Down Royal Race Preview, 31/10/2020

Down Royal
Saturday October 31st

Rain forecast for several hours on Saturday morning

Down Royal 2.25
Ladbrokes Champion Chase Grade 1
3m – Going: Yielding (Yielding to Soft in places) – 9 runners

Alpha Des Obeaux
Not the force of old, but his 3rd in last year’s Becher Chase at Aintree behind Walk In The Mill wasn’t bad, although he shaped like needing extreme trips nowadays; couple of mistakes, chased leader 3 out, niggled along and lost ground approaching home turn, looked held jumping 2 out, ridden disputing 6 lengths 3rd approaching last, put under pressure, relegated to 4th and looked held going to the Elbow, picked up under pressure and stayed on into 3rd, stuck to task, no impression on 1st 2. Again looked slow when below-form 5th to The Storyteller in Grade 3 chase at Punchestown on October 14th, disputed lead, led 4th, ridden into 5th, headed approaching 6th, ridden into 8th, chased leader till ridden into and led 14th, headed and lost ground after 3 out, hard driven home turn, outpaced disputing 3rd when blundered 2 out, lost further ground before last, no more. Seems to be slowing the older he gets, and has to be ridden forcefully to do anything; unlikely to be a factor here
Balko Des Flos
Has rarely run to the top-class form which he showed to win the 2018 Ryanair Chase since then and hasn’t won since; last piece of high-class form was when 3rd to Kemboy in 2019 Bowl at Aintree in the rain on soft ground. No form in two starts last season and ran poorly in Grade 3 at Punchestown on reappearance, held up rear, good headway and midfield 10th, prominent 12th, niggled along in 4 lengths 3rd 4 out, pushed along and couldn’t go with leaders home turn, well held 2 out, dropped away, reminder when weakening approaching last, no more. There is other top-class back form to his name – his length-2nd to Road To Respect at Leopardstown over Christmas 2017 for example – but  not sure what, if anything, to expect now
Chris’s Dream*
Goes well fresh and in the Autumn, and won Troytown at Navan first up last season by 9 lengths from Fitzhenry, and better that on form – after over two months since the Troytown – when taking Red Mills Chase at Gowran Park in February, made all, jumped right, clear much of the way. ridden home turn, about 2 lengths up 2 out, hard driven, stayed on under pressure, about the same in front when mistake last, driven out, all out, stayed on well enough last 150 yards – didn’t look to have much left at the end in attritional conditions but beat Shattered Love just over 2 lengths. Historically hasn’t been at his best from March onwards and bettered expectations in Cheltenham Gold Cup on last start, nudged along approaching 3 out, some 3 to 4 lengths down when niggled along on landing, pushed along, held place to home turn under a ride, weakened approaching 2 out where mistake, lost further ground approaching last and finished 18 lengths 10th to Al Boum Photo. Pushing top class, it wouldn’t be a shock if he ran well for a long way
Delta Work
Needs no introduction nowadays and did the double of the Leopardstown three-mile Grade 1 chases last season, in the Irish Gold Cup in February held up, made a couple of places and midfield 6th, closed up further approaching 10th, prominent after 3 out, at most 2 lengths down 2 out, pushed along home turn, got a split on inner and stayed on under a push approaching last, effort and led when in close to it, hard driven, stayed on, all out but always holding on from Kemboy and Presenting Percy. It was a surprise that none of those three figured at the end in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, in Delta Work’s case 6 lengths 5th to Al Boum Photo, held up, overjumped and pecked on landing 2nd, nudged along 14th, mistake 16th and pushed along away from it, pushed again from 18th, travelled more comfortably from 4 out, at most a length and a half down when niggled along after 3 out, pushed along approaching home turn, within 3 lengths home turn though several were going better, outpaced under a ride before mistake 2 out, put under pressure, looked held approaching last, driven and kept on, took 5th inside final 150 yards, no impression on 1st 4. Really he didn’t turn up, an early error at the 2nd setting the tone and the writing on the wall on the back straight as the race took shape. Only once successful on his reappearance, and a poor 4th to Road To Respect in this race last year (mistakes, well held 2 out, disputing 3rd when blundered last), he’s no stand-out
Presenting Percy*
Used to be the most written-about jumps horse in training that wasn’t trained by one of Elliott, Henderson, Mullins and Nicholls, but he’s with Gordon Elliott now (and still gets twice as many column inches as most). No wins to his name since winning the 2019 Galmoy Hurdle at Gowran Park; best completed effort last season when running close in Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown in February, held up as usual, good quick ground on the bit after 3 out, chased leader approaching 2 out, drew upsides approaching home turn, niggled along, soon more firmly ridden, stayed on, led off the bend, headed by Delta Work approaching last, faded to 3rd, hard driven, hung left and wandered, well held run-in, kept on last 100 yards. Had his supporters in the Cheltenham Gold Cup but fell at the second last when making his effort,  in last pair when in close to 11th, was 6 lengths down travelling largely comfortably 4 out, edged closer approaching 3 out, pecked on landing, effort delayed approaching home turn, shaken up on straightening, staying on and was upsides eventual 4th Monalee when he fell – he’d probably have been no worse than 5th. Likely to be held up as usual with Denis O’Regan booked, there’s no knowing what we’ll get, but his best would see him going close
Ravenhill
Best to date over fences when winning National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, headway wide and midfield 12th, headway and prominent 19th whilst sitting a few lengths off the leaders, good headway down the hill and closed on leader approaching 3 out, jumped it at most half a length down, travelled much the best as disputed lead approaching home turn, shaken up, didn’t assert, 1st 2 pulled clear, together 2 out, ridden, the better jump last, led, pulled a length and a half clear, idled but stayed on well enough. Reappearance in Kerry National at Listowel in September but didn’t get far, mistake 4th, lost place and towards rear when niggled along before blundered and unseated rider 10th – it wasn’t going great at the time, and neither did it go well last time out in Grade 3 at Punchestown earlier this month, flat-backed slow jump 2nd and niggled away from it, ridden into 5th, raced wide 13th, niggled along approaching 14th, pushed along and struggling to stay in touch approaching 3 out, lost place and well held in last pair home turn, tailed off last. Slow, has around 20 lengths to find and little expected
Snow Falcon
By far his best run last season was his winning reappearance in PWC Champion Chase at Gowran Park in October 2019, asserting approaching last and beating Peregrine Run just over 6 lengths; he then ran in this race last year and was tailed off behind Road To Respect, ridden and couldn’t go on as pace increased from 3 out, mistake 2 out, rather emptied before last. Several mistakes on his way to a tired 3rd to Chris’s Dream in Red Mills Chase at Gowran Park in February, and made more errors when midfield behind Simply The Betts in Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate at the Cheltenham Festival on last start. Some of his back form would have him in contention for a place at his best, but it’s difficult to see that happening on last season’s form
The Storyteller
Consistent, winner of the 2018 Stable Plate at the Cheltenham Festival and, back over hurdles, went close to winning the Pertemps Final at this year’s Festival back in March,  travelled comfortably throughout, closer order going down the hill to 2 out where mistake, not clear run home turn, pulled wide 200 yards off last, pushed along to lead nearing it, hard driven, stayed on well, headed 175 yards out, 1st 2 clear, sustained effort but no extra final strides and beaten half a length by stablemate Sire Du Berlais. Been busy over the Summer and early Autumn and has won three from five in that time, and after he was put in his place by Easy Game at Gowran Park early in October, he seemed to take his form up a notch when winning Grade 3 chase over 3m at Punchestown on October 14th, headway and midfield 9th, slow 11th and rear again, jumped a bit right 13th, headway from 4 out, prominent 3 out and moved largely comfortably, tracked 1st 2 and arguably moved best approaching 2 out, jumped right there, chased leader between last 2, pushed along, stayed on well, led approaching last, led 2 to 3 lengths jumping, pushed clear, sustained effort, decisive. Some iffy moments when he jumped to the right, but apart from those hard to fault as he beat reopposing Tout Est Permis 7 lengths. Outclassed on paper, but he’s racefit and I don’t think he’s out of this
Tout Est Permis
Spent most of last season over hurdles, with two best efforts in Pertemps Qualifier at Leopardstown over Christmas – started to edge closer bend before 2 out, at most nudged along, more firmly niggled along to close on them, pushed along home turn, caught a bump turning in but every chance as put under pressure, one pace approaching last, mistake, driven, faded last 150 yards (Ronald Pump, subsequent Stayers’ Hurdle runner-up, filled the same place behind Treacysenniscorthy in that race, while Tout Est Permis had The Storyteller behind him that time), and when 3rd in the Final at the Cheltenham Festival, effort under a ride to dispute lead 175 yards off last, led nearing it but soon headed, hard driven and outpaced up the hill, kept on but no further impression as Sire Du Berlais and The Storyteller drew clear. Back over fences on reappearance, good run but again had a view of The Storyteller’s backside in Grade 3 at Punchestown earlier this month, made ground and prominent 11th, mistake 12th, headway going comfortably from 4 out, with leaders 3 out, looked to be going best home turn, niggled along and led approaching 2 out, pushed along between last 2, kept on, was closed on approaching last, readily headed 100 yards off it, hard ridden but faded, left behind run-in, beaten just over 7 lengths. Lags the best of these on form, but might run well to a point

Shortlist: Chris’s Dream, Presenting Percy

Copyright Roy Waterhouse 2020. All rights reserved.