Down Royal Festival Preview - Day 2
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Down Royal Festival Preview - Day 2

The second day of the Down Royal Festival of Racing takes place on Saturday and it is headlined by the Grade 1 Ladbrokes Champion Chase over three miles. There's an excellent supporting card at Down Royal, where they race from 12.53pm-4.10pm on Saturday and the Racing Post previews selections for all the action.


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12.53pm - Value Cabs 3-Y-O Hurdle (2m1f)

Gordon Elliott saddles jumping newcomers Old Victoria and New Year Honours, with the former likely best-placed for this given she has won in France already, while ex-Joseph O'Brien Flat performer SNAPIUS (rated 84 in that code) commands a close inspection starting out for new connections and with Gavin Brouder taking off a handy 5lb.

The Buratino colt shouldn't be underestimated and could be the each-way player here.

Curragh maiden winner Cougar was just about the best of these when racing on the Flat for Aidan O'Brien and he made a perfect start to his hurdling career for Padraig Roache and new owner JP McManus when landing a Gowran Park maiden over 2m on good ground last month. He is entitled to improve for that and set the standard for these seven rivals.

Selection: Snapius

Next Best: Cougar

 

1.23pm - Tayto Group Maiden Hurdle (2m1f)

High on numbers but low on depth is seemingly the synopsis in this maiden hurdle - at least based on the formbook. Gavin Cromwell fires four at the target, while leading owner JP McManus's silks are carried by four of the 20 engaged runners (plus a reserve).

Given he's had the choice, it looks significant that Mark Walsh is on board FOXFIRE GLOW in the McManus hoops on first start for new handler Elliott. The Cullentra handler has unleashed quite an array of talent over two days at this meeting and this French import is one to note.

He finished second in a juvenile hurdle at Compiegne a year ago on his only start for Francois Nicoll - beaten a neck by an odds-on favourite from the same yard that won a pair of graded races at Auteuil on his next two starts. They were a long way clear that afternoon and, assuming all is well today, he should take care of this motley crew.

In the same colours, Hands Of Gold is a newcomer worth a look while Nathaniel gelding Beer With The Boys was useful on the Flat and worth a look.

Selection: Foxfire Glow

Next Best: Hands Of Gold

 

1.58pm - Charles Hurst DS Handicap Hurdle (Grade B, 2m1f)

Some familiar old names in the mix here as the lies Tudor City, Felix Desjy and Charli Parcs take aim at this prize. Of those, perhaps it is the last-named that makes most appeal. He was pulled up in this contest a year ago but is rated 15lb lower now and has started to show some more promising signs of late. Factor in the 7lb claim from his rider and it's no leap of faith to see him going well.

Things didn't fall right for Watch The Weather at Listowel in September and there could be a better effort forthcoming with Rachael Blackmore staying faithful now.

PATS CHOICE ended his run of seconds when bagging a Navan maiden in September for Elliott. He was back in the runner-up slot at Galway (2m3f, soft), facing a forlorn task giving lumps of weight to what appears a handicap blot. Sam Ewing's partner could be capable of a big run again.

September's Navan winner Nibiru has claims for Tony Martin, while Noel Meade's Pinkerton is lightly-raced and worth a look, albeit has been asked a question off an opening handicap mark of 130.

Selection: Pats Choice

Next Best: Charli Parcs

Premier League Preview – Week 15, Saturday

Premier League Preview – Week 15, Saturday

2.32pm - Ladbrokes Champion Chase (Grade 1, 3m)

It's perhaps worth noting that while this is one of the key early season Grade 1s it is a race Willie Mullins has tasted success in just once - with Florida Pearl in 1999. It isn't a race the perennial champion trainer tends to target and in Kemboy (his sole entry) that's perhaps emphasised. He remains a noble performer but the peaks of late 2018-early 2019 are some way off now.

He has been second to stablemate Easy Game at Listowel and Gowran Park over 2m4f in two recent runs and while a return to three-miles will aid him he may still come up short.

Elliott has a stranglehold on the race, with Galvin and Conflated major players. The former was just touched off by Frodon in this a year ago and is race-fit after winning a Punchestown Grade 3 on his comeback last month. Runner-up Run Wild Fred gave that form a dent in midweek, however.

Conflated stunned a good field that included subsequent Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up Minella Indo when he landed the Irish Gold Cup in February, the beneficiary of a clever ride from Davy Russell that day.

He was a faller in the Ryanair Chase next time (booked for second at best) and then chased home Clan Des Obeaux in Grade 1 company at Aintree. Three-miles here could test him, stamina-wise.

Noel Meade's Beacon Edge looks the outlier, leaving ENVOI ALLEN as one that might cause a surprise.

Things haven't been smooth for him since he relocated to Henry De Bromhead in 2021. The gasps can still be heard from his Cheltenham fall in the Marsh that shattered his unbeaten record.

He had viable excuses (found to have chipped a joint) a month later when pulled up at Punchestown on what remains his only try at this sort of trip and those efforts have perhaps left his current trainer battling to get him back since.

He cruised to victory over 2m3½f on soft ground at this track a year ago on his comeback - albeit in a weak race for the grade - and responded to his John Durkan disappointment by landing a Leopardstown Grade 1 at Christmas. Following a wind op, he finished well-held in third behind top two-miler Energumene in Grade 1s at Cheltenham and Punchestown in the spring.

He has no trouble going well fresh, handles soft ground and could yet have plenty to offer as a three-miler. Indeed, if he's in the hunt when the jumping is done, Envoi Allen could find the short run-in here is very much in his favour. He's taken to get one over on his former boss Elliott and it's hard to imagine anyone in Cullentra would begrudge him.

Selection: Envoi Allen

Next Best: Galvin

Premier League Preview – Week 15, Sunday

Premier League Preview – Week 15, Sunday

3.07pm - Eventsec Chase (Grade 2, 2m3½f)

All four contenders in this Grade 2 are returning for their first starts of the season. Fury Road was a Grade 1-winning novice last winter but perhaps didn't quite build on that in three runs afterwards.

On that Leopardstown win last December he holds Vanillier, whose only win over fences was in the Florida Pearl Novice Chase at Punchestown 11 months ago and had a hint of fortune in it.

The pair are giving upwards of 10lb to FIGHER ALLEN today and that could be asking plenty. Mullins' charge opened his chasing account on third start at Tramore in April and got no further than the first fence in a highly competitive novice handicap chase at the Punchestown Festival afterwards.

He remains with plenty more to give in this sphere and should have plenty homework done since. Paul Townend rides and, on these terms, they are entitled to land this prize while that expected improvement should further aid their cause.

Selection: Fighter Allen

Next Best: Fury Road

 

3.40pm - Start Your Free Trial Now At racingtv.com Handicap Chase (3m)

Top-weight Now Where Or When was down to run here on Friday - in a race he was fancied to win - and so his participation seems unlikely. That should pave the way for FINAL ORDERS to inherit a great chance to make it a chasing hat-trick for Gavin Cromwell.

Second at Downpatrick in September on his debut over the larger obstacles, he tackled a 2m7f Killarney beginners' chase next time and won as he pleased on good ground with a next-time-out winner in second. He then dropped to 2m1½f on soft going at Cork a fortnight later and left his rivals flailing. Returning to three-miles won't be any hindrance now and an opening mark of 120 looks lenient.

Arctic Ambition - winner of a low-grade Tramore handicap chase on New Year's Day for Robert Tyner - is back from a lay-off and now in the care of Elliott. He's getting plenty weight from the selection but improvement is demanded against this race-fit and progressive rival.

Selection: Final Orders

Next Best: Arctic Ambition

 

4.10pm - Ladbrokes (Pro/Am) Flat Race (2m1f)

A late afternoon showdown between heavy-hitting bumper dictators Elliott and Mullins. The former has been fulsome in his praise of KING OF KINGSFIELD this week, suggesting the team at home 'like him a lot' and he's set to stay in bumpers this season as opposed to going hurdling.

The once-raced point-to-point winner has already shortened up significantly in the Champion Bumper betting and the Gigginstown House inmate looks a likely one here under Jamie Codd.

That's not to suggest Closutton newcomer Honky Tonk will go down easily for Patrick and Willie Mullins. By Walk In The Park, he is closely related to the yard's former hurdles winner Arctic Warrior and he commands respect as a rare bumper runner in the Magnier colours. Those that have run don't make great appeal and the other newcomers are surely up against it.

Selection: King Of Kingsfield

Next Best: Honky Tonk

 

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