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Grand National hopeful Gilgamboa is set for another outing next month when he lines up in the John Durkan Memorial Chase at Punchestown in what will be his second start of the new campaign.

"Aintree Entrance - Home Of The Grand Nat" (CC BY 2.0) by Paolo Camera

The eight-year-old made his seasonal reappearance at Navan a couple of weeks ago where he was very unfortunate not to find the winner’s enclosure as he was beaten by a short-head at the Irish track by Arctic Skipper. Under jockey Mark Walsh, Gilgamboa chased the leaders in the early stages of the 2m contest. He led at one point in the run-in to the finishing line, but lost out in a photo-finish as the winner had his nose down in the frame.

Enda Bolger’s chaser could be set to be joined at Punchestown in the Grade One contest by Black Hercules, Champagne Fever, Lord Windermere, Un De Sceaux and Vroum Vroum Mag who all have entries at this early stage of the race.  Unlike many of his rivals in the contest, the JP McManus- owned horse has the benefit of a run under his belt this season so should be much fitter next time out.

Gilgamboa also ran in the John Duran Memorial Chase 12 months ago where he finished a very respectable third behind Djakadam and Valseur Lido respectively. The Punchestown feature race was ran on heavy ground and Bolger’s horse was able to finish ahead of Flemenstar and Foxrock over a trip which isn’t his most favourable.

Connections will have to decide after his Punchestown outing this year if their horse will have another run again before the Grand National in April. Details on all the runners for the 2017 contest can be found at http://www.grandnational2017.com, where Gilgamboa is set to be joined by last season’s runner-up The Last Samuri and the third Vic’s Canvas.Gilgamboa had no problems with either the 4m4f trip in the world’s most famous steeplechase last April or the bigger fences around the Merseyside track. He was always prominent in the race won by Rule The World and was chasing the leading back jumping the fourth fence for home. Unfortunately for connections and his jockey Robbie Power, their horse was one-paced jumping the last - so he was unable to reel in the first three horses home at Aintree.

It was a unique campaign for the Irish horse last season. He also featured at the Cheltenham Festival just a month earlier in the Grade One Ryanair Chase over the much shorter distance of 2m4f which was won by Vautour. Bolger may decide to skip the Festival this time around to give their horse the best chance of improving on his position in the 2016 Grand National.

Aintree Grand National 2013 by stacey.cavanagh, on Flickr
"Aintree Grand National 2013" (CC BY 2.0) by stacey.cavanagh

Last year’s runner-up The Last Samuri currently heads the early betting for the 2017 renewal at 20/1 with the bookmakers. The Young Master is second best on the list at 25/1, Don Poli is also prominent at 25/1, while Gilgamboa is available to be backed at 40/1 before the weights are officially announced in February.

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