Gigginstown Stud set to dominate first Grade One of jumps campaign
Eight of 14 horses left in Saturday’s €140,000 feature at Down Royal are owned by Ryanair chief Michael O’Leary
Road To Respect, ridden by Bryan Cooper, winning at the Cheltenham festival last March. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
The seasons are in flux this weekend, although the odds suggest the first Grade One of the jumps campaign is going to be business as usual for the Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary.
Eight of the 14 horses left in after Tuesday’s stage are owned by O’Leary, with the Gigginstown team, as expected, adding last year’s runner-up Road To Respect to the mix with a supplementary entry.
The 2017 hero Outlander, as well as the Cheltenham festival winning pair Balko Des Flos and Shattered Love – who has a Grade Two Chase on the same card as an alternative option – help give the champion owner an extremely powerful hand.
Initial bookmaker reaction was to have both Road To Respect and Balko Des Flos towards the top of their ante-post betting lists, with Sub Lieutenant and Outlander also prominent.
Ground conditions could dictate Gigginstown’s competition, with the 2015 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Coneygree one of three cross-channel hopes left in.
Paul Nicholls had the last of his four previous wins in the race in 2012 with Kauto Stone. He has left in both Clan des Obeaux and Black Corton, who gave Bryony Frost a Grade One success at Ascot last February. Both horses also hold entries in Wetherby’s Charlie Hall Chase on Saturday.
Nicholls said on Tuesday the pair were unlikely to run in the same race, and expressed some frustration at how quick ground conditions have persisted to the end of October. “Clan des Obeaux likes plenty of cut, whereas Black Corton can go on quicker. Clan de Obeaux is ready now, and I like him. But he’s got to take that next step up.”
Saturday’s Grade Two also has a pair of Nicholls entries, Cyrname and Dolos, as well as two other home-based Grade One winning novices from last season, Monalee and The Storyteller.
The day after Down Royal, Naas will bring the curtain down on Ireland’s 2018 flat season on turf.
One of the most notable features of the Nicholson Chase entry is the absence of any Willie Mullins-trained horse. But the champion jumps trainer looks set to be heavily represented at Naas.
Mullins has 15 of the 41 entries left in the €100,000 November Handicap, including six of the top seven in the weights. Among them are Limini and the English Cesarewitch runner up Uradel.
“Limini, Whiskey Sour, Strtum and Uradel are possible runners,” said Mullins’s son Patrick. “This has undoubtedly been our most successful year to date on the flat, and it would be nice to sign off on a high this weekend.”
The Listed Finale Stakes will again be the concluding event of the season, and the Mullins team look to have a prime contender for that too in True Self.
The mare won a listed contest impressively at Bath earlier this month. She appears more likely to stay at home rather than take up an alternative engagement in Newmarket over 10 furlongs.