DOWN ROYAL: There’s the Grade 1 Champion Chase from Down Royal to look forward to this weekend, which forms part of a high-class seven-race card from the Ulster track.

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⭕ The action begins with a three-year-old hurdle (12:35pm) over 2m1f. Gordon Elliott has an excellent record in this race, winning five of the last 10 renewals which makes his runner Wodhooh of strong interest. This daughter of Le Harve has won her first two starts over hurdles, including when routing her opposition by 24 lengths at Punchestown last time. She holds a race fitness advantage over Joseph O’Brien’s Cossack Chach and that might prove to be the difference between them.


⭕ Next up is a 2m1f maiden hurdle (1:10pm) that has thrown up some high-class winners in the past, including the likes of Envoi Allen and Mighty Potter. Whale Harbour is an interesting debutant from the Gavin Cromwell yard, but the obvious one here looks to be Down Memory Lane, who was impressive when winning his point-to-point and equally so in a bumper back in February.


⭕ Race three is a Listed hurdle (1:45pm), once again over 2m1f. Foxy Girl won well on her second hurdles start last season, when handling heavy conditions at Limerick. She was then slightly disappointing in the Mares’ Novice Hurdle at Cheltenham, but can be forgiven that effort as she was keen through the early stages. The application of a first-time hood may help her settle better and she looks the type that can continue her progression this season.


⭕ A small but select field of four runners are set to stand their ground in the feature race of the day, the Grade 1 Champion Chase (2:20pm) over 3m. Gerri Colombe is a horse many people expect to make up into a serious Gold Cup contender this season. However, he looks to be priced on potential rather than form and could be worth taking on now he faces seasoned Grade 1 chasers for the first time. Minella Indo finished third in this race two years ago, but is the oldest in the field at 10. Conflated is not without a chance, but Envoi Allen, who won this last year when coming into the race fresh, has the advantage of a prep run on his side and brings among the best form into the race having beaten Shishkin in the Ryanair last season.


⭕ Only three line up in the Grade 2 chase (2:55pm) over 2m3½f. The going is likely to be testing and that might not suit either Ash Tree Meadow or Visionarian. Emmet Mullins’ Feronily does have to shoulder more weight than his rivals but he will handle conditions and his ability to stay further than this distance may come in handy. He also brings the best form into this race with his defeat of Appreciate It in Grade 1 company at Punchestown in April.


⭕ The penultimate race on the card is a competitive looking 3m handicap chase (3:28pm). Many in here hold chances, including last year’s runner-up Archies Charm and Reddys Island at the foot of the weights, while a return to form from Gateau De Miel would make him dangerous. Noel Kelly’s Cave Court has looked good on his last two starts over fences though, and there should be more to come on only his fourth run over the larger obstacles. He may be able to find enough improvement to defy a sizable rise in the weight for winning comfortably last time.


⭕ Nine of the last 10 renewals of the closing 2m1f bumper (4:00pm) have been won by Gordon Elliott. The Cullentra handler runs both Cleatus Poolaw and Pay The Tab and both should be monitored closely in the market beforehand. Dermot McLoughlin has a 15 percent strike rate with his runners at Down Royal and can ready one to win a bumper, so there may be some value in taking a chance with his son of Authorized, Ivybrook.



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