Irish Gold Cup next up for Zabana after Lexus failure

Thistlecrack a firmer Cheltenham Gold Cup favourite after Coneygree’s defection

Coneygree: the 2015 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner is set to miss this year’s renewal, according to Sara Bradstock, wife of trainer, Mark Bradstock. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

The Grade One star Zabana will attempt to re-establish his Cheltenham Gold Cup credentials at Leopardstown next month.

Last season’s Punchestown festival winner was pushed out to a general 33-1 shot in ante-post betting for the Gold Cup in March after finishing only seventh behind Outlander in the Lexus Chase over Christmas.

However trainer Andy Lynch has indicated Zabana will return to Leopardstown's three miles for the Stan James Irish Gold Cup in his next outing.

“Ground permitting he’ll go to Leopardstown on the 12th,” confirmed Lynch.


Zabana was prominent in the Lexus for much of the race until fading from the second last although Lynch has no doubts about the horse’s stamina for three miles.

“We have put him in the two races at Cheltenham, the Gold Cup and the Ryanair. But he loves three miles,” he added. “He ran a little wild with him the last day but it’s hard to say what happened.”

The King George winner Thistlecrack saw his position as Gold Cup favourite harden even further with news that the 2015 Cheltenham hero Coneygree is set to miss the race. The news also resulted in ante-post support for Thistlecrack’s stable companion, Native River, winner of the Welsh National on his last start.

Any risk

“When you have a horse like this you must not take any risk and there is no point going there half-baked,” explained

Sara Bradstock

, wife of Coneygree’s trainer,

Mark Bradstock


Coneygree suffered a setback after his sole start of the season to date behind Cue Card at Haydock in November and his connections feel he won’t recover in time for Cheltenham.

“We will make sure he is fine before he comes back. Hopefully he will go to Punchestown and win the Irish equivalent,” Bradstock added.

"We might just give him a change of scenery and run him in the French Champion Hurdle which is over three miles and is usually run on soft ground."

Don Cossack and Djakadam, the first two from last season's Gold Cup, are the two-shortest priced Irish trained hopes in most betting lists for this March's festival highlight at a general 10-1.

Don Cossack could yet return from injury in next month’s Red Mills Chase at Gowran and Eddie O’Leary of Gigginstown Stud reported: “It’s so far, so good. At the moment we’re hoping to run him in February. There’s the Red Mills but at the moment we’re just trying to get him back to the racecourse.”

Both the Lexus winner Outlander and Valseur Lido are other potential Gold Cup starters for Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown team.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column