John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase
Grade 1, Punchestown
€80,000 added,
5yo plus,
2m 4f, Class 1
Sunday 8th December 2013

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1 Arvika Ligeonniere 4/7F
2 Rubi Light 16/1
NR: Flemenstar (IRE)
3 ran Distances: 9l
TIME 5m 1.90s (slow by 1.90s)

Arvika Ligeonniere recorded a comfortable victory in Sunday's John Durkan Chase at Punchestown, although his task was made a lot easier when stablemate and market rival Sir Des Champs crashed out at the third fence.

Arvika Ligeonniere
© Caroline Norris

Arvika Ligeonniere
The defection on Saturday of last year's winner Flemenstar meant the John Durkan featured only three runners for the second successive season.

Despite that it promised to be an intriguing contest with two leading lights from the powerful yard of Willie Mullins - promising second-season chaser Arvika Ligeonniere and 2013 Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up Sir Des Champs - clashing with Rubi Light.

However, Sir Des Champs got no further than the third fence as he fell for the first time in his career.

That left Arvika Ligeonniere - sent off the 4-7 favourite under Ruby Walsh - with a relatively straightforward assignment and he took full advantage without ever needing to hit top gear.

A drop down to 2m1f for the Paddy Power Dial-A-Bet Chase at Leopardstown on December 27 could be next for the eight-year-old, who is 10-1 with Paddy Power and Ladbrokes for the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham and a general 20-1 for the BetVictor Queen Mother Champion Chase.

Patrick Mullins, on duty for his father who was in Hong Kong for Simenon's run in the Vase, said: "Arvika Ligeonniere is in the King George and the Paddy Power Dial-A-Bet Chase at Christmas and I'd imagine the Leopardstown race is the more likely target. He is better going right-handed, but he won a Grade 1 novice at Leopardstown last season which is encouraging."

Rich Ricci, whose wife Susannah owns Arvika Ligeonniere, added: "It's a shame Sir Des Champs fell. I never like to see that happening, but our horse would have been very hard to beat today. I wouldn't be against stepping him up or down in trip and we'll see what Willie thinks when he gets back from Hong Kong."

Walsh, who was remarkably winning his first John Durkan, favours dropping his impressive partner down in trip.

"He jumped very well, apart from the first down the back, and did what was asked of him which wasn't very much," he said.

"I think he has loads of pace so I'd be inclined to go back down in trip with him rather than further. He has loads of pace and a great cruising speed but we'll see what Willie thinks."

Mullins jnr added Sir Des Champs seemed "fine" after his tumble and would likely next be seen at Leopardstown in the Lexus Chase on December 28.

He was eased to 8-1 (from 6) by Ladbrokes for the Gold Cup.


The John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Steeplechase
€80,000 added, 5yo plus, 2m 4f, Class 1
3 ran
Going: Good to Yielding

Pos Horse/Jockey Trainer SP
1 Arvika Ligeonniere (FR)
R Walsh
W.P. Mullins 4/7f
2 Rubi Light (FR)
B J Geraghty
Robert Alan Hennessy 16/1
9 lengths
Fell Sir Des Champs (FR)
D N Russell
W.P. Mullins 7/4
NR Flemenstar
A E Lynch

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