Fallout from the Punchestown Champion Chase: More reason to side with El Fabiolo?
Energumene lived up the billing as favourite in the Punchestown Champion Chase, but the performance was as dominant as 4/7 odds suggest. The Willie Mullins trained horse was second three out by rallied to win by 3/4 of a length against Chacun Pour Soi.
It is fair to suggest that this was not Energumene's finest round of jumping. That said, he was less than fluent at Cheltenham in January before putting in arguably his best round at Cheltenham in March when successful in the Champion Chase. On that occasion, I thought there was more than an element of him being the only horse in the race that would have been suited by the rain-softened conditions. The three horses to follow him home that day finished in the same three positions behind Jonbon at Sandown in the Celebration Chase at the end of April. I am sure we all remember how El Fabiolo dealt with Jonbon in the Arkle Trophy at Cheltenham in March. Here at Punchestown, Energumene was pushed by the 11-year-old Chacun Pour Soi who seemed to put up his best performance in quite some time. This veteran was firmly put in his place by Blue Lord at Leopardstown's Xmas meeting. At the Dublin Racing Festival, Blue Lord then proved to be too slow for Gentleman De Mee who subsequently finished in fourth place in this grade one contest. I would suggest that the second, third and fourth horses to finish are much of a muchness and all some way below the very best two-mile chasers. Energumene will be a ten-year-old by the time the next Cheltenham Festival comes around and I would suggest it will be a little surprising should he prove to be quick enough compared to one or two of the younger brigade. I would struggle to call it between Energumene and Jonbon and would suggest that El Fabiolo is clear of the Seven Barrows horse.
Chacun Pour Soi
He has not won a race in his last seven visits to the racecourse and is not as good as he was. Presumably, he was primed for this race, and it may well turn out to be his swan song at this top level. His proximity to the winner certainly holds the form down and the fact that the first four horses to complete the course were all trained by Willie Mullins makes this form that bit more difficult to trust.
Once again he proved that he is well capable at this level and, at the same time, remains a few lengths behind the best horses. He lost less than two lengths on the winner from two out to the winning line and has probably run right up to his best when competing over two miles.
Gentleman De Mee
I very much doubt that the yielding to soft ground was in his favour. He is at his best on a sound surface and could still be interesting at a price in a grade-one chase next season when he gets his ground and particularly when he appears likely to enjoy an untroubled lead.
After making the early running she soon dropped away to finish a tired fifth of five. She gave herself no chance by over-racing in the first half of this grade one chase.
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