The two-day festival at Down Royal really kicks off the season for us over here. It’s been well documented about how much Gordon Elliott targets this meeting and I’d go as far as saying this could be best his best year yet.

If you throw Friday’s Betway Haldon Gold Cup into the mix, plus some of the races from Wincanton and Aintree, it really feels like the season is getting going… Especially with the weather too!


American Mike (12:20) was beaten by Facile Vega, who is a bit of a freak, on a number of his starts last season. But the fact he’s going to be aimed over further will be a positive in my eyes.

He did nothing to suggest that he needed the minimum trip last season and this should be a formality for him to get off the mark. I think he’s going to be one of the best novice hurdlers we’ll see this season.

I wasn’t a fan of how Champagne Problem jumped last time and would look to avoid her, but it does look like this race could to go the way of Willie Mullins. He’s got a strong arm in this one and the fact Paul [Townend] has chosen Nikini (13:30) would be enough for me to think she’s the one to be on. She sluiced up at Listowel in September and could well be fast improving.

Pied Piper (14:05) was good at Cheltenham last time and with that run under his belt, there’s no reason to think he won’t beat F’il Dor here.

Obviously Davy [Russell] has chosen to ride F’il Dor, but I’m not looking too much into that as Jack [Kennedy] rode Pied Piper over in England last month. It’s a two-horse race that will go to Gordon, but I do think the recent run will help Pied Piper beat his stablemate.

I’d like to give a little mention to Ross’s horse, Bythesametoken (14:40), who looks a massive price. He wasn’t going badly when he made a massive mistake which led to him being pulled up last time and Keith [Donoghue] is the type of rider who’ll be able to get a fine tune out of him. He could just outrun his odds.

Mighty Potter (15:15) will be no price at all, but he was always going to make a better chaser than he was a hurler. You could tell by the way he jumped hurdles, this was always going to be his game. He’s a two-time Grade 1 winner and he’s going to be one of the better 2m novice chasers we see this season.

All the reports about Better Days Ahead (15:50) are that he is an absolute aeroplane. Now, we’ve all heard about these types of horses before, and plenty disappoint.

He’s got to come out and do on the track what he’s apparently been doing at home, but you can be sure that if he does win, he’ll be a single-figure price for the Cheltenham Bumper.

In England, the Betway Haldon Gold Cup (15:35) is a cracker of a race. It’s the first race on the road to the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase and three of the five in the field all have a really good chance.

The fact the Skelton’s had such a blinding weekend last weekend and the fact he loves being fresh, I’ve got to side with Third Time Lucki .

I’m not sure if he’ll end up being the highest rated of these long term, but I think he’ll be cherry ripe for this assignment. War Lord could go up in trip.

Greaneteen , meanwhile, will have the Tingle Creek as his main target, so will likely come on for the run. Either way, it’ll be a corker.

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