November is the time of year when the jumping action really begins to heat up as the new season kicks into gear. This weekend’s big Grade 1 contest comes over in Ireland at the Country Antrim venue of Down Royal. Regularly attracting the top talent from both sides of the Irish Sea, the Paul Nicholls-trained superstar, Kauto Star, landed this prize twice during his illustrious career, but who will come home in front this year?
A small but select field go to post, with a number of runners we will likely be hearing plenty from as the season goes on. Overall we will be siding with one of the younger jumpers in the field, going for a yard who know what it takes to succeed here.
Next Race: TBD
The next renewal of this race has not been scheduled yet. We will update this once the schedule has been released for next season. The race info, trends and tips shown below will be updated for the next renewal once the final declarations have been made.
Last Run: 2nd November 2019
- Winner: Road To Respect
- SP: 5/2
- Trainer: N Meade
- Jockey: S W Flanagan
Three miles is the testing trip for this Grade 1 chase, set to be run on yielding ground this year and offering €150,000 in total prize money.
|Going||Distance||Grade||Prize Money||Runners||EW Terms|
|Yielding||3m||Group 1||€150,000||9||1/4 1-2|
Ladbrokes Champion Chase Betting Tips
Note: The following tips are from the last running of the race. Tips for the next renewal will be added once the final declarations have been made.
Since its 1999 inauguration, this race was known as the JNwine.com Champion Chase but this long-running sponsorship deal is no more. Now called the Ladbrokes Champion Chase, the re-branded contest is different in name only. Down Royal’s prize asset has long favoured horses packing a decent amount of experience. From the last 17 winners, all but four had managed at least five victories over fences and all but two had won at least a Grade 2 chase.
As for trainer trends, five of the last six renewals have been won by either Gordon Elliot or Noel Meade. That’s not overly helpful in some regards and is something likely to repeat itself too because the pair are responsible for seven of the nine names in the mix for an early Grade 1 prize. Elliot’s best hopes lie with slender race favourite Delta Works, while the bookies believe defending champion Road To Respect is Meade’s strongest contender.
DELTA WORK – 7/4
There will plenty of focus on Delta Work this weekend as he ended his five-year-old season by destroying the field in Punchestown’s Group 1 Champion Novice Chase. Commanding throughout and effortless over the fences, it was the perfect response to his disappointment at Cheltenham a month prior.
Three miles is very much his ideal distance these days so this is a test which should suit. Also strengthening his claim is that he won at Down Royal on his seasonal return last year, although he did have the benefit of completely dictating the pace of the small field. The six-year-old will be pushed much harder from the off here and his age may prove telling with only two former winners aged so young.
CLAN DES OBEAUX – 2/1
After a surprise win in the King George VI Chase and a dominant victory during Ascot’s Denman Chase, a prestigious Gold Cup title looked a strong possibility for Clan Des Obeaux. Paul Nicholls’ horse failed to deliver though, lacking the legs to go the distance of the 3m 2½f contest.
Unable to bounce back from this, the French-bred horse easily lost to Kemboy in the Betway Bowl and only managed to pip Balko Des Flos, a 12/1 contender here, to second place. We’re inclined to believe that his fine, but short-lived period of form is maybe not to return despite Harry Cobden’s confident remarks earlier in the week.
Clan Des Obeaux’s regular jockey believes the seven-year-old is looking stronger than ever before and will relish a return to a right-handed course but at the odds there appear to be a good number of question marks against him.
ROAD TO RESPECT – 3/1
He was the 6/4 favourite to win this race 12 months ago but not many expected Road To Respect to win with such outrageous ease. By the time he reached the line, Woodland Opera in second place trailed 16 lengths further back.
It wasn’t the best attended renewal of this race with just six names involved but the then seven-year-old did see off some decent names such as then reigning champion Outlander. No horse has yet won this race back to back although Beef or Salmon would’ve stood a mighty fine chance had the 2005 edition not been abandoned. A record breaking victory is not out of the question as not only is Meade delighted with how Road To Respect has been training but he boasts a fine record on seasonal debuts.
SNOW FALCON – 7/1
Only two of the last 15 horses to triumph in this race set off at odds greater than 7/1, the price Snow Falcon, stablemate of Road To Respect, finds himself trading at for this contest. There’s always a danger of seasonal debutants being caught a little cold but we’ve had the benefit of seeing this nine-year-old in action recently.
Raring to go following the summer break, the gelding impressively won by over six lengths during a Grade 2 chase at Gowran Park. Bumped up to an all-time best rating of 160 as a result, there could well be more to come, especially with yielding ground likely to suit him very nicely. On such going Snow Falcon has five victories and two placed finished from just nine starts and must be seriously considered as a result.
Ladbrokes Champion Chase Winners
|2019||Road to Respect||5/2||Noel Meade||Sean Flanagan|
|2018||Road to Respect||6/4||Noel Meade||Sean Flanagan|
|2017||Outlander||16/1||Gordon Elliott||Jack Kennedy|
|2016||Valseur Lido||2/1||Henry De Bromhead||Ruby Walsh|
|2015||Don Cossack||2/11||Gordon Elliott||Bryan Cooper|
|2014||Road To Riches||9/2||Noel Meade||Paul Carberry|
|2013||Roi Du Mee||12/1||Gordon Elliott||Bryan Cooper|
|2012||Kauto Stone||5/2||Paul Nicholls||Daryl Jacob|
|2011||Quito De La Roque||11/4||Colm Murphy||Davy Russell|
|2010||Kauto Star||4/7||Paul Nicholls||Ruby Walsh|
Perhaps as a result of being relatively new as far as top horse races go, the Ladbrokes Champion Chase, formerly sponsored by JN Wine, took little time establishing itself as one of Down Royal’s most cherished races. Three years after its 1999 inception, the race was awarded Grade 1 status making it the sole top level race to feature at the Northern Irish course. The bump up in classification has helped bring a lot of high quality names to Down Royal with Kauto Star and Don Cossack two of the contests’ most famous winners.
Scheduled for early November, the event puts horses to the test over 15 fences and across a distance of about three miles. Those competing most be over five years of age and any mare taking part receives a seven pound allowance due to their gender. As Northern Irish racing comes under Horse Racing Ireland authority, the €150,000 race stands as the first Grade 1 spectacle of the Irish National Hunt season.
BOMB THREAT CANCELS 2005 RACE
Cheltenham Gold Cup winner War of Attrition secured 14 victories across his career including three at Grade 1 standard. Both totals could well have been one higher had it not been for the cancellation of racing at Down Royal in 2005. Several telephoned bomb warnings left course chairman James Nicholson with no other choice than to put an immediate halt to the day’s racing. Most importantly, all 8,000 people at Down Royal left unharmed but hopes of rescheduling the action never materialised.
Having been the 6/4 favourite for the contest, the forced abandonment denied War of Attrition a fine shot on victory. The brown gelding did return to try his luck in both 2006 and 2009 however. His first attempt saw Beef Or Salmon deny him by a neck while in 2009 the then 10-year-old stood no chance against The Listener who won by a commanding 15 lengths.
COMFORTABLE WINS COMMON
Sometimes horses are made to work extremely hard in Down Royal’s Champion Chase but more often we have seen one runner sail clear on their way towards the finishing post. Since 2007, six winners have won by at least 11 lengths, the longest margin of victory coming courtesy of Road To Respect when he blew the field away during a 16 length triumph in 2018. In the same space of time, only three contests have been settled by fewer than four lengths so it is not usually a race that goes down to the wire.
GIGGINSTOWN MAKING PRESENCE FELT
Owned by Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary, the Gigginstown House Stud has been responsible for so many great winners over the years. With the number of horses they produce, their presence in Irish racing is a huge one and one particularly noticeable in this race. Road To Respect’s victory in the 2019 edition of this race made it seven in a row for Gigginstown and eight overall. Having grown a knack for producing talented stayers, you should definitely keep an eye on any entries they have in future renewals.
WAIT FINALLY OVER FOR SUCCESSFUL TITLE DEFENCE
Road To Respect’s wins in 2018 and 2019 meant that this race at last saw a reigning champion return to claim victory the following year. Kauto Star and Beef Or Salmon won this race on two separate occasions but for both, a year’s gap fell in between their Down Royal successes. Beef Or Salmon never had the option of initially defending his crown due to the abandonment of the 2005 renewal while Paul Nicholls opted to delay Kauto Star’s seasonal debut in 2009. Outlander did attempt to give the feat a go but could only manage third place and Kauto Stone fared no better when finishing second last in 2013.