Gold Cup winner Minella Indo makes his eagerly-awaited return to action in the Ladbrokes Champion Chase at Down Royal on Saturday.
The eight-year-old bounced right back to his best at Cheltenham in March, having finished only fourth when beaten favourite in the Irish Gold Cup a month earlier.
Based on that performance Rachael Blackmore chose to ride stablemate A Plus Tard in the Gold Cup, but he could only finish second and while it was a dream result for trainer Henry de Bromhead, it was just about the only thing Blackmore got wrong all week in the Cotswolds.
The original plan was for the very able substitute Jack Kennedy to maintain the partnership, but with his boss Gordon Elliott running Delta Work this weekend, Blackmore has stepped back in for the ride.
“Minella Indo is in great form and it seemed a good race to start him off in,” said De Bromhead.
“He is a Gold Cup winner so is allowed take his chance and he is going there in great form and we’re looking forward to it.”
On being reunited with Minella Indo, who before the Gold Cup she had ridden in all but one of his races under rules, including a success in the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham in 2019 at 50-1, Blackmore told BetVictor: “I’m really looking forward to riding the Gold Cup winner Minella Indo, we have had some great days together and hopefully we can get his season off to a good start.
“This looks a brilliant race with some great Irish staying chasers and Frodon the King George winner making the trip over for Paul Nicholls.
“Aside from Galvin it will be the first run of the season for Minella Indo and the others in the race. He can take a fair bit of work, but he has been going well at home.”
A clash between the Gold Cup winner and the King George hero Frodon this early in the season really is a treat for those who make the journey to Down Royal.
Frodon and Bryony Frost have a huge army of followers – not surprising given their record together, as they are chasing their 10th win as a partnership which also includes a success in the Ryanair Chase.
“He is a legend of a horse who started last season with a bold front-running victory at Cheltenham off a mark of 164, then put up the performance of his life in winning the King George at Kempton and rounded off an unbelievable season with a stirring success in the Oaksey Chase at Sandown,” Nicholls told Betfair.
“Bryony Frost gets on brilliantly with Frodon who is taking on a new challenge in the Grade One Ladbrokes Champion Chase at Down Royal.
“He is in top form and was full of enthusiasm when we took him for an away day in Lambourn recently for a change of routine.
“He is fit, fresh and well but there are two mountains in the way in the shape of Galvin and the Gold Cup winner Minella Indo.”
Frost is operating at an impressive strike-rate in recent weeks and as ever is looking forward to being reunited with her mount.
“We’ve got nothing to lose and all to gain. It’s an extremely competitive race, but we go there with some confidence. We’re going there to get kicking and do our best,” she said.
“Summer’s over, autumn’s here – and Frodon’s ready to rock and roll.
“He’s over there. Shelly, who looks after him every day, has gone with him – they’ve looked after him really well there, he had a lovely big bed.
“He’s had a great roll, and he’s looking really happy over there. We’ll give him a little leg stretch, and we’ll be on to the races.
Elliott runs two classy chasers in Galvin and Delta Work.
Galvin is on a six-race winning streak which includes the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham, while Delta Work won the Savills Chase and Irish Gold Cup the season before last. His last campaign was cut short through injury.
“I’m looking forward to it,” said Elliott.
“We wouldn’t want too much rain for Galvin. Delta Work always comes on from his first run, so we’re looking forward to running the two of them.”
Referring to the situation with his jockeys, as Russell was also claimed to ride against Envoi Allen on the same card Elliott, told Racing TV: “I think it was a storm in a teacup to be honest.
“At the end of the day the choice was down to the lads, if they want to ride for me they can ride for me, but I have owners who I have to keep happy and they were very keen for the lads to ride for me.
“But I’ve never stood in the way of any jockey riding anything – at the end of the day the lads made the final decision.”
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