Presenting Percy returns for a new stable with Gordon Elliott

The Grade One Ladbrokes Champion Chase takes place at Down Royal tomorrow. For the showcase we are Presenting Percy, by having his first run for trainer Gordon Elliott.

Not having any luck and finishing last season without a win, the former Pat Kelly stable star has switched scenery and ended the season with a fall in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

His last win came in the 2018 RSA Chase and will have a new rider tomorrow with Denis O’Regan taking over from regular jockey, Davy Russell, who is currently on the long-term injury list.

The current entries for this event are only coming from three stables with Elliott having Alpha Des Obeaux, Delta Work, Raven Hill and The Storyteller also entered. The trio of stables will be completed by Noel Meade who has Snow Falcon and Tout Est Permis with Henry de Bromhead having Balko Des Flos and Chris’s Dream. What would be the odds for a trainer having first and second?

An eventful day is on the cards with Elliott also giving a seasonal reappearance to the dual Cheltenham Festival winner Samcro in the Lough Construction Ltd. Chase. A victory in the Marsh Novices’s Chase put this eight-year-old firmly back on track.

A good and competitive card at Down Royal, it might give us a few pointers towards Cheltenham 2021, whatever may happen and many hoping that this current pandemic will be eased.

Mogul all set for the Breeders’Cup

With just over a week to go till the Breeders’ Cup, Mogul missing the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe might just strengthen his case in the Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf at Keeneland.

The Arc was in his sights after winning the Grand Prix de Paris in September but contaminated feed issues forced the O’Brien team to withdraw all their runners.

The 3-year-old colt loved the good ground in the Grand Prix that day but conditions for the Arc became very testing and it may not have suited him.

Speaking at a Breeders’ Cup teleconference, O’Brien stated:

“He’s a big, gross, powerful horse, who takes his racing well and is always very happy to race. We were looking forward to the Arc with him,”

“The ground was good when he won the Grand Prix de Paris, but none of our horses got to run on Arc day and the ground would not have been ideal.

“Maybe that wasn’t much of a disadvantage, especially looking to this race. We always thought this track would suit him. He’s a pacey horse. He loves nice ground and a flat track.

“We’re happy with what he’s doing at home at the moment.”

Magical was another horse that pleased O’Brien having had a great season with three Group One victories. It was thought the heavy conditions didn’t suit in the Champion Stakes at Ascot.

O’Brien added: “We’ve been delighted with her this year and she ran well the last day. The ground was very heavy in Ascot. She seems to have come out of the race very well.”

“She did very well over the winter from four to five physically and we were looking forward to seeing her race this year. When she started racing, we thought she had improved again.

“She’s a fine, big mare and has been racing at the top level at two, three and four. I suppose we were delighted and hoping the improvement would be there.

“It’s possible this will be her last race, but I don’t know. She also has an entry in Hong Kong in December, so I suppose we will see how things go.

“What we usually do is we take them home and have a good chat about it 10 days after the race and see what we want to do.”

Speaking about another of his prospects, Circus Maximus looks to have several things in his favour where he will try to better last year’s fourth place in the FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Mile.

“He’s been in good form since the last day. The ground in Ascot was very bad and it didn’t suit him.”

“He likes a nice surface and an even pace, a flat track and he loves to get into a battle. We think all those things might suit him.”

Another entry Lope Y Fernandez might find this race ideal.

“We think six, maybe seven is his ideal trip. We had a race in France on Arc day, a seven-furlong Group One (the Prix de la Foret) in mind for him and he didn’t get to run.”

“We thought it would set him up for this race, so when we couldn’t run there, we ran him over six at Ascot and the ground was bad, but he ran respectably and we all thought the Breeders’ Cup Mile might suit him on a flat, easy track.

“We think it will suit him and will ride him a little bit patiently.

“Ryan (Moore) will have the choice and at the moment Circus Maximus is the highest-rated, but we’ll wait and see.”

Definitely entering the big guns, O’Brien is looking forward to running Battleground in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.

“He’s a fine, big powerful colt. He’s usually a good traveller, likes nice ground. He started early in the year, won at Royal Ascot and then he went and won at Goodwood,” he said.

“He was being prepared for the National Stakes and he coughed getting off the box, so we withdrew him and then we prepared him for the Dewhurst and with the ground the way it was, we said we’d wait.

“He has been in full training a long time and was prepared for two races in between he didn’t run in, so we think his fitness levels are good and high and he seems to be in good form.”

Another of his fancies, Peaceful, will have a go in the Maker’s Mark Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf and commented that the ground was to blame for the poor showing in the Sun Chariot Stakes.

“She’s in good form. The ground was very bad in Newmarket, probably the worst ground there for a very long time,” he said.

“We just felt it was too deep for her. She came out of the race well and we put her disappointing run down to ground.”

“We always felt this race was going to suit her.”

Today’s selections from Punchestown

12.55 Punchestown

Selection: Fissa

Not much form to go on here but is a newcomer for the Gigginstown team. Trained by Henry de Bromhead, the dam is an unraced half-sister to a bumper, 2m3f to 3m1f hurdle and chase winner Savant Bleu who is out of French 2m1f to 2m5f hurdle and chase winning sister of the smart chaser Innox. The breeding is certainly there and time will tell whether Rachel Blackmore has an easy task.

1.25 Punchestown

Selection: Arcadian Sunrise (Nap)

If your looking for something that has good form, then look no further, for the Arcadian has won 3 of his last 6 races. (2 over hurdles and 1 on the flat). He can handle the conditions but wouldn’t want it too heavy giving weight away. Denis O’Regan has been among the winners so we rate this our Nap at Punchestown.

3.25 Punchestown

Selection: Run Wild Fred

Won a Grade 3 Novice here last season over 3 mile on heavy ground proving to be a very smart hurdler. Had an opening race over 2m6f at Limerick early this month but was a beaten odds-on favourite for a chasing debut. This is a strong race here but we think Run Wild Fred will come on for that run having been going well 2f out.

Time Changes Everything

Time is a great healer-haven’t we all heard that before. These days not only is time a great healer but it is now changing everything we once took for granted. The buzz of excitement around the betting ring, looking for something that will take the plunge and suddenly a row of bookmakers launch into a frenzy of shoulder tapping and waving as if they were guiding a 747 into the ring. In light of the restrictions, the move to the hi-tech info office has begun.

Coral and Ladbrokes have announced that they will no longer be in the ring after parent company GVC announced it was ceasing the operation of all of its 106 racecourse betting pitches.

Trading director, Tom Ritzema, released a statement on Tuesday stating that the decision had “not been taken lightly”, and that the decision was a culmination of several factors.

Ritzema said: “This decision has not been taken lightly, and we are very sad to be calling time on Ladbrokes and Coral’s longstanding presence in the racecourse betting ring.

“GVC remains totally committed to horse racing, with a significant race sponsorship portfolio under the Ladbrokes and Coral brands, and we are the biggest single provider of betting revenues to the sport.”

GVC revealed that terms had been agreed to sell all of its racecourse pitches – 85 in the UK and 21 in Ireland – to John Hooper, who trades under the name Sid Hooper.

There are 17 GVC employees impacted by the decision to close down the racecourse operation, and the company reported a consultation with the affected individuals will begin immediately.

“As the racecourse operation is loss-making and no longer has a strategic purpose, we have regrettably reached the decision to sell our pitches and leave the ring.”

Ritzema added: “Our priority now is the consultation with the 17 members of the team, who between them have provided a fantastic professional service for our customers, and for the company, for many years.

“A number of factors combined to lead us to conclude that a presence in the racecourse betting ring is no longer a strategic imperative for our two UK brands.

“The volume of business taken through the racecourse pitches is minuscule, compared to the volumes generated in our off-course retail and digital businesses, and we no longer use the operation to hedge into the racecourse betting ring.

“As the racecourse operation is loss-making and no longer has a strategic purpose, we have regrettably reached the decision to sell our pitches and leave the ring.

“The current situation with Covid-19, and racing behind closed doors, expedited the decision but was not one of the factors behind it.

“Standing in the betting ring will always be a huge part of both Ladbrokes and Coral heritage and history, and we are immensely proud of that. However, the betting landscape has changed immeasurably in recent years, and we need to change with it.

“We would like to wish John Hooper the best of fortune with our pitches, going forward.”

A Race Too Far For The Princess

On Sunday last, it may have been a case of ‘A Race Too Far’ as the unbeaten run of Princess Zoe came to end in France. It came to an end but she didn’t get beaten without a fight. Bidding for a sixth straight win after taking the Prix Du Cadran on Arc weekend, she managed to get fourth place behind the Mark Johnson trained- Subjectivist.

Mullins said: “She pulled out fine this morning and is in transit as we speak. The people looking after her said she looked a bit tired, which I can believe.

“The way she ran tells me that we’re going to have some action again next year. You might have been worried that what she did in the Cadran was a flash in the pan, but she showed me yesterday that she’s a serious trier and we’ll be at the top table again next summer.

“There’s no doubt the 22-day turnaround was just a step too far. I thought she performed admirably under the circumstances.”

The Tony Mullins-trained mare has enjoyed a meteoric rise since being bought from Germany this year, progressing from a mark of 64 when second on her Irish debut at Navan in June to claim top-level honours in the Prix du Cadran on Arc weekend earlier this month.

Ruling out a jumping career, connections will be looking forward to next season where Mullins added: “She’ll have a holiday now. There is a chance that we could go to Saudi Arabia in February — if we were sure the ground wasn’t going to be firm, that could come onto the table.

“I’d say the Ascot Gold Cup will be a target. I don’t see us having a busy summer, because I want to leave enough petrol there for the likes of the Prix du Cadran and the race yesterday again.

“It’s very early to be making definite plans, but my talk of going for the Arc might be gone off the table for the moment — we’re looking at stamina races.”

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Minella Indo targets the Gold Cup

Minella Indo got off to a perfect start to a campaign today at Wexford and connections hope will culminate with a tilt at Cheltenham Gold Cup glory in the M.W. Hickey Memorial Chase at Wexford.

Henry de Bromhead’s charge won twice at Grade One level over hurdles, including victory in the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham in 2019, and came close to doubling his tally at the showpiece meeting when mowed down late by Champ in last season’s RSA Chase.

While dropped to Grade Three level for his reappearance, Minella Indo’s task was not straightforward, with Gordon Elliott’s Kim Muir winner Milan Native holding a race-fitness advantage following a recent narrow verdict at Galway.

The big two went at it from flag-fall, with both horses jumping soundly throughout the two-mile-seven-furlong contest.

Minella Indo’s superior class began to tell before the home turn, with the 8-13 favourite safely negotiating the remaining obstacle and passing the post 25 lengths clear in the hands of Rachael Blackmore.

Paddy Power reacted by trimming the winner to 10-1 from 12-1 for the Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup next March.

The trainer commented: “I’m delighted with that – he jumped brilliant and Rachael was brilliant on him.

“He looked sharp for his first run. We got him in a bit earlier and maybe that made the difference.

“Coming away from the RSA, you’d be hoping he’d turn into a Gold Cup horse, but we’ll see and we’ll take it one race at time.

“It’s very likely he’ll go for the race at Navan now next month (Grade Two BetVictor Make Your Best Bet Chase).

“We were giving Milan Native weight and I really feared him with a run under his belt. I couldn’t be happier with our lad.”

Minella Indo returns to action at Wexford

Minella Indo will be the star attraction at Wexford today as the classy seven-year-old sets out on his second season over fences.

Showing that he is a genuine top-notch performer over both hurdles and the larger obstacles, the Henry de Bromhead trained gelding won the Albert Bartlett at the Cheltenham Festival in 2019, before finishing second to Champ in the RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase in March.

He looked like he was going to land a second Festival success in the latter, only for Champ to fly home and prevail by a length.

De Bromhead’s charge is set to face three rivals under Rachael Blackmore in the M.W. Hickey Memorial Chase over two miles and seven furlongs, including another Cheltenham Festival winner in the shape of Gordon Elliott’s Fulke Walwyn hero Milan Native.

De Bromhead said: “Minella Indo is in good form. He can usually be a bit slow to come to hand, so we said we’d get him out early.

“We will get him started and decide where to go after that. There is a new race for second-season novices at Navan at the end of November he could go for.” 

Can The New Ruler Be The “One Ruler”

After Charlie Appleby retired two of his best horses to stud this month, he may have thought it would be more time before he gets a replacement to his top tier but he may just have found a new stable star in One Ruler. Hopes will be high that that may come in the Vertem Futurity Trophy at Doncaster.

Group One winners Pinatubo and Ghaiyyath now both retired, Appleby has a new vacancy for a star attraction.

Based on what has been shown so far, One Ruler looks like he may be the one, judged on his smooth victory in the Autumn Stakes last time out, which came with cut in the ground at Newmarket.

“He has handled the juice well at Newmarket,” said Appleby.

“He is out of a French family, and generally they run on the slower side of good, so the ground wouldn’t worry me.

“Getting the trip last time and seeing that improvement was key for me. He will be going there as a serious player.

“I think 10 (furlongs) will be his maximum. On the mare’s side (Fintry) she was a miler, and he shows a lot of natural pace, but he saw that mile out well.

“I don’t see him at the moment being a mile-and-a-half horse, at this stage, but we will let him winter away first.

“He did what he did at Newmarket and he did get beat on the flat track at Doncaster, but I think that was a bit of inexperience, and tactically we rode a different race to what we had done on his previous starts.”

One more win in the race for Aidan O’Brien will allow him to draw equal with the late Henry Cecil on 10 victories.

The two most recent winners, Saxon Warrior and Magna Grecia, both went on to win the 2000 Guineas – and from a large entry at the five-day stage, this year he relies solely on Dewhurst runner-up Wembley.

“Obviously he ran a great race in the Dewhurst (won by stablemate St Mark’s Basilica) and before that the National Stakes, so he’s got Group One form,” said O’Brien.

“He seems to have been in good form since. He is stepping up to a mile for the first time, but we don’t think that is going to be an issue.

“Hopefully the ground isn’t that soft. The better it is, the more he’ll like it.”

Another trainer with a good record in the race is Andrew Balding, having won with Elm Park and then the subsequent Guineas hero Kameko 12 months ago, the race that day was switched to Newcastle because Doncaster was waterlogged.

Today Balding runs King Vega, who is a maiden after two starts but has shown a good level of ability when second in the Solario Stakes last time out.

“I’m really pleased with the horse, and we’re all looking forward to it,” the Kingsclere trainer told Sky Sports Racing.

“I think he’s probably the highest-rated maiden in the country, but I’m sure there are plenty of unraced horses that are pretty decent waiting to come out.

“He’s a horse we’ve always rated very highly. He ran a very decent race in the Solario, and the extra furlong will certainly be to his advantage.

“It’s going to be slow ground. Lope De Vegas tend to go well with dig in the ground.

“He was worked on the grass here in the last three weeks. He seems to enjoy a bit of ease, and I don’t think the ground conditions will be too much of a concern for him.”

After several stable stars disappointed on Champions Day, trainer John Gosden will be hoping that Megallan can bring him a change of fortune.

Megallan who is a Kingman colt and out of a half-sister to Golden Horn, finished fourth behind One Ruler last time out.

“He got in trouble at Newmarket the other day,” said Gosden.

“He got forced back and had to come back round them, but he ran a very good race. It will be interesting to see how soft it does get up there. However, he is in good form going into it.”