Late October and early November is the time of year when the jumping action really begins to heat up as the new season kicks into gear. The first of the big Grade 1 contests comes over in Northern Ireland at the Country Antrim venue of Down Royal with the Ladbrokes Champion Chase.
The race was first run in 1999 as the James Nicholson Wine Merchants Champion Chase when it was won by Florida Pearl who went onto become a four-time winner of the Irish Gold Cup. 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.
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: 31st October 2020
- Winner: The Storyteller
- SP: 9/2
- Trainer: Gordon Elliott
- Jockey: Keith Donoghue
3m is the trip for this Grade 1 Chase contest at Down Royal. One of the biggest of the early season staying chases, the race offers a total of €125,000 in prize money. The ground at the track is currently described as yielding and if anything looks set to get softer.
|Going||Distance||Grade||Prize Money||Runners||EW Terms|
|Yielding||3m||Grade 1||€125,000||9 Runners||1/5 1-3|
Ladbrokes Champion Chase Betting Tips
Note: The following tips are from 2020. Tips for the next renewal will be added once the final declarations have been made.
With four previous wins in the race, it is English trainer Paul Nicholls who leads the way in this contest. However, Nicholls doesn’t hold an entry this year, handing three-time winners Noel Meade and Gordon Elliott a shot at joining him at the top the table. Meade sends Snow Falcon and Tout Est Permis into battle, whilst Elliott is mob handed with Alpha Des Obeaux, Delta Work, Presenting Percy, Ravenhill and The Storyteller all going to post.
Four 10 year olds have won this in the past, but the younger performers have been favoured of late, with six of the past seven editions having fallen to a runner aged seven or eight. The age trends are probably not too telling though, with a reasonable mix of ages considering the relatively short history of the race.
The favourites boast a rock-solid strike rate in this having registered five wins in the past 10 years. There have been some pretty short prices in amongst those winners, but supporters of the market leader would still have recorded a level stakes profit of +£2.00 over this period. We look set to have a firm favourite this year but can he add to that profit?
Delta Work– 7/4
Powerful owners Gigginstown House Stud have all but monopolised this race of late, sending out eight of the past nine winners, and two of the first three home in each of the past five seasons. There would look to be a fair chance of the Michael O’Leary operation adding to that haul this year, with four of the nine-runner field (44%) set to sport the famous maroon silks with the white star – including the clear market leader, Delta Work.
Four from five during a stellar Novice Chase campaign, this son of Network took the step up to the open chase division last season, and largely covered himself in glory once again. A dual grade 1 winner having come home in front in both the Savills Chase and Paddy Power Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown, he then finished a respectable fifth in the Cheltenham Gold Cup itself, when a little let down by his usually reliable jumping.
Now a five-time Grade 1 winner, and possibly still improving at seven years of age, he’s 5lbs clear of this field on official ratings, and makes obvious appeal. On the downside, this will be his first run of the season, and he does tend to improve for that first outing. Brought back to the track in this race last year, he could manage only a 16l fourth to Road To Respect and so there are sure to be many who prefer to look elsewhere at the odds.
Presenting Percy – 3/1
Another hugely interesting contender is a runner who will be making his debut for the Gordon Elliott yard here. Now nine years old and formerly with Pat Kelly, Presenting Percy looked to be one of the biggest emerging stars in the staying chase division when routing the field in the 2018 RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. In winning only one of six starts since, he hasn’t really gone on to deliver on that potential, but it’s not too late for him yet, and perhaps he may be reinvigorated by his new surroundings – not to mention the brilliance of Elliott.
In fairness to the son of Derby winner, Sir Percy, he didn’t run badly at all in four starts last season; finishing third to Min over a trip too short in the John Durkan Memorial Chase, and filling that same spot when 4¾l adrift of Delta Work in the Irish Gold Cup. Sent to Cheltenham for a tilt at the Gold Cup on his final outing, he was still going well enough when suffering a crunching fall two from home. Not seen since that day, he has at least been given plenty of time to get over the experience and, as a previous Grade 1 winner at this 3m trip, he merits plenty of respect with Denis O’Regan taking the ride.
The Storyteller – 6/1
Gordon Elliott does appear to boast a mightily strong hand in this, and another not to be discounted is the Keith Donoghue-ridden, The Storyteller. Already a winner of an impressive 10 previous races for the yard - coming home in front in a bumper, over hurdles and over fences - he has been a grand servant to connections and, despite being nine years of age now, seems to still be improving.
This son of Shantou made his presence on the big stage when landing the Brown & Merriebelle Advisory Stable Plate at the Cheltenham Festival in really good style back in 2018. He looked a fair bit better than a handicapper that day, and went on to deliver on that impression when a – albeit fortuitous – winner of the Grade 1 Growise Champion Novice Chase at Punchestown in his next start.
A little up and down since then, he nevertheless does arrive on the back of an impressive 7½l success in a Grade 3 at Punchestown last time out – taking his career form figures in 3m chases to 13163. He does have a bit to find on the ratings, but one thing he does have in his favour is race fitness. The Storyteller will be having his third start of the season here, whilst main market rivals Delta Work, Presenting Percy and Chris’s Dream will all be making their first appearance in 232 days.
Ladbrokes Champion Chase Winners
|2020||The Storyteller||9/2||Gordon Elliott||Keith Donoghue|
|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|
About the Ladbrokes Champion Chase
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 the first race in 1999, seven 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 eight 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.