Death Duty ‘99 per cent sure’ to be diverted to Limerick

Oisín Orr appeals 14-day dangerous riding ban incurred at Dundalk

Gordon Elliott and Willie Mullins look set to once again dominate next week's big-race Christmas action but one proven top-flight star likely to step down a grade is Death Duty.

An impressive Grade One scorer earlier this month in the Drinmore at Fairyhouse, the Michael O'Leary-owned novice is "99 per cent sure" to drop back to Grade Two level for the Shannon Airport Chase over two and a half miles on St Stephen's Day.

That is despite holding Grade One entries over an extended two mile and three miles at Leopardstown next week.

“I’m 99 per cent sure I’m going to go to Limerick for the Grade Two. I’m not sure three miles is what he wants now,” confirmed Elliott who says he could have up to 100 runners over the four days of Christmas action.


“At the moment he’s definitely going to Limerick. Davy [Russell] and Jack [Kennedy] will probably be in Leopardstown so Keith Donoghue will ride him,” he added.

Such a move reflects the strength in depth available to Elliott who leads Mullins by almost €300,000 in the trainers' championship having secured almost €2.3 million in prizemoney in Ireland already this season.

That gap could close during the holiday action considering Mullins saddled 22 winners from 50 runners during 2016’s Christmas programme.

However the betting for Leopardstown’s seven Grade One races is dominated by runners from both of Irish jump racing’s top yards.

Mengli Khan (Paddy Power Future Champion Novices Hurdle) and Apple's Jade (Squared Financial Christmas Hurdle) are already warm favourites for Elliott while Min has replaced his injured stable companion Douvan at the top of the betting for the Rewards Club Chase.

The Mullins-trained Footpad is a 4-7 favourite for Leopardstown’s St Stephen’s Day feature, the Racing Post Novice Chase. Elliott has indicated Tombstone is his likely hope for that race.

First start

JP McManus’s lively Cheltenham Gold Cup outsider Coney Island could have his first start in almost a year at Ascot on Saturday.

Last season’s Drinmore Chase winner has been a Leopardstown Christmas regular for the last two years, winning his first ever race there in 2015 and splitting Our Duke and Disko in a memorable Grade One novice chase a year ago.

He hasn’t raced since then but remains as low as 16-1 in some lists for Gold Cup glory in March.

Next week’s Leopardstown Christmas Chase (formerly the Lexus) remains an option for the Eddie Harty-trained runner although McManus’s English-based runner Minella Rocco is likely to take his chance in that.

Coney Island could instead make the reverse trip across the Irish Sea for this weekend’s Sodexo Graduation Chase.

“The Lexus has been and may still be his target but we were discussing it recently with the horse having been off for a year we were wondering whether we could maybe find him something a bit more sensible,” Harty reported.

“The Graduation Chase at Ascot came up so we said we’d give him an entry and we’ll make a decision later in the week. It looks a tasty enough race so we’ll see what happens. The Ascot race looks an attractive starting point and we want to do the right thing by the horse,” he added.

Another McManus horse, Edwulf, trained by Joseph O’Brien, is also entered for the same Ascot event.

In other news, champion apprentice flat jockey Oisín Orr has lodged an appeal against the 14-day ban imposed on him at Dundalk on Friday night for dangerous riding.

Orr was penalised after an incident in the straight during a handicap when his mount, Dancing Doll, made contact with the Killian Hennessy-ridden Long Journey Home who fell. Dancing Doll was subsequently disqualified from fifth place in the race.

Co Donegal-born Orr, 20, was crowned champion apprentice last month having ridden 20 winners during the season, one more than his nearest rival, Killian Leonard.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column