The National hunt season really cranks up another notch this weekend with top class racing on both sides of the Irish Sea, including at Down Royal as they host their biggest meeting of the season. The JNwine Champion Chase is one of the premier early season chases over 3m and it really has been won by some of the greats of the sport.
The recent roll of honour includes Florida Pearl (1999), Beef Or Salmon (2004 2006) and Kauto Star (2008 2010) and we once again have a stellar cast list engaged for the big race.
Cossack Aiming To Be The Don At Down Royal
Gigginstown have owned the winner of this race for three of the last four years and unsurprisingly they have a very strong hand again in the form of the brilliant Don Cossack. The 8-year-old was the highest rated Chaser in training last season as he won a number of top level races including the Grade 1 Melling chase at Aintree during the Grand National meeting.
Gordon Elliott has long thought very highly of Don Cossack and that appears to be justified with many suggesting he is a genuine Gold Cup contender this season. He does also have the advantage over the field having had a run at Punchestown recently and it is easy to see why he is as short as 2/7 with Paddy Power to claim the JNwine this weekend.
Don Cossack is currently a best price 8/1 for the Gold Cup in March which is sure to tumble if he scores in good style this weekend with the Betfair Chase and King George also in his plans this winter.
Decent Field Against the Favourite
There is no doubt that Don Cossack is the progressive chaser in the field that is the likely winner but there are some decent horses against him at slightly bigger prices. One of those is certainly the Paul Nicholls trained Rocky Creek who was good enough to finish 2nd in this one 12 months ago.
Nicholls is a major supporter of this Down Royal card as he has shown in the past with the likes of the great Kauto Star and we can be sure his runner here is fit and well. Rocky Creek is a very good horse in his own right with a 2nd place finish in a Hennessy and a 5th place in the Grand National on his CV and could be the one to chase the favourite home.
Roi Du Mee is a solid yard stick when it comes to chasing in Ireland but he was beaten easily by Don Cossack recently and won't be able to touch the favourite if he stands up while the same comments apply to Texas Jack, who is looking for place money at best.
This race is all about Don Cossack though with the Gordon Elliott trained horse in a league above his three rivals. Rocky Creek is a strong stayer who can chase the favourite home but it would be a major surprise of the Don didn't rack up yet another Grade 1 win and although he is a very short price, it is almost impossible to tip anything else but an easy win for the jolly.
Tip - Don Cossack to win the JNwine Champion Chase @ 2/7 with Paddy Power
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