Nicholls tries to end O’Leary’s winning streak in Down Royal feature
2019 Irish flat season winds up at Naas on Sunday
Trainer Paul Nicholls with last season’s King George winner Clan Des Obeaux. Photograph: Alex Davidson/Getty Images
Britain’s champion National Hunt trainer Paul Nicholls will try to foil Michael O’Leary’s hopes of a seventh successive win in the first Grade One of the jumps campaign at Down Royal on Saturday.
The Ryanair boss’s Gigginstown Stud team has three of the five starters in the €140,000 Ladbrokes Champion Chase, including last year’s winner Road To Respect. However, it is Delta Work who looks to be O’Leary’s No 1 hope this time, although on ratings it is Nicholls’ Clan Des Obeaux who sets the standard.
Last season’s King George winner is the Englishman’s first runner in the race in three years, but Nicholls supplied the last non-Gigginstown winner in Kauto Stone in 2012 and can boast four wins in all. They include a pair of victories for the legendary Kauto Star (2008-10.)
Clan Des Obeaux has half a stone in hand of Delta Work on figures. The youngest horse in the race has potential to improve but still has to prove it.
Davy Russell’s disappointment at losing the ride on Delta Work will be eased somewhat at the prospect of Envoi Allen’s jumping debut in an earlier maiden hurdle. Last season’s bumper champion is already favourite for the Ballymore at the Cheltenham festival in March.
The opening Grade One of the jump campaign precedes Sunday’s conclusion to Ireland’s 2019 flat season on grass.
Donnacha O’Brien looks all but assured of a second jockey’s title on 110 winners going into Naas, where he and rival Colin Keane each have a full book of eight rides.
Both have been engaged by Willie Mullins for the featured €100,000 November Handicap, where Ireland’s champion jumps trainer has half of the 16 declarations.
O’Brien is on the topweight and English Cesarewitch winner Stratum, while Keane teams up with Buildmeupbuttercup.
The Irish Cesarewitch victor Royal Illusion is up 13lb for that Curragh victory last month.
Tony Martin’s Mr Everest is back to try and repeat last year’s victory, but it is another of Mullins’s hopes, Diamond Hill, who could ultimately prove to be more than a Galway specialist.