Valseur Lido is set to skip Kempton’s King George VI Chase and take up a Christmas engagement in Leopardstown’s €150,000 Lexus Chase.
After a sparkling first start for new trainer Henry De Bromhead in last month's JNwine Champion Chase at Down Royal Valseur Lido is as low as 8-1 in betting lists for the King George. But Michael O'Leary's Gigginstown Stud team has indicated he is more likely to stay closer to home.
Even with the current Gold Cup title-holder Don Cossack continuing his comeback from a tendon problem, Gigginstown's strength in the staying chase division remains impressive although there is no doubt where its Christmas priorities lie.
“The Lexus is the first draw. The King George is very much secondary and Valseur Lido looks like our number one this year. So I think we’ll let him have a chance to shine,” said Eddie O’Leary on Tuesday.
Don Poli won last year's Lexus for Gigginstown while O'Leary's other "Don" memorably crashed out at the second last of the 2015 King George at Kempton.
However if a change of trainer obviously didn't interfere with Valseur Lido at Down Royal, Don Poli's first start for new trainer Gordon Elliott proved a bitter disappointment as he was pulled up in the same race.
“Don Poli will go back for the Lexus and maybe heavy ground might make a difference to him,” added O’Leary who is keeping a lid on any expectations of Don Cossack making a spectacular comeback later in the season.
"He has been back at Gordon's since November 1st and is fine," he said. "If we can go again with him it will be a pleasant surprise. What I envisage is that we'll get near a run with him and then he'll break down again. But if he doesn't make Cheltenham he will be retired."
Elliott has outlined hopes to get one run into Don Cossack before a return to the festival but that is unlikely to be next month’s Kinloch Brae at Thurles which the horse won last season.
“It would be great if he could make that but I doubt it. I would imagine we’re looking at the middle of February if he is to make a run,” O’Leary added.
Gigginstown have other King George options such as Outlander and Sub Lieutenant, who filled the places behind Djakadam in Sunday's John Durkan at Punchestown, while both the impressive Troytown winner Empire Of Dirt and Wounded Warrior remain options for the following day's Welsh Grand National at Chepstow.
“They are the two that might go if any go at all; although if the handicapper is right Empire Of Dirt might be a Grade One horse and can run in the Lexus instead.
“I hope the handicapper is right putting him up to 159 but I don’t think he is. I think Empire Of Dirt won an unusual Troytown: it was almost summer ground and he was up against winter horses. He’s got a huge hit and it might mean we have go hurdling. But why should we have to?” O’Leary asked.
Gigginstown’s hugely promising novice Death Duty is in line to follow up his Grade Three success at Navan last month with a return to the same course and distance for Sunday’s Grade Two novice hurdle on the agenda.
He is one of five Gigginstown entries among the 10 left in the Navan Novice Hurdle which has also attracted Willie Mullins’s impressive Gowran winner, Invitation Only. Mullins won the race last year with another Graham Wylie owned runner, Bellshill.
Navan also hosts a Listed bumper on Sunday and among the hopefuls still in contention to run is the four year old Samcro who impressed many with a smooth success at Punchestown a month ago.