Joncol heads new cast for the Lexus

Paul Nolan's charge shows plenty of guts to win Durkan Chase at Punchestown

If Boxing Day at Kempton has a familiar look to it, with Kauto Star going for his fourth King George VI Chase in a row, the festive season fencing feature in Ireland two days later must find a new cast of characters, because the last three winners of the Lexus Chase will not be taking the field again. Poor Exotic Dancer, who 12 months ago finally gained the Grade 1 victory his ability deserved, is dead; his predecessor at Leopardstown, Denman, has an alternative programme; and The Listener is injured.

The first set of credible credentials posted by one of the home side came at Punchestown yesterday when, in testing conditions, Joncol out-toughed his four rivals to take the John Durkan Memorial Chase. Three miles round Leopardstown in the middle of winter is often a gruelling affair and the six-year-old's last-man-standing warm-up propelled him to the head of the market for his Christmas assignment.

Joncol, trained by Paul Nolan in Co Wexford, is a huge, black beast, very much out of the Burrough Hill Lad mould. He is so big – 18 hands if he's an inch – that a hurdling career was never even considered; he went straight from bumpers to fences and won three out of four as a novice last term. On his first venture into senior company, in October, he beat all bar Tranquil Sea, who did nothing to devalue the form by immediately winning the Gold Cup at Cheltenham.

Yesterday, Joncol jumped and galloped straight and true as those around and behind him stumbled. The first to go was Barker, who left his hind legs in the middle fence on the back straight and pinged Ruby Walsh from the saddle. The grey's Willie Mullins stablemate J'y Vole lost momentum by getting low at several obstacles and Aran Concerto had already been burned off by Joncol's relentless progress when he took a heavy, tired fall two out.

In Compliance made eye-catching ground on the home turn, but fluffed the penultimate fence, leaving Joncol, who measured his last leap well, to power away for a near six-length success. His relatively inexperienced rider Alain Cawley, deserves plenty of credit too, for a well-paced ride throughout the two-and-a-half miles.

Joncol's performance not only left him as 3-1 market leader for the Lexus, but advanced his Gold Cup claims to around the 20-1 mark. Indeed, the only other Irish challenger ahead of him in the market for the Cheltenham showpiece is the Mullins inmate Cooldine, last season's RSA Chase winner who has yet to appear this term.

"The Lexus is the next stop for Joncol," confirmed a delighted Nolan, "and you'd have to consider him a Gold Cup horse now. Three miles and more should be no problem and I don't think he's just a mudlark horse."

His size and scope apart, Joncol, who runs for his breeder Kay Browne, has demanded patience from all. And to call yesterday's effort gutsy is fairly apposite.

"He's had stomach ulcers," explained Nolan, "which has meant a bit of a stop-start career. But he's on a different exercise programme and diet this year and it seems to have turned him inside out. We're now 100 per cent happy with him for the first time."

Less than an hour earlier at Kelso, another hat went into the Leopardstown ring as Money Trix gave 17lb and a neck beating to progressive Belon Gale in a handicap over an extended two-and-three quarter miles, again in demanding rain-softened conditions.

The handsome grey, whose career has been compromised by leg trouble, made hard work of it with some untidy jumps but showed himself to be a gritty competitor to catch and then repel his lightly-weighted rival's renewed effort on the long run-in. "He had to get stuck in," said trainer Nicky Richards, "but I was pleased with that. He was giving away lumps of weight and he wants further."

Cloudy Lane, in third place, did little to dent his Grand National prospects, right in the firing line until he ran out of puff on his seasonal comeback. Later on the card L'Aventure took advantage of her plummeting handicap mark to take the four-miler and in the process notch back-to-back National wins. Yesterday's race was the Scottish Borders edition; her previous victory, nearly four years ago, came in the Welsh version.

And time was rolled back, too, by Our Vic at Warwick, in the Totesport.com Chase. The last time the splendid David Pipe-trained 11-year-old, twice a winner at the top level in his palmier days, had scored was when he inched out Kauto Star at Aintree 19 months ago. Yesterday, a spring-heeled leap at the last from the old pro sealed the 12th success of his career to confirm the old adage about class and form.

Turf Account: Sue Montgomery

Nap

Meridian City (1.50 Musselburgh)

Smoothly off the mark over hurdles at the first time of asking at Aintree in October and should prove progressive enough to carry his penalty today.

Next Best

Dumitas (1.20 Musselburgh)

Dual Irish bumper winner making his hurdling debut for a small Northern Ireland stable, interestingly providing Tony McCoy with his sole ride of the day.

One To Watch

Badger Foot (J O'Neill) proved best of the rest behind easy winner Silver Kate at Chepstow on Saturday, and with three hurdles runs under his girth looks sure to be placed to strike sooner rather than later.

Where The Money's Going

SkyBet reports Le Beau Bai (R Lee) is 8-1 co-favourite for the Welsh Grand National.



Chris McGrath's Nap

Ghufa (3.40 Wolverhampton).

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Voices
voices
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
Sport
Ronaldinho signs the t-shirt of a pitch invader
footballProof they are getting bolder
News
William Hague
people... when he called Hague the county's greatest
Extras
indybestKeep extra warm this year with our 10 best bedspreads
News
people
Voices
voicesBy the man who has
News
people... and stop them from attacking people
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Sheeran performs at his Amazon Front Row event on Tuesday 30 September
musicHe spotted PM at private gig
Sport
Arsene Wenger tried to sign Eden Hazard
footballAfter 18 years with Arsenal, here are 18 things he has still never done as the Gunners' manager
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Associate Recrutiment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Group have been well ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: Real Staffing Group is seeking Traine...

Year 6 Teacher (interventions)

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We have an exciting opportunity...

PMLD Teacher

Competitive: Randstad Education Manchester: SEN Teacher urgently required for ...

Day In a Page

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?