Down Royal outing in the offing for top-rated Don Cossack

But opposition may come from title holder Road To Riches and others

Down Royal hosts the first Grade 1 prize of the jumps season next Saturday and the JNwine.com Champion Chase looks set to feature Ireland's top-rated steeplechaser, Don Cossack.

The Gordon Elliott trained star returned to action with an impressive success at Punchestown earlier this month, again confirming his official 175 rating, which cemented his place towards the top of the Cheltenham Gold Cup betting.

Current indications are that Don Cossack will return to top-flight competition in this weekend’s €140,000 feature, at a track where he won the Grade 2 chase on last year’s card.

Last year’s winner of the Grade 1, Road To Riches, also races in the colours of Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown Stud and also features among 21 horses currently in the contest, going into tomorrow’s declaration stage.

The Aintree National hero Many Clouds hasn't been ruled out of a trip to Down Royal ahead of a possible tilt at Newbury's Hennessy, a route that Neil Mulholland is also considering for last year's leading novice, The Young Master. Mulholland is anxious to get a pre-Hennessy run into his horse.

"We could go to Down Royal, which would be nice as James Nicholson [race sponsor] has horses with me," he said. "The Down Royal race could cut up to only six runners and it's good prize money."

Debut over flights

Don Cossack’s stable companion Whistle Dixie, a half sister to the Gold Cup hero, Kicking King, makes her debut over flights in tomorrow’s Bank Holiday Monday opener at

Galway

and should be hard to beat.

Wexford’s switch to being a left-handed course can work in favour of the locally trained Last Goodbye in the opener, on the evidence of his Roscommon bumper win.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

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

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