Don Cossack set to lead home challenge in Down Royal feature

Gigginstown quartet to bid for big prize in Grade One Champion Chase

Michael O'Leary's Gigginstown Stud looks set to fly the flag for the home team in Saturday's first Grade One of the National Hunt season at Down Royal with Don Cossack set to try and cement his Cheltenham Gold Cup credentials.

A total of ten horses remain in the €140,000 Champion Chase with half of those entries trained in Britain, including Paul Nicholls' 2014 runner up, Rocky Creek.

Nicholls has won the race four times already, including twice with Kauto Star in 2008 and 2010. His last winner was Kauto Stone in 2012, a victory which prevented O'Leary's maroon colours from a clean-sweep of the race over the last four years.

Blue riband

Quito De La Roque scored for the



boss in 2011 and the last two winners, Roi Du Mee and last year’s hero Road To Riches, are among a Gigginstown quartet, led by Don Cossack, entered this weekend.

Don Cossack is currently rated as low as 6-1 second-favourite for March’s blue-riband at Cheltenham with only Willie Mullins’s Vautour ahead of him in the betting.

O’Leary’s other Down Royal entry, Wounded Warrior, third in last season’s RSA, is also entered for Saturday’s Grade Two Powers Whiskey Chase, a race won by Don Cossack a year ago.

Rebecca Curtis has left in both Irish Cavalier and the 2014 RSA winner O'Faolains Boy while David Pipe has kept open the option of running Dynaste. The Young Master is the other cross-channel entry while the sole non-Gigginstown entry from Ireland is Texas Jack.

The trio of Dynaste, Irish Cavalier and Rocky Creek are however also prominent in betting lists for an alternative Saturday target, Wetherby's Charlie Hall Chase.

Ground conditions at Down are currently “good to yielding” for their biggest National Hunt fixture of the year which begins on Friday with the Grade Two Hurdle featuring.

The subsequent Champion Hurdle winner Jezki won the race a couple of years ago and his stable companion, Modem, is among a dozen possible starters this time.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

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