2019 Ladbrokes Champion Chase tips – Expert preview and tips as Gold Cup contenders clash at Down Royal

Our expert takes a look through the entries for this lucrative Grade One Chase at Down Royal and provides readers with his tips on Saturday 2nd November.

The new National Hunt season is well underway and attentions turn to Down Royal on Saturday, as they host a bumper weekend meeting. The main event on the afternoon is the Ladbrokes Champion Chase – formerly known as the JNWine Champion Chase – a Grade One chase which provides a first opportunity for prospective Gold Cup contenders to flex their sizeable muscles.

Willie Mullins had identified Saturday’s contest as a possible starting point for Kemboy, who rounded off last season with sparkling victories at Aintree and Punchestown, where he beat Gold Cup winning stablemate, Al Boum Photo. Mullins’ plans for the season, however, have been thrown into turmoil after all of the Supreme Racing Club syndicate’s horses – Kemboy included – have been banned from racing until further notice.

In Kemboy’s absence, the betting at Down Royal will likely be headed by Paul Nicholls’ Clan Des Obeaux. Nicholls’ chaser secured a fantastic victory in the King George at Kempton last season, but couldn’t follow up in the Gold Cup, labouring up the Cheltenham hill before eventually finishing fifth. Nicholls has travelled to Down Royal to win this race four times down the years, twice with the great Kauto Star, and Clan Des Obeaux should take kindly to this turning, right-handed track.

The last six editions of this Grade One have gone the way of Gigginstown Stud and last year’s champion, Road To Respect will likely return to defend his crown. After bounding to an effortless 30-length triumph here 12 months ago, Noel Meade’s star enjoyed a luckless passage in the Savills Chase, slipping twice before staying on for third. Jumping issues then plagued his performances in 2019, but he loves the course here at Down Royal and cannot be overlooked.

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Clan Des Obeaux bounds to victory in the King George.

 

Delta Work was the best of the Irish novice chasers last season, despite a slightly underwhelming third behind Topofthegame and Santini in the RSA. Gordon Elliott’s charge bounced back to winning ways in convincing fashion at Punchestown, securing a third Grade One over fences with the minimum of fuss and he’s already been tipped up by some shrewdies as a strong challenger in this season’s Gold Cup.

Shattered Love endured a difficult second-season over fences in 2018/19, failing to win on any of her five starts. Elliott’s mare was beaten out of sight in the Gold Cup at Cheltenham and pulled up well before the finish in the Irish Grand National. Shattered Love didn’t fare much better on her reappearance at Gowran Park last month, crossing the line fifth behind Snow Falcon and she’ll only become a factor if the weather turns biblical in the build-up.

Snow Falcon could join stablemate, Road To Respect in the field on Saturday and he’s proven himself to be a very capable staying chaser down the years. A two-time Grade Two winner over fences, Snow Falcon lost out by 40 lengths on his only outing in Grade One company at Punchestown in the spring and could be a little out of his depth.

As could Tout Est Permis, who should come on from a third-place finish on his reappearance, but will have to improve some 10, 15 pounds if he wants to get involved. Balko Des Flos jumped poorly on his reappearance and was beaten 43 lengths by Road To Respect in this race last year and I’d be surprised if stablemate Mengli Khan was up to this sort of standard.

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Sean Flanagan gives his favourite mount a hug after winning this race last year.

 

Clan Des Obeaux will be all the rage in the betting, should be feature in the final list of entries. As will Delta Work, who proved himself capable of going on all kinds of ground during his novice campaign. The one who I think will be overlooked, after struggled last spring, is reigning champion ROAD TO RESPECT and he could be the one to side with when the odds are eventually released.

I’ve made no secret about how highly I regard Road To Respect. He demolished Balko Des Flos and a few other capable chasers in this race 12 months ago and twice clocked RPRs of 170 in losing efforts in the Irish Gold Cup and the Ryanair at Cheltenham.

The way Road To Respect jumped during the spring was disappointing to see, as he really was poor at Cheltenham, and even worse in the Bowl at Aintree. However, Noel Meade has had the summer to iron out those flaws and the weather forecast suggests the ground will be good enough for him to run – barring a torrential downpour the Friday before the race.

When Road To Respect puts it all together, he’s a three-mile chaser of the highest calibre. Sean Flanagan’s mount brings the best course form into the race and often goes best when fresh. If we get the good ground he loves, Road To Respect will serve it up to the likes of Clan Des Obeaux and Delta Work. I won’t be siding against him.