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Midweek magic as Gold Cup second Rocco among jumps stars in action

Minella Rocco: Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up makes his return
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Punchestown lights the touchpaper on what should be another thrilling jumps season with a star-studded card featuring the likes of Death Duty, Minella Rocco, Outlander, Road To Respect and Samcro.

Gordon Elliott has wasted no time in getting his winter warriors to the track this autumn and Outlander, winner of the Grade 1 Lexus Chase last year, will begin his campaign in the Grade 3 Irish Daily Star Chase (4.10) under Jack Kennedy.

Elliott said: “This has been the plan for Outlander for a while now and he’s in good shape. His form tapered off a little last season and we couldn’t figure out why, but he’s since been operated on for a kissing spine and he seems to be very well in himself.”

He added: “I haven’t lost any faith in him anyway and the plan would be to go to the Champion Chase at Down Royal in November.”

Along with Outlander, Gigginstown House Stud are also represented by Grade 1 novice chase winner Road To Respect and Sub Lieutenant, who has yet to score over three miles.

Speaking about Sub Lieutenant, Henry de Bromhead said: “He's in good form and ready to start. He seemed to stay well last season and has run over the trip before, so I don’t think the distance will be a problem for him."

Rocco ready to start

JP McManus is doubly represented with Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up Minella Rocco and five-time Grade 1 winner Carlingford Lough.

Racing manager Frank Berry said: “It took a while for the penny to drop with Minella Rocco but he improved throughout the season and he ran a cracker to finish second in the Gold Cup. Jonjo [O’Neill, trainer] reports him to be in good shape and he’s ready to start off.

"Carlingford Lough is ready to start back as well. He’ll like the ground.”

Andy Lynch can barely contain his excitement as he takes the wraps off Zabana for the first time this season. He said: “I’m very happy with him but he’s a much better horse on good ground.

"He’s really pleasing me at home but he’ll probably improve for the run. I’d say we’ll go to Down Royal in a couple of weeks with him, provided everything goes to plan here.”

The field is completed by John Ryan’s Kilcarry Bridge, an impressive winner of a handicap hurdle last time, but the ten-year-old has a lot to find on ratings.

'Chasing was always going to be his game'

The Grade 3 Buck House Novice Chase (3.40) has attracted only five runners and again Gigginstown are well represented with Death Duty and Tout Est Permis taking each other on.

One of the leading novice hurdlers last season, Death Duty won his beginners’ chase at Tipperary just over a fortnight ago, and Elliott expects a good showing from the six-year-old.

He said: “Chasing was always going to be his game and he did it well at Tipperary. We have been very happy with him since.

"It’s a long season, so we haven’t thought much further than this race.”

The Jessica Harrington-trained Woodland Opera, Liam Kenny's A Rated and Three Wise Men, trained by Henry de Bromhead, complete the line-up.

If there’s a future star on show it could well be Samcro, who was unbeaten in bumpers last season and has been made ante-post favourite for the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle (formerly the Neptune) at the Cheltenham Festival.

Samcro makes his hurdling debut in the 2m maiden (2.05) and Elliott said: “He looked very exciting in bumpers last season and we’re looking forward to starting him off over hurdles. He has schooled very well and he did a nice piece of work recently. He's a very good horse.”

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He’s really pleasing me at home but he’ll probably improve for the run. I’d say we’ll go to Down Royal in a couple of weeks with him
E.W. Terms
Sky bet