Valseur Lido remains on track for Lexus Chase

Death Duty favourite for Albert Bartlett after impressive Navan victory

Eddie O’Leary thinking about Outlander  and maybe Road To Riches for the King George. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan

Eddie O’Leary thinking about Outlander and maybe Road To Riches for the King George. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan

 

Michael O’Leary is famously averse to budging and Coneygree’s absence from next week’s King George VI Chase isn’t going to divert the Ryanair boss’s top chaser Valseur Lido from his original Christmas target of Leopardstown’s Lexus Chase.

The King George market is now dominated by the veteran Cue Card and his young stable companion Thistlecrack after a poor weekend workout ruled out the 2015 Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Coneygree.

Valseur Lido was cut for Kempton by some firms as a result but the horse who won last month’s JNwine Champion Chase at Down Royal in his first start for new trainer Henry De Bromhead is set to stay at home.

“We don’t care what others are doing and we focus on our own horses. So at this stage Valseur Lido does for the Lexus. He is our real Gold Cup horse this year,” said O’Leary’s brother, Eddie, at Navan on Sunday.

“Instead we might think about Outlander for the King George, and maybe Road To Riches too. They’re possible for Kempton,” he added.  

Logistical challenge

The strength in depth of O’Leary’s Gigginstown Stud team means formulating Christmas plans presents something of a logistical challenge, although Identity Thief remains on course to go into Grade One action at Leopardstown on St Stephens Day.

Identity Thief’s clash with the Willie Mullins-trained Min in the Racing Post Novice Chase promises to be the feature of Leopardstown’s opening-day festival action and De Bromhead is keenly anticipating his stable star’s third start over fences.

“He’s in very good form and I’m not worried about the ground getting soft. He had a very good run with Nichols Canyon on heavy ground last year and he won the Fighting Fifth on soft,” said the Co Waterford trainer.

However, Coneygree will miss out on Christmas action entirely after failing to impress trainer Mark Bradstock in a gallop.

“I know every breath he takes, every step he takes; I know exactly how he is and he’s just not feeling good,” said Bradstock’s wife and assistant, Sara. “We’re still hopefully on for the Gold Cup, and maybe something before that.”

Prelude

If Sunday’s action had the feel of a prelude to next week’s action, it didn’t stop Death Duty providing evidence of significant potential for even further in future with a Grade Two success in the Navan Novice Hurdle.

It moved some firms to make Death Duty a 5/2 favourite for the three-mile Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham but making it to the top of Gigginstown’s own pecking order could prove a task in itself.

Invited to put Death Duty among his leading novice this season, Michael O’Leary played a straight bat and said: “There’s no point talking about that before March. But he is going the right way and Gordon [Elliott] likes him.”

Chastened by having fulsomely praised Don Cossack in his bumper days, only for the future Gold Cup winner to enter a comparative career dip, Elliott doesn’t spray his young horses with praise anymore but conceded of Death Duty: “We like him a lot. We’ll go for the Grade One at Naas after Christmas.”

It was a sign that some are already thinking further ahead than next week.

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