O’Leary’s faith in Don Poli’s ability can be vindicated in RSA Chase

Windsor Park could be the answer in opening Neptune Novices Hurdle

Don Poli will carry the hopes of Gigginstown in the RSA Chase at Cheltenham. Photo: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

Don Poli will carry the hopes of Gigginstown in the RSA Chase at Cheltenham. Photo: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

 

Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary’s call that Don Poli should take up today’s RSA option can pay off in style.

Already described as a potential Gold Cup contender by Willie Mullins, the trainer’s faith suggested the four miles of the National Hunt Chase would be well within the horse’s ambit.

However the focus of O’Leary’s Gigginstown Stud team is resolutely trained on Graded races so the top-flight RSA will be where Don Poli lines up.

Winner of the Martin Pipe conditional event at last year’s festival, Don Poli is unbeaten in two starts over fences this season, beating the subsequent Grade One winner Apache Stronghold at Leopardstown over Christmas.

Don Poli’s own temperament leans towards doing the bare minimum required to get by and it is this that makes his potential so exciting.

He is joined by his stable companion Adriana Des Mottes among a five-strong Irish representation that also sees Gigginstown’s colours carried by Wounded Warrior.

Home hope Kings Palace is expected to provide Don Poli with his stiffest challenge based on a flawless novice campaign which includes proven form at Cheltenham. The Pipe runner arrived with similar confidence last year but didn’t fire while Don Poli’s credentials in contrast looks pretty much bombproof.

In the opening Neptune Novices Hurdle, Willie Mullins’s Nichols Canyon has won a pair of Grade Ones pots this season, including when beating his rival Windsor Park in last month’s Deloitte. Still many will fancy his Grade Two winning stable companion Outlander instead.

Parlour Games appears to be among the top British contenders. He was out of the money in last summer’s Galway Hurdle and a better round of jumping could see Windsor Park emerge best. Dermot Weld’s decision to take another crack at Nichols Canyon could be significant.

Venetia Williams is always a trainer to reckon with in big handicaps here and well-treated Baradari could be a Coral Cup contender now he is stretched out to the longest trip he has tackled having found two miles too short here last year when he finished with gusto in the Fred Winter behind Hawk High.

Zarib could hardly have won easier than at Wincanton on better ground and Dan Skelton’s runner looks progressive in the Fred Winter.

Impressive French raider Toutancarmont appeals most in the Cross-Country event and gets a valuable 7lbs from Any Currency.

Willie Mullins goes in pursuit of a ninth Weatherbys Champion Bumper with seven hopefuls headed by Patrick Mullins’s mount, Bordini. Bryan Cooper rides Gordon Elliott’s General Principle and an each-way hope can be given to Elliott’s Jetstream Jack.

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