Disko shaping up for return to action at Down Royal
Meade runner could clash for third time with Our Duke
Bryan Cooper on Disko. Disko was third to Our Duke at Leopardstown last Christmas, but comprehensively reversed that form at the same track a couple of months later. Photograph: Getty Images
Aidan O’Brien’s pursuit of a Group One world record is dominating headlines right now, but the first Grade One of the Irish jumps season at Down Royal is looming on Saturday week and could see another head-to-head clash between Our Duke and Disko.
The score is currently 1-1 between two of steeplechasing’s brightest young stars, and both are in contention to line up in the €140,000 JNwine.com Champion Chase.
Jessica Harrington has indicated Our Duke is likely to get his season under way in the opening top-flight event of the 2017-18 campaign, and the superb Irish Grand National winner could face a familiar rival at the Northern Ireland track.
Disko was third to Our Duke in the Neville Bros Chase at Leopardstown last Christmas, but comprehensively reversed that form in the Flogas Novice Chase at the same track a couple of months later. The Noel Meade-trained grey won at the top level again at the Punchestown festival.
“He’s in good form and the plan with Disko is to go direct to the North,” Meade confirmed of the Gigginstown Stud owner runner who is as low as 20-1 for the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March. “His form is pretty good, he’s still a young horse, and you’d hope he’d improve a little bit again.”
Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown team has 11 of the 20 entries still in the Down Royal highlight as they pursue a fifth win in a row in the race. Last year’s winner Valseur Lido is a possible starter again, as is last week’s Punchestown scorer Road To Respect.
Former Gold Cup hero Coneygree has not been ruled out of a trip to Down Royal, while Minella Rocco and More Of That are other cross-channel-based entries.
However, Our Duke is as low as 10-1 in Cheltenham Gold Cup betting, and the prospect of another clash with Disko will be keenly anticipated by many jumps fans.
Asked about Disko’s fitness levels for his first start of the new season, Meade said: “He’ll be ready to make a show. Obviously we’re not drilling him to the very limit but at the same time if they’re not fit enough they won’t have any business going there.”
In contrast to Gigginstown’s strength in depth, Willie Mullins’s sole possible starter is Shaneshill. The champion won the inaugural running of the Down Royal feature with Florida Pearl in 1999.