Michael O’Leary hoping to Disko dance with joy at Leopardstown

Ryanair boss eyes €150,000 Christmas Chase for fourth year in a row

The Michael O'Leary-owned star Disko is set to skip Kempton's King George VI Chase and instead form part of the Ryanair boss's attempt to win the €150,000 Leopardstown Christmas Chase for a fourth year in a row.

A clash between Sizing John and Yorkhill in the race formerly known as the Lexus is shaping as the highlight of next week’s holiday action.

Nevertheless O’Leary’s Gigginstown team is preparing to take on the two favourites with formidable strength in depth even if they appear to be downplaying their chances of winning four-in-a-row.

“We could have a lot of runners but it’ll be a fantastic race with Willie’s horse [Yorkhill] and Sizing John. Whatever we run will be looking for third spot!” claimed O’Leary’s brother, Eddie, who oversees the massive Gigginstown operation.


Gigginstown has over 80 St Stephens Day entries in Ireland alone ahead of Saturday’s final declaration stage and O’Leary stressed final running plans for Tuesday’s action are going to left as late as possible.

However, original indications that Disko could travel to Kempton for the King George appear to have been shelved.

“I’d say it’s looking doubtful he’ll go to Kempton. I’ve talked to Noel [Meade] and if he runs at all over Christmas it will be in the Lexus,” said O’Leary who can pick from a dozen Gigginstown horses left among the 22 entries.

Preferred option

They include last year’s winner Outlander and the 2014 hero Road To Riches as well as Road To Respect who is as low as 10-1 in ante-post betting for the Christmas Chase. Other options include the Galway Plate winner Balko Des Flos, Valseur Lido and A Toi Phil.

“We’ve won it for the last three years but there was no Sizing John or Yorkhill in there then,” O’Leary warned.

Limerick’s Grade Two McMahon Novice Chase remains the most likely Christmas option for Gigginstown’s Drinmore winner Death Duty and O’Leary said: “It would look to be the better and preferred option but we’ll see. There’s still a long way to go to next week.”

There will be a long way to go in Wednesday’s Coral Welsh Grand National which is likely to see last year’s runner-up Raz de Maree try to go one place better in the Chepstow marathon.

Gavin Cromwell’s veteran did best of the rest behind Native River a year ago and is on target to try to secure a big-race victory just a few days before officially turning 13 years of age.

Two other Irish-trained hopes – Noel Meade’s Bonny Kate and Gordon Elliott’s Folsom Blue – also remain among the 33 horses left in the Welsh National after Thursday’s latest forfeit stage.

The Scottish National winner Vicente tops the weights but it is Nicky Henderson’s Beware The Bear who was initially made a 7-1 favourite by the sponsor.

Great record

"Although Nicky Henderson doesn't have a great record in any of the leading Nationals, in Beware The Bear he has a contender in great form. His position at the head of the betting is under threat from Chase The Spud and Rock The Kasbah though," said a spokesman.

Prior to that however there will be three Irish runners in Saturday's valuable Racing Welfare Handicap Hurdle at Ascot.

Willie Mullins sends the JP McManus-owned Bleu Et Rouge while his brother Tom will rely on Top Othe Ra who will be ridden by the trainer's son David, successful in the race last year on Brain Power.

Elliott has won the race twice with Cause Of Causes (2012) and Bayan (2014) and relies this time on Veinard.

The final flat fixture of 2017 takes place at Dundalk on Friday night and features the popular triple-Group One winning veteran Gordon Lord Byron as topweight for a €25,000 handicap.

There’s also a top-flight connection to the mile conditions event for juveniles as Theobald ran his last two races in the Racing Post Trophy and the Dewhurst.

He eventually came up well short in both and has a 13 of 13 draw which hardly helps his cause. But a 101 rating is still hard to argue with in this context.

Noble Kingsway belied 33-1 odds with a fine debut effort here at the track and has a good draw in the opener unlike his more experienced rivals, Spirit Power and It’s All A Joke.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

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