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Clear winner: Bridge Native ridden by jockey Conor Orr on his way to winning the Ladrokes Handicap Chase

Clear winner: Bridge Native ridden by jockey Conor Orr on his way to winning the Ladrokes Handicap Chase

PA

Clear winner: Bridge Native ridden by jockey Conor Orr on his way to winning the Ladrokes Handicap Chase

There is another great day of racing in store at Down Royal today with the Festival feature, the Ladbrokes Champions Chase, taking top billing.

Nine horses have been declared including Delta Work, who is taking the first step on the road towards the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March.

It is just a pity that the pandemic is depriving the racing public of its annual spectacle with the course gates barred to all but essential personnel.

The feature race would be worth the admission money alone in normal times. The Gordon Elliott-trained runner finished a close fifth in last season's blue riband and was third the previous season in the premier novice chase at Cheltenham.

Delta Work, however, struggled to fill fourth of five runners in last year's renewal of the local Grade 1 with Road To Respect, presently sidelined, gaining back-to-back victories and providing Gigginstown Stud with seven consecutive victories in the big race.

While stable jockey Jack Kennedy opts for the Gold Cup hope, Elliott, who runs five in the race, is also represented by Presenting Percy which twice placed behind Delta Work in recent encounters and is a possible Grand National contender with jockey Denis O'Regan enlisted as regular pilot Davy Russell is out injured.

Percy started favourite for the 2019 Gold Cup when disappointing but was staying on late last year only to fall two from home in the Cheltenham Festival feature and could make a winning debut for the Meath trainer in the £125,000 showcase today.

The Gigginstown operation provide four of today's nine runners and the Noel Meade-trained Tout Est Permis, despite finishing behind The Storyteller at Punchestown, has place prospects with the stable in top form.

The Storyteller, owned by the local Sloan family - sponsors of the first day feature - has won 10 races and the consistent horse again could figure at the finish with the ultra-capable Keith Donoghue in the saddle. Ravenhill and Snow Falcon are another duo of runners locally-owned.

Henry de Bromhead, who won the feature yesterday, regularly targets the Maze chase, winning with Valseur Lido in 2016, and has Balko des Flos and Chris's Dream engaged with top rider Robbie Power, currently based in Great Britain due to the virus restrictions, making a one-day visit to partner the latter, again being aimed at the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

The Grade 2 Novice Chase is the supporting feature with just five due to start. Elliott is doubly represented with Battleoverdoyen and Samcro - the latter having won on his chasing debut at the course during last year's Festival, while the former filled fourth in the Grade 1 Novice Chase at Cheltenham on his final start last term.

Willie Mullins runs Easy Game after winning his last two efforts, however previous course winner Samcro is preferred.

The featured handicap hurdle is always one of the most competitive races of the Festival. JP McManus has five engaged but the Pat Fahy-trained Drop The Anchor, a Listowel winner last month and connections having booked Omagh claiming rider Simon Torrens, makes most appeal.

JP's retained jockey Mark Walsh partners Cayd Boy on his seasonal debut and Ex Patriot, The Very Man, Campeador, Got Trumped and the Willie Mullins pair Getaway Gorgeous and Hypery hold similar claims.

Gordon Elliott can claim the 1-2 in the opening juvenile hurdle with Quilixios taken to relegate stable companion Glorious Zoff to runner-up with only five declared.

Ballyadam, a £330,000 purchase after winning a Portrush point to point before victory in a Downpatrick bumper, looks the one to beat in the Tayto Hurdle.

Colonel Mustard, He's a Hardy Bloke, Still Standing and Guiri are certain to test the favourite and the latter, trained by Jessica Harrington for JP McManus with prior hurdling experience, could just prevail.

Ireland's leading jumps owner could enjoy a good day with the Philip Dempsey-trained Coeur Joyeux in the handicap chase where Paranoid rates the main danger, while local interests are The White Volcano, Frankly All Talk and Askann.

The concluding bumper could reveal another potential star in Sir Gerhard - a £400,000 buy after winning a point to point and running in the famous Cheveley Park Stud colours carried by numerous top horses.

Belfast Telegraph


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