is ideally what you want in a chaser," Mullins told At The Races.
"I think the key to him is that he's so relaxed, I've never seen him at full strength or full speed, he just does what he has to do. That's just the way he is I think.
"We'll just plot a course as it comes between now and March, there are various races we can go for but we'll see how he gets through his first race and then plan the second one."
Al Ferof: leading fancy 'flying' as Paddy Power Gold Cup nearsPICTURE: Martin Lynch (racingpost.com/photos)
AL FEROF, 7-1 with the sponsors for the Paddy Power Gold Cup, has been "flying" ahead of his seasonal reappearance on Saturday according to owner John Hales.
Just Grands Crus and Hunt Ball are shorter than Al Ferof for the £160,000 contest which champion trainer Paul Nicholls will be attempting to win for the first time.
Hales said: "We decided to run him in the Paddy Power after a racecourse gallop at Wincanton last Sunday.
"He goes very well fresh early in the season and he has been flying in training and Paul decided he was well enough to go for the race. We are going to have to give weight away but weight carrying is something that he is used to and I don't think that it will be a problem.
"He has raced over two and a half miles before and done very well and we have our eye on the King George, which he has an entry for, if he runs well over two and a half at Cheltenham as that would be the equivalent of three miles on a flat track like Kempton.
"Paul will make a decision about his next target after the Paddy Power."
Go Native: set to have first start over hurdles for more than two yearsPICTURE: Patrick McCann (racingpost.com/photos)
NOEL MEADE is relishing seeing Go Native back over hurdles when he takes on Hurricane Fly in the Grade 1 Dobbins & Madigans Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown on Sunday.
The nine-year-old will be having his first start over hurdles since finishing out of the frame when sent off favourite for the 2010 Champion Hurdle.
He has run well in two comeback runs on the Flat recently, winning a qualified riders race last time and Meade said: "I was delighted with his performance at Galway and, to be honest, his turn of foot surprised us a little.
"He seemed to be right back to his best so we are looking forward to Sunday. Obviously if Hurricane Fly turns up he will be the horse to beat".