Geraghty relishing Rocco reunion at Punchestown

Minella Rocco makes a seasonal bow at Punchestown on Thursday

Minella Rocco makes his first appearance since finishing second in last season's Cheltenham Gold Cup in the Irish Daily Star Chase at Punchestown on Thursday.

Winner of the National Hunt Chase at the previous year's Festival, Jonjo O'Neill's charge fell at Aintree and unseated his rider at Leopardstown before his return to Prestbury Park in March.

Minella Rocco showed his true colours in the Gold Cup, however, beating all bar Sizing John, and makes his comeback at Grade Three level in Ireland under Barry Geraghty.

"I'm looking forward to it, for sure," the jockey said. "I schooled him in Jonjo's last week and he felt good. It will be good to get him going."

Minella Rocco is one of two runners for Geraghty's retaining owner JP McManus, along with John Kiely's dual Irish Gold Cup hero Carlingford Lough.

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With Geraghty siding with Minella Rocco, who receives weight from all but one of his rivals, Mark Walsh comes in for the ride on Kiely's 11-year-old.

Geraghty added: "I haven't had a sit on him (Carlingford Lough) yet this autumn and obviously Minella Rocco is much better treated by the conditions of the race."

Gigginstown House Stud have claimed this Grade Three prize six times in the last 10 years, with Gold Cup heroes War Of Attrition (2008) and Don Cossack (2014-15) both on the roll of honour.

Michael O'Leary's operation has three representatives in Gordon Elliott's Outlander, the Henry de Bromhead-trained Sub Lieutenant and Road To Respect from Noel Meade's yard.

Road To Respect won the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate at Cheltenham in March before claiming the scalp of Yorkhill in the Ryanair Gold Cup at Fairyhouse.

Meade said: "It's good race and Jonjo's horse looks very well-in at the weights.

"We're happy with our horse, he's ready to go.

"This race will help us determine where we're going for the rest of the season."

Andrew Lynch's stable star Zabana and John Ryan's Kilcarry Bridge, a recent winner over hurdles at Gowran Park, make up the quality field.

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