Sir Des Champs
©Healy Racing Photos
By Gary Carson
A mouth-watering clash between Flemenstar and Sir Des Champs is on the cards after nine remained in the John Durkan Memorial Chase at Punchestown this Sunday.
The Grade One two-and-a-half mile contest is set to be the starting point for the unbeaten French-bred Sir Des Champs who carried all before him last season with scintillating wins at Cheltenham and Punchestown.
The ante-post favourite for the Cheltenham Gold Cup looks set to face a tough task on his return to action with Flemenstar coming into the race off the back of an impressive win at Navan last month.
Peter Casey's charge was an easy winner of the Fortria Chase, beating Big Zeb, and will look to stake his own claim for the blue riband event in March.
The County Meath trainer's son and assistant Francis said: "Flemenstar is in good order.
"By the looks of things the ground will be heavy on Sunday but he has won on heavy before.
"We couldn't have been happier with him at Navan so it's all systems go for Sunday as the Durkan Chase has always been the plan."
Sir Des Champs' trainer Willie Mullins is also responsible for Blackstairmountain and Blazing Tempo while the six-year-olds' owner Michael O'Leary has a strong hand with his Gigginstown House Stud horses.
Quito De La Roque, Bog Warrior and Magnanimity could all carry the maroon colours.
Rubi Light and Realt Dubh make up a quality packed field for the race.
Andrew Lynch will be riding Flemenstar, leaving Barry Geraghty to take over on last year's winner Rubi Light, who has not been seen since taking fourth in the Punchestown Gold Cup in April.
Trainer Robbie Hennessy said: "Rubi Light appears to be in great form. We schooled him last week and couldn't have been happier.
"This will be his first run of the season, but from what he has shown us, he is ready. Barry Geraghty will take the ride."
Paddy Power bet: 11-10 Flemenstar, 13-8 Sir Des Champs, 6 Rubi Light, Bog Warrior, 8 Quito De La Roque, 12 Realt Dubh, 16 Blackstairmountain, 20 Blazing Tempo, 33 Magnanimity
Ladbrokes are ‘match betting’ on the John Durkan Chase between Flemenstar at 4/5 and Sir Des Champs at even money (both horses must run for all bets to be valid).