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Clan can score for Fergie in main event at Down Royal


Sublime success: yesterday's feature race winner, Coeur Sublime, with jockey Davy Russell and connections
Sublime success: yesterday's feature race winner, Coeur Sublime, with jockey Davy Russell and connections

By Ron McKnight

Trainer Paul Nicholls knows what is takes to win the Down Royal Festival feature, the £130,000 Ladbrokes Champion Chase, with the 11 times British Champion trainer having claimed the first Grade 1 contest of the season four times already.

Clan Des Obeaux, part owned by Sir Alex Ferguson (below), represents Nicholls in today's renewal and boasts the best form of runners having won last year's King George VI Chase and filled fifth in the Cheltenham Gold Cup - concluding his season at Aintree when runner up to Kemboy.

Novice Delta Work faces a very tough assignment on his seasonal debut. The Elliott horse won his beginners chase at last year's festival and progressed to win four of his five starts, being denied when third in the big novice chase at Cheltenham and concluding the season winning the Punchestown Champion Novice Chase.

Road To respect, trained by Noel Meade, won the race last season and again has solid claims having been unlucky at Leopardstown last Christmas when third to Kemboy.

The easier going adds to the claims of the locally owned Snow Falcon, also representing Meade, following a win in the PWC Champion Chase at Gowran last time.

Clan Des Obeaux's jockey, Harry Cobden, is adamant his mount is superior on a right handed track like Down Royal and said: "None of his rivals have won a King George!"

Clan therefore gets the vote to give Nicholls a fifth victory in the race which has been increased in value to £130,000. Delta Work and Road To Respect are dangers in a very competitive renewal despite a much reduced line up.

The supporting feature, the Grade 2 Novice Chase, also has just five runners. Irish Champion trainer Willie Mullins is taken to score with Real Steel, last seen when winning at the Punchestown Festival In May.

Top trainer Gordon Elliott is doubly represented but the main dangers could be Minella Fair, in the colours of the Belfast's Hunt family, and Nicholls' other British raider, Secret Investor.

JP McManus fields four in the valuable handicap hurdle including Rathill, trained by Nicky Henderson, and which sold after finishing runner up in a Templepatrick point to point. The horse has no experience' however, in a competitive handicap.

Omagh jockey Simon Torrens partners the top weight Hearts Are Trumps but preference is for the progressive youngster Arthur's Quay, trained by Padraig Roche, with leading claiming rider Darragh O'Keefe in the saddle. Shumaker, having completed a hat trick last weekend for Dundrod trainer Paul Traynor, turns out again in search of success.

Gordon Elliott won the opening juvenile hurdle last year with the high class Coeur Sublime and appears to have the ideal candidate this time with Saint D'orouux, owned by football agents Isaac Souede and Simon Munir. The French import was a winner of his sole start on his native turf. A Wave Of The Sea and Laura Bullion are the dangers.

Envoi Allen, winner of the Cheltenham Festival bumper and another of Gordon Elliott's stars, can win the Tayto Hurdle if accounting for Entoucas and Front View with JP McManus represented by a quintet in the race. Jurby, Frankly All Talk and Bosco Di Alco form the short list in the handicap chase.

The Elliott trained Easywork gets a confident vote in the concluding bumper if accounting for the locally owned newcomer Rosencrantz and Nathaniel's Dream.

SELECTIONS: 12.40 Saint D'orouux , 1.15 Envoi Allen, 1.50 Arthurs Quay, 2.25 Clan Des Obeauux, 2.55 Real Steel, 3.30 Bosco Di Alco, 4.05 Easywork

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