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Silviniaco is tipped to shine in magnificent showdown

By Ron McKnight

The magnificent seven star in the showcase of the Down Royal Festival today - the prestigious Champion Chase which is the first Grade 1 contest of the National Hunt season in Ireland and Britain.

British champion trainer Paul Nicholls sends over dual King George VI Chase winner Silviniaco Conti in a quest for a fifth victory in the £140,000 Festival feature and his runner has been installed as 9/4 favourite to score.

The top class chaser pulled up in his final start last season in the Aintree Grand National on heavy going but will be cherry ripe for today's assignment on suitable going.

The other British challenger in the big race is the Kim Bailey-trained The Last Samuri - runner-up to Rule The World in the Aintree showpiece on his final effort last term - and the handler is expecting a bold show at the local track.

Trainer Henry de Bromhead made several attempts to claim the Maze Champion Chase with his former stable star Sizing Europe and is doubly represented with Sadler's Risk and Valseur Lido, the latter one of a trio owned by Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary.

Ruby Walsh takes the mount on the former Willie Mullins-trained horse which twice finished runner-up to Vatour at the Cheltenham Festival - in 2015 and this year. Very solid form however his jumping has not always been fluent and the pace in today's race will take no prisoners.

Gordon Elliott has a pair of Gigginstown horses engaged with Lord Scoundrel and Don Poli.

The former attempted to make all when finishing runner-up to the De Bromhead-trained Sadler's Risk at Cork last month.

Don Poli finished third in the Gold Cup to Don Cossack - winner of the Festival feature last year, also runner-up to Cue Card at Aintree and concluding the season when third to Carlingford Lough at the Punchestown Festival. Barry Geraghty will partner him today with cheek pieces fitted for the first time.

Elliott said yesterday of the former Mullins inmate: "He seems in good order - he doesn't do much at home.

"It's a stepping stone - the Paul Nicholls and Henry de Bromhead horses look the pair to beat. They could be classier than him on the current going. Our lad is in good form and you have to get him started."

Navan trainer Noel Meade has opted for the Grade 1 Chase rather than the novice event with the locally-owned Monksland.

Monksland won on his seasonal return at Galway but has been prone to jumping errors since switched from hurdles, however Meade is confident of a bold show.

Silviniaco Conti is just preferred to Valseur Lido with the British champion trainer advising he has had a clear run preparing the horse with no recurrence of his sarcoids problem and he had a racecourse gallop at Chepstow last week.

Sadler's Risk can belie his 16/1 price, however with only seven runners place betting will be restricted to the first two home.

The Super Saturday supporting feature, the Titanic Belfast Novice Chase, rivals the big race for quality in the up and coming young chasers.

Zabana holds Outlander and Sub Lieutenant on their Punchestown encounter at the end of last season when they filled the first three places. The last named won on his return to action last month at Limerick and might strip fittest of the trio.

Nicholls has won this Grade 2 event seven times and sends Le Mercurey over this time.

Sub Lieutenant is taken to deny Zabana.

Time For Mabel, All The Answers and Bog War make most appeal in the Festival hurdling feature, the Billecart-Salmon Handicap Hurdle.

Top trainer Edward O'Grady, who is enjoying a great season, saddles the first named to carry top weight while All The Answers has won twice from his last three starts, both at Galway.

Bog War has had two decent efforts on the flat and is a useful hurdler and can supply the each way value in a very competitive heat.

Super Saturday Selections: 12.50 Dodgy Bingo 1.25 Elusive Theatre 2.00 Bog War (each way) 2.35 Silviniaco Conti (nap) (2nd Valseur Lido, 3rd Sadler's Risk) 3.05 Sub Lieutenant 3.40 Tiger Sam (double) 4.10 Runfordave

Belfast Telegraph


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