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Saturday 3 December 2016

Punchestown 2015: Cossack can follow up Aintree show with another ace display

Don Cossack
Don Cossack

Grade Ones abound at Punchestown, with Don Cossack a likely sort in the feature race of the day tomorrow.

Gordon Elliott’s chaser was unlucky at Cheltenham, but made absolutely no mistake with a brilliant victory at Aintree. That triumph clearly did not take too much out of him as he now hones in on further top-level honours in the Bibby Financial Services Ireland Punchestown Gold Cup.

Shaneshill and put yet another big-race winner on the board for Willie Mullins when he contests the Irish Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle, with the exciting Charbel let in pretty lightly for the Attheraces.com Champion INH Flat Race.

Hawkesbury can outmanoeuvre a strong field declared for the Merriebelle Stable Pavilion Stakes at Ascot.

The six-furlong Group Three looks bang up to scratch, with the unbeaten Limato probably the pick of the crop.

But with trainer Henry Candy not quite convinced he has the three-year-old gelding right where he wants him, Hawkesbury is taken to capitalise.

Godolphin’s inmate has only raced five times, but he showed as a youngster that this step into Group class should not be an issue.

Second-placed finishes behind Belardo and Fannaan add weight to that theory, while he might also be a shade fitter than most of his rivals after having won a decent conditions stakes at Wolverhampton in January.

Charlie Appleby’s grey son of Shamardal is undeniably progressive, with the decision to have him gelded looking a wise move judged by his Wolves rout.

This is much tougher, of course, but he is well admired by his in-form trainer and has winning form on fast ground, when he breezed seven lengths clear of the 102-rated Russian Punch at Doncaster last June.

The outcome of the Longines Sagaro Stakes could be dependent upon the ground, which is currently on the brisk side. There is rain forecast, though, and that woul d be a significant boon to horses like Tac De Boistron.

Be that as it may, a fully-fired-up Forever Now may prove a little sharper at this early stage of the season. Trained by the white-hot John Gosden and ridden by a similarly on-song Frankie Dettori, the four-year-old colt was hardly jaw-dropping on his seasonal debut, when only third behind stablemate Deuce Again in the Further Flight Stakes at Nottingham.

There were, however, extenuating circumstances as an uneven pace from the outset did not play to his strengths. That was also his first start since finishing sixth in the St Leger, so he almost certainly needed the spin.

Forever Now still needs to prove his aptitude for two miles, but he has less mileage than many of his Sagaro rivals and should be more forward than most.

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