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Opera can hit high notes on the big stage

 

By Ron McKnight

A magnificent seven are due to line up for today's Down Royal Festival feature - the JNWine.com Champion Chase.

Five of the seven are owned by Gigginstown Stud with Michael O'Leary's racing operation having won the past five renewals of the race while the other pair are trained by Jessica Harrington.

The first pair home last year, Outlander and Road To Respect, again turn out.

The latter named was supplemented only on Wednesday but having looked the winner jumping the last a year ago, failed to go through with his effort allowing Outlander to prevail.

Balko De Flos has been installed 9/4 favourite and trainer Henry De Bromhead claimed both featured chases two years ago.

Woodland Opera relished the step up in trip when winning over hurdles and three miles in August at the course and gets an each way selection in the £140,000 contest.

Harrington previously won with Moscow Flyer three times at the local course prior to Cheltenham glory and today's test will decide future plans.

Don Poli has been absent for almost two years and De Bromhead's other runner, Sub Lieutenant, which beat both Sandymount Duke and Outlander last month at Punchestown, can enter calculations.

FORECAST: JNWine.com Champion Chase: 1st Woodland Opera, 2nd Road To Respect, 3rd Sub Lieutenant

Snow Falcon could supply a local success in the supporting feature, the Grade 2 Novice chase, despite the presence of high-class novice chaser Monalee, runner up to Presenting Percy at the Cheltenham Festival.

The Storyteller, owned by Joe Sloan, sponsor of yesterday's first day feature, won at Cheltenham and Punchestown and the Gordon Elliott trained runner has solid claims.

Peregine Run impressed winning at Wexford on Monday but the forecast rain would not be in his favour. Shatter Love can prove a major danger to the selection whose connections were in the winners enclosure in the opening festival race.

The Arthur Moore trainedCrossed My Mind finished third in the hurdle feature of the festival last year and the JP McManus runner returns for another attempt with prospects of success and the trainer returning to form yesterday after a lean spell.

Tara Dylan and One In All In, along with favourite Shanning, trained by Willie Mullins, are considered major dangers in a very competitive contest.

Our Legend finish second to his stable companion Smiling Eliza last time at Punchestown and gets the vote in the opener with Gordon Elliott having a trio engaged and Coeur Sublime and Monkeylou the most interesting in the juvenile hurdle. Batts Rock, Raya Time, Brace Yourself and Pike County form the short list in the Tayto Hurdle and the latter, owned by JP McManus, already on the scoresheet at the meeting, just preferred.

Freewheelin Dylan gets the selection in the handicap chase if accounting for Dinnie's Vinnie and Presenting Julio.

Gordon Elliott's Malone Road won a Templepatrick point to point and looks capable of claiming the finale with Valdieu and Buck's Billionaire the dangers.

RON'S ONES TOO WATCH: 12.45 Our Legend.1.20 Pike County. 1.55 Crossed My Mind . 2.30 Woodland Opera [ew]. 3.05 Snow Falcon. 3.40 Freewheelin Dylan. 4.10 Malone Road.

Belfast Telegraph

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