Min faces strong opposition in John Durkan hat-trick bid

Min is set to face seven rivals in his bid for a record third victory in the John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase on Sunday.

The Willie Mullins-trained nine-year-old joined the likes of Native Upmanship and Djakadam as a dual winner 12 months ago – and will be well fancied to complete the hat-trick on his first start since winning the Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March.

Owned by Rich Ricci, his racing manager Joe Chambers told the Nick Luck Daily Podcast: “He’s in good form, he got his Cheltenham Festival victory in the Ryanair last year and he would probably have gone on to Aintree.

“He’s going for his third John Durkan in a row. He blew up badly at the back of the last 12 months ago when it was a bit of a howling gale and he did throw some ‘wahoo’ leaps in.

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“We’re hoping he’ll run well, for all that it will be a tough race as Willie has declared Allaho and Melon as well along with Tornado Flyer and then there’s Samcro, Battleoverdoyen and Le Richebourg – it’s a good field.

“Some of them have race fitness on their side so it’s going to be a real test of where he’s at.”

Min is one of four runners for the champion trainer, who is bidding to equal Jim Dreaper’s haul of seven victories.

Mullins also saddles Melon, last seen filling the runner-up spot at Cheltenham for the fourth time when beaten a nose by Samcro in the Marsh Novices’ Chase, as well as RSA Chase third Allaho and Tornado Flyer.

There was little between Samcro (left) and Melon at Cheltenham
There was little between Samcro (left) and Melon at Cheltenham (Tim Goode/PA)

Melon is set to renew rivalry with Samcro, who will be expected to improve from his comeback third at Down Royal last month. His Down Royal conqueror and stablemate Battleoverdoyen is again in opposition.

The Henry de Bromhead-trained Chris’s Dream bids to go one better than when mowed down late by The Storyteller in Down Royal’s Ladbrokes Champion Chase.

A quality Grade One field is completed by Joseph O’Brien’s Le Richebourg, who makes his first competitive appearance since winning for the fourth time in five starts over fences in the Irish Arkle at Leopardstown in February of last year.

Frank Berry, racing manager to owner JP McManus, said: “He’s been off a long time with a leg injury. Joseph is happy with him. It’s a hot enough race to get him started, but we don’t have many choices where to go so it will be nice to see him out.

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“He’s been back in training a good while and he’s up for the run now.”

Chacun Pour Soi won at the Dublin Racing Festival but was a late Cheltenham absentee
Chacun Pour Soi won at the Dublin Racing Festival but was a late Cheltenham absentee (PA Wire)

It promises to be another big afternoon for the Mullins team, with the Closutton maestro sending his star two miler Chacun Pour Soi to Cork for the Kerry Group Hilly Way Chase – a Grade Two prize he has already plundered on 10 occasions.

The eight-year-old will undoubtedly be a warm order to score on his first start since beating Min at the Dublin Racing Festival in February, with an 11th-hour setback having ruled him out of the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham.

Mullins is doubly represented, with Cash Back also one of seven declared.

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