Cheltenham Festival runner-up Billaway got back to winning ways in the Bluegrass Horse Feeds Hunters Chase at Down Royal.
In a hotly-contested race that is usually run on Boxing Day, Willie Mullins’ eight-year-old eventually ran out a six-and-a-half-length winner, justifying 5-4 favouritism under Patrick Mullins.
However, he had briefly looked in trouble as both Winged Leader and Aloneamongmillions appeared to be travelling better before Billaway got a second wind.
Billaway was a 10-length second to It Came To Pass at Cheltenham in March and was cut to 5-1 favourite from 7-1 for the same event next year by Paddy Power.
“Again today he seemed to hit a flat spot and then came back on it,” said the winning rider.
“His jumping is getting much quicker. In Cheltenham last year we weren’t losing ground, but we weren’t making any ground at every fence whereas the winner was.
“I think the extra experience he has this year will shorten the gap, hopefully.
“I think he is still improving and I think he is a better horse this year than last year. I think his jumping is getting slicker. That’s what he needed to do, so he is doing it.
“There’s no Leopardstown, so he’ll go to Thurles at the end of January.”
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Battleoverdoyen returned to winning ways in the Lough Construction Ltd. Chase at Down Royal as he formed part of a Gordon Elliott five-timer.
Elliott’s seven-year-old looked sure to take high-rank among the novices last season having won a Grade One at Christmas.
But a fall in the Flogas Novice Chase and a well-beaten fourth at Cheltenham meant he had questions to answer on his return, especially up against stablemate Samcro and the odds-on favourite Easy Game.
However, Mark Walsh kept things simple and his mount never put a foot wrong, taking up the running in the straight to beat Easy Game by six lengths.
Betfair introduced the winner into their Ryanair betting at 14-1.
Elliott said: “He ran a great race and I’m delighted. He’s a good horse and I’d say we were going too far with him at the end of last year.
“I’d say two and half miles for him, something like the John Durkan, and Samcro could go there too.
“Samcro had a great race and Jack (Kennedy) said he would nearly have won if he didn’t make a mistake at the wrong time. It knocked the stuffing out of him. He did well to get back into it.”
Elliott, Kennedy and Cheveley Park Stud were all able to breath a sigh of relief following Envoi Allen’s faultless chasing debut on Friday and had two more nice prospects win earlier on the card.
Ballyadam (4-6 favourite) cost over £300,000 at the sales, but odds-on punters had their fingers burned on his Rules debut last season.
He made no mistake next time in a bumper, though, and is already as low as 10-1 with Betfair for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle having cruised to a 12-length success in the Tayto Group Maiden Hurdle and bigger targets await.
Elliott said: “He’s a fair horse. If he had winged the last, he would have gone 10 lengths further clear. He has actually learned by missing the last.
“He’ll step up into Graded company now, he’s very quick – I’d say something like the Royal Bond.
“He’s pretty smart.”
Elliott has already unleashed some smart three-year-old hurdlers, but Quilixios may be the best of them.
He did not come off the bridle in winning the Metcollect 3yo Hurdle, but he was a prohibitive 1-16 favourite and now holds the honour of heading the early betting for the Triumph Hurdle.
Elliott said: “He couldn’t have done that any easier, it was a canter around for him. He’s so laid-back about it.
“Jack said he picked up from the second last and galloped in. He’s better than that race.
“He may be one to go straight to Christmas (Leopardstown) with. Obviously there is Fairyhouse, but I think we will go straight to Christmas. He has loads of experience.”
The Cheveley Park colours were also carried to victory in the closing bumper as Elliott won it for the sixth year in a row with Sir Gerhard (2-5 favourite) who made a huge impression in the hands of Jamie Codd.
Elliott also won the feature Ladbrokes Champion Chase with The Storyteller to cap a fruitful two days at Down Royal.
He said: “It’s been a great couple of days with eight winners here and a winner in Wetherby too. A few got beaten and a few won and that’s the way it is, but I’m very happy with the way it went.
“He (Sir Gerhard) is a nice horse. We might go to Navan now for that Listed bumper and see where we go from there.”
Cayd Boy (10-1) provided Liz Doyle with a nice winner in the WKD Handicap Hurdle.
Walsh brought the handicap newcomer down the outside, which meant he missed trouble at the second last when The Very Man fell, bringing down Drop The Anchor.
Walsh said: “We actually didn’t go much of a gallop which suited my fellow because he has a good turn of foot.
“I just got a nice position turning into the straight, kicked him on at the second last and he winged it.”
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The Storyteller landed the biggest success of his career when pipping Chris’s Dream in a thrilling renewal of the Ladbrokes Champion Chase at Down Royal.
Gordon Elliott’s nine-year-old has been in the form of his life through the autumn, but he has regularly come up short in Grade One company since winning at the highest level as a novice.
Dropped out at the rear by Keith Donoghue, The Storyteller came through to challenge Chris’s Dream between the last two fences and the two settled down to fight it out.
For most of the run to the line, Henry de Bromhead’s Chris’s Dream looked likely to hold on, but Donoghue was not to be denied aboard 9-2 shot The Storyteller, who prevailed by a neck.
Noel Meade’s Tout Est Permis stayed on for third past a weakening Presenting Percy.
“The ground not going too deep suited him. He’s a horse of a lifetime and has always been a brilliant horse for the Sloans (owners),” said Elliott
“He might get a bit of a break, he wouldn’t want really heavy ground. They’ll all go to the usual places over Christmas.
“It’s great for Keith, he’s a big part of our team. He’s had loads of chances and he proves when he gets the chances how good he is.”
Of Presenting Percy, who was making his debut for Elliott, the trainer added: “Denis (O’Regan) was happy with him and said he blew up. The ground just wasn’t as soft as he would have wanted.”
Elliott also saddled fifth-placed Delta Work, eighth Ravenhill and Alpha Des Obeaux, who finished last of the nine runners.
The trainer said: “Jack (Kennedy, jockey) was happy with Delta Work, but he just got tired. The rest of them finished where they should.”
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Staged at Down Royal racecourse in Ireland this Saturday’s (31st October 2020) Ladbrokes Champion Chase(formerly the JNwine.com Chase) always attracts some of the best chasers from both England and Ireland.
Run over 3m the Grade 1 contest has been won by greats such as Kauto Star, Beef Or Salmon, Looks Like Trouble and Florida Pearl in the past. With top UK trainer Paul Nicholls winning 4 of the last 13 renewals then anything he sends across the Irish Sea should be respected, while the powerful Gordon Elliott camp have also saddled three of the last 7 winners.
Also note the Noel Meade stable, as they have landed three of the last six renewals, including the last two runnings with Road To Respect, but isn’t entered in the 2020 race, while it's a race the Gigginstown House Stud horses have done very well in recently - they've won ALL of the last seven runnings!
Here at GEEGEEZ.co.uk we are on hand with all the key stats head of the 2020 renewal – this year run on Saturday 31st October 2020
Recent Ladbrokes Champion Chase Winners
2019 – ROAD TO RESPECT (5/2)
2018 – ROAD TO RESPECT (6/4 fav)
2017 – OUTLANDER (16/1)
2016 – VALSEUR LIDO (2/1 fav)
2015 – DON COSSACK (2/11 fav)
2014 – ROAD TO RICHES (9/2)
2013 – ROI du MEE (12/1)
2012 – KAUTO STONE (4/1)
2011 – QUITO de la ROQUE (11/4 fav)
2010 – KAUTO STAR (4/7 fav)
2009 – THE LISTENER (7/1)
2008 – KAUTO STAR (2/5 fav)
2007 – TARANIS (10/11 fav)
2006 – BEEF OR SALMON (11/4)
2005 – No Race
2004 – BEEF OR SALMON (Evs)
2003 – GLENELLY GALE (7/1)
2002 – MORE THAN A STROLL (20/1)
2001 – FOXCHAPEL KING (4/1)
Ladbrokes Champion Chase Betting Trends
16/18 – Had won at least a Grade 2 Chase before
14/18 – Had won at least 5 times over fences before
14/18 – Had won over at least 3m over fences before
13/18 – Aged 8 or older
13/18 – Winning distance 2 ½ lengths or more
12/18 – Returned 9/2 or shorter in the betting
11/18 – Finished 1st or 2nd last time out
11/18 – Had won a Grade 1 Chase before
9/18 – Having their first run of the season (including 8 of last 12 winners)
9/18 – Had run at Down Royal before
8/18 – Won by a Gigginstown House Stud-owned horse (all of last 7)
8/18 – Winning favourites
5/18 – Raced at Aintree last time out
4/18 – Raced at Limerick last time out
4/18 – Trained by Paul Nicholls
4/18 – Won their last race
3/18 – Trained by Gordon Elliott (3 of the last 7)
3/18 – Trained by Noel Meade (3 of last 6)
The average winning SP in the last 18 runnings is 5/1
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Delta Work and Presenting Percy lead a five-strong team for Gordon Elliott in the Ladbrokes Champion Chase at Down Royal.
The Cullentra handler has saddled three previous winners of the first Grade One of the Irish jumps season in Roi Du Mee (2013), subsequent Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Don Cossack (2015) and Outlander (2017) – and appears intent on adding to his tally.
The likely favourite on Saturday is Delta Work, who was disappointing when well fancied 12 months ago, but went on to claim a huge Grade One double at Leopardstown in the Savills Chase and the Irish Gold Cup, before finishing fifth in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
“Delta Work never got into a rhythm in the Gold Cup and wasn’t beaten that far,” said Elliott.
“He jumped well all season prior to that. Jack Kennedy seems to be the key to this horse – he seems to really travel and do everything right for him.”
Presenting Percy makes his debut for Elliott, after being moved from Pat Kelly’s yard.
The nine-year-old looked every inch a potential Gold Cup winner when dominating his rivals in the 2018 RSA Chase, but he has never quite re-discovered that brilliance since – and was behind Delta Work twice at Leopardstown last term before falling at Cheltenham.
Elliott added: “Presenting Percy is a horse I like, and I’m looking forward to running him.
“I’d seen the horse plenty of times at the races before he arrived here, so I knew enough about him. I was thrilled to get the phone call and I’m very lucky to get him.”
Kennedy has returned from injury in time to renew his partnership with Delta Work, while Denis O’Regan rides Presenting Percy.
The Storyteller (Keith Donoghue), Alpha Des Obeaux (Bryan Cooper) and Ravenhill (Mark Walsh) complete the Elliott quintet.
Few trainers have their horses in better form than Noel Meade, who saddles Snow Falcon and Tout Est Permis in a bid for a third successive victory in the race following the back-to-back triumphs of the currently sidelined Road To Respect.
Meade said: “Snow Falcon is getting on a bit now. But he worked well on Tuesday morning – and so did Tout Est Permis.
“Snow Falcon might find a few of the younger fellows hard to beat, but he’s in good form and goes well fresh.
“We ran Tout Est Permis over hurdles a few times last year because he looked very well handicapped, but it never quite worked out.
“He finished second behind The Storyteller at Punchestown a couple of weeks ago, and I think he’s come on a ton – I think he’ll put up a big show.”
Henry de Bromhead’s pair of Chris’s Dream and Balko Des Flos complete the nine-strong field.
The main supporting race on Saturday’s card is the Grade Two Lough Construction Ltd. Chase, in which Elliott’s dual Cheltenham Festival hero Samcro takes top billing.
The eight-year-old bolted up on his chasing debut over the course and distance last season before ending his campaign with a narrow but memorable victory over Melon and Faugheen in an epic Marsh Novices’ Chase in the Cotswolds.
“We went down the Champion Hurdle route with him a couple of seasons ago, and that didn’t work out, but he didn’t do much wrong last year,” said Elliott.
“He won in Down Royal and then fell in the Drinmore in Fairyhouse when I felt he might have won.
“It was a terrible decision by me to run him in heavy ground at Limerick over Christmas (when second to Faugheen).
“Sometimes you get lured into running in these races because they’re Grade Ones and you want to support them, but he won’t be running in heavy ground this season.
“I’d say he’ll go to Down Royal, then the John Durkan, the Kinloch Brae and then the Ryanair Chase in Cheltenham. He’ll probably have an entry in the King George as well – that’s what I have in my head at the moment.
“He’s in great form.”
Samcro is joined by stable companion Battleoverdoyen, with the Willie Mullins-trained Easy Game appearing the biggest threat.
Jessica Harrington’s Sizing Pottsie and Eamon Delaney’s Yaha Fizz are the other hopefuls.
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Envoi Allen predictably outclassed his rivals as he made a foot-perfect start to his career over fences at Down Royal.
Bought for £400,000 by Cheveley Park Stud, Gordon Elliott’s unbeaten six-year-old has so far lived up to his hefty price tag, with his eight previous wins under Rules including a pair of Cheltenham Festival triumphs in the Champion Bumper and the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle.
Faced with just four rivals in the Advanced NI Scaffolding Beginners Chase – a race his trainer had won with the top-class pair of Delta Work and Samcro in the last two years – Envoi Allen was a prohibitively priced 1-14 favourite under Jack Kennedy.
After initially bouncing out in front when the tapes went up, Envoi Allen was then given a lead by rank outsider Soi Cowboy for much of the two-and-a-half-mile contest, before taking over again racing down the back straight.
Jumping accurately throughout, the six-year-old stamped his authority on the race from the home turn – safely negotiating the final two obstacles and quickening up smartly under hand driving to score by six lengths from January Jets.
Paddy Power trimmed his odds from 5-2 to 9-4 for the Marsh Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham next March, while Coral offer just 2-1.
Elliott said: “Brilliant! You loved the way he switched off and went by them, you just love his attitude. You couldn’t be happier.
“Jack (Kennedy) said he popped away and he quickened after the second-last. That’s what he was bought for, he’s a chaser and it’s nice to get that out of the way.
“He was good and coming out of Colin Bowe’s (where he won his point-to-point). he had plenty of work done (over fences).
“I imagine, all being well, he will go for the Drinmore at Fairyhouse.”
Elliott’s Farouk D’alene had earlier maintained his unbeaten record in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Maiden Hurdle.
The dual bumper winner was a 2-9 favourite to make a winning hurdling debut in a race his trainer had won four times in the last five years and came home eight lengths clear under Kennedy.
Elliott said: “He’s a big chaser – that’s what he has been bought to be. He’s a staying horse and you could hear him just have a blow after the last.
“He has never shown anything at home, but when you go to the track he is better. I’d say he couldn’t have the ground soft enough.”
The Cullentra handler completed a treble on the card with the Jamie Codd-ridden Chemical Energy (10-11 favourite) in the concluding bumper.
Skyace was a shock 66-1 winner of the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Novice Hurdle.
Bought for the bargain basement price of £600 by trainer Shark Hanlon, after being placed in three bumpers for Willie Mullins, the five-year-old won her first two starts for her new connections, but had struggled since.
She faced a huge step up in class for this Grade Three contest, but finished with a flourish under Jody McGarvey to get up and beat Elliott’s 6-5 favourite Queens Brook by a head.
Hanlon was not present due to being in isolation following a recent trip to the sales in Britain.
Speaking from his yard in County Carlow, the trainer said: “There were a couple of good mares in the race, but I honestly thought she’d finish in the first three.
“It’s topped off the year for me as it’s our 16th winner since the restart and I think we’ve had 20 seconds. I think we’ve only run around 30 horses, so it’s been unbelievable.
“We’ve no real plans for this mare, but she’s entitled to go for some of those Graded mares’ races now. I’d love to give her a break and bring her back for Punchestown. The boys are talking about Cheltenham, but whether she’s good enough, I don’t know.
“The owners are from Wexford, but they’re actually in Dubai. I’ve just spoken to them on the phone and I’d say there’ll be plenty of celebrating going on tonight over there!
“She’s a very good mare and I’m lucky to have her.”
Reflecting on her cheap purchase, Hanlon added: “I went over to the sales and the boys that own her told me they wanted a horse. I rang them and said there was a filly there who had been placed twice behind another good mare of mine, Dime A Dozen.
“They asked me how much I thought she’d make and I said she’d make around £15,000! They told me not to come home without her and we bought her for £600.
“She has never had a lame step with me since she landed here.”
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Aspire Tower proved too strong for fellow Cheltenham Festival runner-up Abacadabras in the WKD Hurdle at Down Royal.
The Gordon Elliott-trained Abacadabras was the 8-15 favourite for the Grade Two feature – making his first competitive appearance since being beaten a head by Shishkin in a thrilling renewal of the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in March.
Henry de Bromhead’s Aspire Tower, last seen finishing behind Burning Victory in the Triumph Hurdle, was in receipt of 6lb from the market leader and was a 3-1 chance in the hands of Rachael Blackmore.
Sent straight to the lead, Aspire Tower jumped well in the main and was followed into the home straight by his stablemate Jason The Militant and Abacadabras, with the trio well clear of the remainder.
Abacadabras looked to be travelling best between the final two flights, but Aspire Tower refused to bend and was going away again at the finish – coming home with four and a half lengths in hand over Abacadabras, who pipped Jason The Militant to second.
Paddy Power cut Aspire Tower to 14-1 from 50-1 for the Champion Hurdle next March, with Abacadabras pushed out to 8-1 from 5-1.
De Bromhead said: “I’m delighted with that. He was so good at Leopardstown at Christmas last year and I just felt after that his form didn’t look as good. He’s a big four-year-old who had just come off the Flat and maybe everything caught up with him a little bit as the season went on.
“We gave him a really good break and it’s fantastic that he has come back like that.
“Rachael was brilliant on him, he is tough out and he did it the hard way on his first run since March.”
“I’m delighted with Jason (The Militant) as well, he ran really well and Paul (Townend) thought he would come on from that.”
When asked if he will be training Aspire Tower as a Champion Hurdle horse, the trainer added: “I think he is entitled to certainly step up again. I’ll speak to the lads and see what everyone wants to do.
“I would imagine we would look at Christmas and see what is going on there.”
Elliott said of Abacadabras: “You are always disappointed when you don’t win. Jack (Kennedy) said he had a bit of a blow after the second last. He was riding like he was going to win cantering and just blew up.
“I was disappointed, but Jack said not to be too disappointed and that he had a blow and he is going to come on from that.
“Take nothing away from the winner, he looked very good on the day no matter what we did.
“We’ll see how he is and look at the Morgiana Hurdle in Punchestown.”
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It will be a key day for Gordon Elliott on Friday as he sends both Envoi Allen and Abacadabras into action at Down Royal.
Elliott is a high-profile presence at the two-day meeting, dominating affairs on an annual basis – with Willie Mullins tending to wait a couple of weeks longer before unleashing his big guns.
Abacadabras is set to go off at a short price in the WKD Hurdle, having just been touched off by Nicky Henderson’s Shishkin at Cheltenham in March in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.
“He’s a nice horse who hasn’t done much wrong in his career,” said Elliott.
“He was probably unlucky in the Supreme. Nicky’s horse was very good, but we probably ended up getting there (the front) too soon.
“I think our horse has improved. He’s not a horse that you’d work that much, because he’s hard enough on himself on the gallop.
“It will be a good race in Down Royal. We’re going to have to improve, and if we improve we’ve got a good chance.”
The Henry de Bromhead pair of Aspire Tower and Jason The Militant are expected to give him most to do.
Just over an hour later Elliott will give Jack Kennedy the leg up on Envoi Allen for his debut over fences under rules in the Advance NI Scaffolding Beginners Chase.
Unbeaten in eight career starts, Envoi Allen is already a dual Cheltenham Festival winner – but this will be the first time Kennedy has ridden him in a race, with Davy Russell sidelined by injury.
“He’s just a very laid-back horse who I’m lucky to have,” said Elliott.
“If you watched him in Cheltenham last season, for two or three strides after the back of the last I thought ‘we’re in trouble here’, but he just picks up and is always there when you want him.
“He’s schooled well. The ground has been good enough, so we haven’t done an awful lot of schooling with him, but he came from Colin Bowe’s and will have done an awful lot of schooling as a young horse – it’s just a case of getting his eye back in and refreshing him.
“There’s a lot of water to go under the bridge between now and Cheltenham next March, and he probably is going to get beat some day – hopefully not.”
In the Grade Three Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Novice Hurdle, Champion Bumper third Queens Brook bids to add to a Fairyhouse success on her hurdling debut – when she had to work harder than expected.
“She got tired in Fairyhouse – but as we said before the race, she was only three-quarters fit, if even that,” said Elliott
“I think two and a half miles will suit her better in time, and even a bit softer ground, but this race is there for her to run in.”
Lorna Fowler’s Politesse, De Bromhead’s Brave Way and John McConnell’s Anna Bunina will give her something to think about.
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Presenting Percy is set to face eight rivals as he has his first run for trainer Gordon Elliott in the Grade One Ladbrokes Champion Chase at Down Royal.
Owner Philip Reynolds switched his star from Pat Kelly’s stable after the nine-year-old’s winless last campaign ended with a fall in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Presenting Percy has not won over fences since showing his class in the RSA Chase at the 2018 Festival.
He will have a new rider in Denis O’Regan, because his regular partner Davy Russell is on the long-term injury list.
Half of the opposition on Saturday will come from his own stable – with Elliott also declaring Alpha Des Obeaux, Delta Work, Ravenhill and The Storyteller in a race featuring representatives from just three stables.
Henry de Bromhead is double-handed with Balko Des Flos and Chris’s Dream – while Noel Meade’s pair Snow Falcon and Tout Est Permis complete the field.
Elsewhere on the card, all eyes will be on another Elliott inmate when his dual Cheltenham Festival winner Samcro makes his seasonal reappearance in the Lough Construction Ltd Chase.
The highly-regarded eight-year-old got his career firmly back on track with victory in the Marsh Novices’ Chase.
Elliott also supplies Battleoverdoyen in a field of five – completed by Easy Game, Sizing Pottsie and Yaha Fizz.
Stable companions Delta Work and Presenting Percy remain on course for a fascinating clash at Down Royal after featuring among 11 horses to stand their ground for the Ladbrokes Champion Chase.
Delta Work claimed a Grade One double at Leopardstown last season, with victories in the Savills Chase and the Irish Gold Cup – and Presenting Percy finishing behind him on both occasions.
Both horses were last seen running in the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March, with Delta Work finishing fifth and Presenting Percy falling two fences from home when still in contention.
Presenting Percy has since joined Gordon Elliott from Pat Kelly’s yard and is set to debut for his new trainer on Saturday.
Elliott’s formidable hand is further strengthened by Alpha Des Obeaux, The Storyteller, Shattered Love and Ravenhill. The first three named also have the option of travelling to Wetherby for the bet365 Charlie Hall Chase on the same afternoon.
Henry de Bromhead has Balko Des Flos and Chris’s Dream still in contention, while the in-form Noel Meade could call upon Snow Falcon and Tout Est Permis.
Denis Hogan’s mare Moyhenna completes the acceptors.
Samcro looks set to be the star attraction in the Grade Two Lough Construction Ltd. Steeplechase on the same card.
Elliott’s charge bounced back to his best to beat Melon and Faugheen in a thrilling Marsh Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham last season, and has long been pencilled in to make his reappearance in the second-season novice event.
Elliott has also entered Battleoverdoyen – while De Bromhead could run Arkle disappointment Notebook, and Willie Mullins has given the option to Easy Game.
Sizing Pottsie, Yaha Fizz and Zero Ten are the other hopefuls.
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Lorna Fowler is looking forward to the return of Politesse at Down Royal this week, following a pleasing workout on the Curragh.
The County Meath trainer has fine-tuned the six-year-old’s preparation to start her season over two miles on Friday.
Fowler said: “She’s very good – she did a bit of work at the Curragh on Friday, so hopefully we’re on schedule for Down Royal next Friday in a Grade Three mares’ novice hurdle.
“It’s very much a starting point. It’s going to be an incredibly hot race, so if she could just run a nice race and get plenty more education then we’ll move on after that and slightly step her up in trip after that.
“I’m happy with her. She’s definitely a bigger, stronger mare this year.
“She’s taken plenty to get fit – because she got plenty of condition in the summer, which was great. I’m very happy with her.”
Politesse made a winning debut over hurdles at Thurles in March just before the lockdown, having won a bumper there and finished second in a Leopardstown Grade Two at that discipline in February.
https://www.geegeez.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/2.52274590-scaled.jpg12802560Geegeez Newshttps://www.geegeez.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/geegeez_banner_new_300x100.pngGeegeez News2020-10-25 14:34:142020-10-25 15:25:09Fowler plans Down Royal outing for Politesse
Gordon Elliott is happy to let Delta Work clash with his new stable companion Presenting Percy in the Ladbrokes Champion Chase at Down Royal.
Delta Work finished a disappointing fourth in the first Grade One of the Irish National Hunt season last term, but raised his game to complete a top-level double with victories in the Savills Chase and the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown.
The Gigginstown House Stud-owned gelding rounded off his campaign by finishing fifth in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, and Elliott hopes he can find the necessary improvement to go even closer in the blue riband next March.
“To be only be beaten six lengths in the Gold Cup, with the way he jumped, I thought was very good,” said the Cullentra handler.
“He’s only seven, so he’s still a young horse – and I haven’t given up on him yet.
“If his jumping brushes up, he’s in the mix.”
Presenting Percy has never quite looked the same horse since his stunning display in the RSA Chase at the 2018 Cheltenham Festival.
Not too far behind Delta Work in both races at Leopardstown last season, however, the nine-year-old was making late headway when falling two fences from home in the Gold Cup at Cheltenham – and has since joined Elliott from Pat Kelly’s yard.
Elliott will train Presenting Percy for the Gold Cup, but also views him as a live Grand National contender.
“The race at Down Royal (on Ocotber 31) is a Grade One, so I’d have no problem running the two of them – and I could run two or three more with them,” he added.
“Presenting Percy is a horse I’ve always looked up to and said ‘he’s a horse you’d love to have’. I’m very lucky to have him.
“He probably has to improve half a stone to be a Gold Cup horse, but he ran well in a couple of those races in Leopardstown last year and was running a good race in the Gold Cup when he came down.
“To me, he has Grand National written all over him. He’s a good jumper who has a bit of class.
“I’d love to win a Gold Cup with him – but if that didn’t happen, the Grand National is in the back of my head.”
Elliott already houses a dual Grand National winner, of course, in the hugely popular Tiger Roll.
The 10-year-old holds an entry on the Flat at Navan on Thursday, but appears unlikely to take up the engagement.
Elliott said: “I stuck him in just to keep my options open, but I don’t know if I’ll run him.
“If the ground is good up in Down Royal I’d run him in the big race (Ladbrokes Champion Chase) there as well – if not I might keep him for the Boyne Hurdle in Navan.
“He’s in great form, and has been the horse of a lifetime.
“If everything goes well, we’ll dream about going back to Aintree this season.”
Three other Elliott stars set to reappear at Down Royal are Envoi Allen, Abacadabras and Samcro.
Envoi Allen is due to make his debut over fences at the Lisburn circuit; Champion Hurdle aspirant Abacadabras is pencilled in to contest the WKD Hurdle, and Samcro is bound for a Grade Two chase for second-season novices.
Elliott said of Envoi Allen: “He was bought to be a Gold Cup horse, and that’s the way we’re going to train him.
“He doesn’t do anything flashy at home – he’s just the real thing when he gets on to the track.
“I’m looking forward to starting him off in Down Royal. He’s going to come on from it – but if he’s going to be the horse we think he is, he should be winning in Down Royal.”
Abacadabras was last seen going down by just a short head to Nicky Henderson’s Shishkin in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, while Samcro bounced back to his best to beat the Willie Mullins-trained pair of Melon and Faugheen in a titanic tussle for the Marsh Novices’ Chase.
“I think Abacadabras has improved – he’s stronger looking. We’ve never really had very good two milers, but this horse is pretty quick,” said Elliott.
“Samcro is a very good horse, and I’ve been lucky to have him.
“Everyone says him winning at Cheltenham was a great training feat, and it was grand – but for me, running him in Limerick on that heavy ground at Christmas (when second to Faugheen) was a terrible training decision.
“I’m not going to make that mistake this year – if there’s heavy in the going, he won’t run.
“I’d say he’ll go to Down Royal, then the John Durkan, the Kinloch Brae and then the Ryanair Chase in Cheltenham. He’ll probably have an entry in the King George as well, but that’s what I have in my head at the moment.”
When asked what his one wish would be for the 2020/21 National Hunt season, Elliott did not hesitate in saying: “To be champion trainer.
“It was heart-breaking to get beat by Willie in the final week of the season at Punchestown in 2018 and in 2019 – we just got beat as well. Hopefully it’ll happen some day, and if it ever does I’ll really appreciate it.
“I think if you’re training horses, if you don’t want to be champion trainer, why would you do it? If you’ve got one trainer with an ambition of training 20 or 30 winners a year and another who wants to be champion trainer, I know who I’d like to have a horse with.
“We’re very lucky to have the amount of horses we have – hopefully we can keep them in one piece and have a good season.”
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