Our Duke can provide Jessica Harrington and Robbie Power with their second successive victory in the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup.
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The Irish trainer struck gold with her very first runner in the blue riband when Sizing John claimed top honours last season, and while he is unfortunately not back to defend his crown, Our Duke is a more-than-capable understudy.
The eight-year-old would have been fully entitled to run at last year’s Festival after winning a Grade One novice chase at Leopardstown, but connections elected to take a cautious approach and he instead remained on home soil.
The decision paid off as Our Duke ran out a brilliant winner of the Irish Grand National, looking every inch a Gold Cup contender as he jumped and galloped his rivals silly under a big weight.
This season has not been so straightforward, with a back problem discovered after a listless comeback at Down Royal, but that was swiftly rectified. Because of his interrupted campaign he heads into the spring relatively fresh, and providing he takes to the track he should be coming home strongly when some of his rivals may have cried enough.
Apple’s Shakira will not be much of a price in the opening JCB Triumph Hurdle but it is hard to side against her.
CHELTENHAM: 1.30 Apple’s Shakira, 2.10 Flying Tiger, 2.50 Poetic Rhythm, 3.30 Our Duke, 4.10 BURNING AMBITION (NAP), 4.50 Deal D’Estruval, 5.30 Rock The World.
DUNDALK: 5.20 Blastofmagic, 5.55 Settle For Red, 6.30 Kalann, 7.00 Primo Uomo, 7.30 Delegating, 8.00 Eacharn, 8.30 Ishigati, 9.00 Sir Danilo.
FAKENHAM: 2.00 Saucysioux, 2.40 Remind Me Later, 3.20 Granard, 3.55 Eskendash, 4.35 Minella On Line, 5.10 Champion Chase.
LINGFIELD: 1.00 Sonnet Rose, 1.40 Al Khan, 2.20 Night Story, 3.00 Regicide, 3.40 Crown Walk, 4.20 Regina Nostra, 5.00 Dolly Mixture.
MUSSELBURGH: 11.30 Drums Of War, 12.05 Silver Concorde, 12.40 Middlebrow, 1.10 Nefyn Bay, 1.50 Uptown Funk, 2.30 Misfits, 3.10 Leostar.
WOLVERHAMPTON: 5.45 Cat Royale, 6.15 Dream For Life, 6.45 Highly Focussed, 7.15 Ad Vitam, 7.45 Rock On Baileys, 8.15 Met By Moonlight, 8.45 La Sioux.