The extended 2m 4f Grade 1 John Durkan Chase at Punchestown is Ireland’s feature race on Sunday, 5 December (2:00). Min won this in each of the last three seasons, so we’re guaranteed a new hero here. See who SportsLens experts fancy for the spoils with their John Durkan tips for 2021.
This promises to be a cracker with loads of top steeplechasers from the Emerald Isle declared. It goes without saying that only exceptional horses win the John Durkan but there are also some key stats. In every edition of the race since 2014, the victor took it first time out without a previous run in the season. Coming here fresh is no problem, then.
Favourites boast a fabulous record with 10 of the last 12 obliging. That means the market on horse racing betting sites usually isn’t far wrong. There is also no substitute for course experience around Punchestown. Six of the last eight John Durkan winners had won at the track before. Who looks worth backing this year, though?
Why Envoi Allen has the shortest John Durkan Chase odds
Cheveley Park Stud have a very strong hand in this year’s race with Envoi Allen the market leader. Apart from his springtime blip, this seven-year-old Muhtathir gelding hasn’t never lost a race when completing. Now with Henry De Bromhead, Envoi Allen breezed through his bumper and novice hurdle career with little fuss after bolting up in a Ballinaboola Point.
He hadn’t put a foot wrong over fences in four starts, including a Grade 3 win over course and distance in January until taking a tumble at Cheltenham. Envoi Allen got no further than the fourth fences, so it was far too early to say what may have happened. He was then pulled up lame at the Punchestown Festival.
However, he looked back to his best when jumping well and making all in the old Skymas Chase at Down Royal on reappearance. Envoi Allen routed the opposition with a 22 lengths success, but the form doesn’t look strong. Both the third and fourth home have suffered defeats in handicap company since. A 200/1 shot chased him home.
The John Durkan demands more. Envoi Allen is only officially the fifth best horse in the race, although that shouldn’t be taken literally as he obviously could still have improvement in him. Given the fine record of favourites in this, he commands respect under Rachael Blackmore. Envoi Allen is 13/8 with Betfred to lay the ghosts of spring to rest.
Optimum trip for Fakir D’Oudairies
It was either the John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase, to give this race its proper title, or a crack at the King George for Fakir D’Oudairies. Trainer Joseph O’Brien and owner JP McManus decided to come here. All three of the six-year-old Kapgarde gelding’s victories over fences so far have been at this distance.
Fakir D’Oudairies won the 2019 Drinmore Novice Chase at Fairyhouse but then dropped back in trip. Things happened too quickly for him at 2m. Trying 3m wasn’t any better, so connections have realised that at this stage in his career an intermediate distance is for him.
After a fine second in the Dublin Chase at 28/1, Fakir D’Oudairies chased home Allaho in the Ryanair Chase around Cheltenham. An 11-length romp in the Melling Chase at Aintree followed. Fakir D’Oudairies also bolted up on reappearance in the Clonmel Oil Chase beating the victor in Gowran Park’s equivalent and Galway Plate hero Royal Rendezvous by 16 lengths.
He has suffered defeats at Punchestown on his only two starts at the track. Fakir D’Oudairies is best at this distance, though, so is still a major threat and big player. Best John Durkan Chase odds of 7/2 with William Hill reflect that.
Allaho pick of magnificent seven for Mullins
Maybe Willie Mullins has won six of the last eight renewals because of the strength-in-depth among the chasers at his Closutton stables. With Min retired, he declares seven and chief among the battalion is Allaho. Also owned by Cheveley Park Stud, this seven-year-old No Risk At All gelding routed his rivals in the Ryanair Chase in March.
If that Allaho turns up at Punchestown, then he’s going to take all the beating. However, this hasn’t been a happy hunting ground for him after suffering defeats on all three previous visits to the track. The most worrying of those was in the last renewal of the John Durkan Chase 12 months ago. Allaho either didn’t like the foggy conditions or wasn’t ready as he trailed in a distant sixth.
He bounced back in the old Kinloch Brae at Thurles before his Cheltenham Festival romp. Fakir D’Oudairies was a dozen lengths behind Allaho that day. Fanion D’Estruval, a remote fifth on that occasion, has since cruised to victory in a Newbury handicap last weekend. Chacun Pour Soi then had too much pace for Allaho in the 2m Punchestown Champion Chase.
As his record fresh isn’t great, it’s difficult for punters. Allaho tops official ratings with 7lbs and upwards in hand on the field yet needs to reproduce his best form to win this. There is no doubt that the 7/2 with BoyleSports looks value. It’s just a matter of whether Allaho needs the run.
Janidil could go well at big price in John Durkan Chase
Any number of other Mullins mounts could hit the frame here. Tornado Flyer and Melon filled the places last season. Asterion Forlonge and Kemboy are both course and distance winners, meanwhile, but Janidil put in a career best at Fairyhouse in their Easter Gold Cup, so could have more to offer at this trip.
Also owned by McManus, this seven-year-old Indian Daffodil gelding goes well fresh. Janidil won’t mind forecast yielding to soft ground either. He beat stable companions Franco De Port and Asterion Forlonge at Fairyhouse, so looks overpriced in the market in relation to the latter. The John Durkan demands even more but Janidil remains open to further progress after just five chase starts.
While winning the race is a big ask for horse with an official rating of 157, he could outrun his odds of 25/1 with Bet365 and into the frame. McManus also has Grand National hero Minella Times in the line-up yet this trip is way short of what the Aintree showpiece winner wants.
John Durkan Chase 2021 Tips & Shortlist
- Envoi Allen *****
- Fakir D’Oudairies ****
- Allaho ****