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JNWine.com Champion Chase

It's not just flat racing exciting everyone this weekend, the traditionalists have their jumps racing to warm to as well. Over in the north of Ireland, it's off to Down Royal for the Champion Chase, as previewed by regular contributor David Stephens, @DaveStevos.

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JNWine.com Champion Chase
Grade 1, Down Royal, Three Miles
€140,000
1440 local


Saturday is the day that the National Hunt season feels like it really gets under way, and some of the discipline's biggest stars will be strutting their stuff on both sides of the Irish Sea. The Champion Chase at Down Royal has traditionally been a good pointer for bigger days later in the season and past winners include classy grey The Listener, the enigmatic Beef Or Salmon and of course the legendary Kauto Star.

Road To Riches took the prize last year, but he isn't back to defend his crown. Unfortunately only four of the eleven contenders that were left in yesterday have stood their ground, but at least the star attraction Don Cossack is set to take his chance. Last year's runner up Rocky Creek is back for another crack, and on paper he looks to be the biggest threat to The Don.

DON COSSACK ELLIOTT/COOPER

Exceedingly talented 175 rated 8yo son of Sholokov who announced his arrival as a proper chaser last year with seven wins from eight runs, including three Grade 1s. His only defeat came on the biggest day of all at Cheltenham in the Ryanair, but he bounced back from that defeat at Prestbury Park with a scintillating display of speed, stamina and jumping at Aintree, followed by another at Punchestown.

He made his reappearance in a Grade 3 at Punchestown a couple of weeks ago and looked as good as ever, beating useful yardstick Roi Du Mee, who re-opposes here. He is a powerful traveller, a spectacular jumper, and with race fitness on his side he will be a tough nut to crack. He is the current 2/7 favourite and deservedly so.

ROI DU MEE ELLIOTT/WALSH

This 154 rated 10yo son of Lavirico has been ultra consistent in 2015. He picked up Listed and Grade 3 chases and is a former winner of this race, beating Sizing Europe back in 2013. He hasn't been out of the first two on his last five runs, winning three of them. He comes back for another crack at the Champion Chase this year, and had a pleasing prep run behind Don Cossack at Punchestown.

Historically he has taken a couple of runs to reach full fitness though, and when he won this two years back it was his fourth run of the season. Even if he was fully fit there is no reason to believe he can turn the tables on his Gigginstown team-mate Don Cossack who had his measure by 12L at Punchestown. Will run his usual solid race and looks set to battle it out for 2nd behind the favourite. He can be backed at 16/1.

ROCKY CREEK NICHOLLS/TWISTON DAVIES

English raider from the powerful Paul Nicholls yard who won a Grade 3 chase at Kempton last February and he also tasted success at Grade 2 level in the Reynoldstown at Ascot back in 2013. This 160 rated 9yo son of Dr Massini has had only one run at the highest level over fences, in this race last year, and he finished a creditable 2nd to Road To Riches. He was beaten 11L though, so that piece of form leaves him with a fair bit to find with the favourite Don Cossack, as does his rating.

He has run well on each of his last three seasonal reappearances with form figures of 222. The worry has to be that a lot of Paul Nicholls' horses have badly needed their comeback run, and there has to be a big doubt about whether Rocky Creek will be 100% ready for this contest. If he is he should finish a clear second on the figures, but without a prep run it might pay to chance one of his race fit rivals for the forecast. He is currently priced up at 9/2.

TEXAS JACK MEADE/FLANAGAN

9yo son of Curtain Time that is rated just 148 over fences. He has a fair bit to find with the other three in the field on the figures. He is a dual Grade 2 chase winner, and lowered the colours of Lord Windermere on the first occasion. However, he has yet to win over further than 2m 5f and on the two occasions he came up against Don Cossack last season he was well beaten.

He would be much better off with these rivals in a handicap, but off level weights and over a trip he has yet to win at he looks sure to struggle. The one positive for Texas Jack is that he has race fitness on his side, but that applies to the two Gigginstown contenders also. Flanagan's aim will be to get around and pick up the handy £4200 prize money on offer for finishing fourth, or perhaps even better if there are any mishaps during the race. He is the outsider of the field and can be backed at 33/1.

CONCLUSION

It has to be said that having only four runners in such a valuable race is a very underwhelming turnout. There was eleven left in up until this morning, and I am sure the organisers will be pretty disappointed with the final line up. However, at least the star attraction has held his ground, and it is difficult to see any of these troubling the mighty Don Cossack. Barring mishaps he looks an absolute good thing at 2/7.

You won't get rich quick at those odds though, and if you are looking for a bit of value it could pay to have a flutter on the forecast. Paul Nicholls' horses have mostly looked undercooked for their seasonal comebacks, and that could well turn out to be the case with Rocky Creek. Roi Du Mee is fit, hasn't got a huge amount to find with Rocky Creek on the figures, and looks sure to run his usual solid race. He is selected to chase the favourite home and make it a Gigginstown 1-2 in the Down Royal Champion Chase.

STEVO'S SELECTION: DON COSSACK/ROI DU MEE FORECAST

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