Ladbrokes Champion Chase Tips: Back this star to shine at Down Royal

Can Frodon claim Grade 1 glory in Northern Ireland?
Can Frodon claim Grade 1 glory in Northern Ireland?

A field of five runners go to post for the 2021 Ladbrokes Champion Chase at Down Royal, and our in-house tipster Steve Chambers previews the event, and picks out his best bet for Saturday's showpiece event...

Henry De Bromhead will unleash Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Minella Indo in the Ladbrokes Champion Chase, a race the star handler won back in 2016 with Valseur Lido, and if the eight-year-old can replicate his Cheltenham Festival performance then he will be extremely tough to beat in an enthralling renewal.

A magnificent one-and-a-quarter length winner of the Prestbury Park blue riband event in March, MINELLA INDO will look to cement his place as one of the star staying chasers in training, and he will head into this contest as a red-hot favourite to claim more Grade 1 glory on Northern Irish shores. Producing a faultless display en route to Gold Cup glory, Minella Indo outclassed A Plus Tard and dual winner Al Boum Photo in one of the performances of the season, and now partnered by Rachael Blackmore for this event, the son of Beat Hollow will attempt to maintain his winning ways.

There's no doubting that De Bromhead will have his sights firmly set on the marquee races in the spring, but this contest is a notable accolade in its own right, and while Minella Indo is sure to improve for his first run of the season, he was a winner at Wexford on his first start last season in Grade 3 company, so he has shown that he can produce the goods after a lengthy break.

This test is certainly tougher than that Wexford Grade 3 event, but he's a considerably better, more experienced performer here, and for all money he's by far the best horse in the race, so providing he can run to a significant level then it's very hard to not see him kicking off his campaign with a victory.

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Gordon Elliott saddled The Storyteller to victory 12 months ago, and he will bid for a fifth win in the race, as he unleashes a three-pronged attack at the race with that triumvirate being spearheaded by the Cheltenham Festival winner Galvin. A dominant novice chaser last season, the seven-year-old has racked up a six-race winning streak, with the obvious highlight being the National Hunt Chase at the festival in March. Having oozed stamina that day, Galvin showed when winning over three miles a couple of weeks ago at Punchestown that he can also do it over shorter, and he could well turn into a lively Cheltenham Gold Cup contender this season. Still yet to reach his ceiling, Galvin is sure to put up a bold bid against the proven first rate favourite, but he may just lack that class to deal with Minella Indo in the closing stages.

Elliott's likely second string is the former Irish Gold Cup hero Delta Work, but he has struggled to live up to those dizzy heights in recent outings and was a well beaten fifth in this race 12 months ago. Last seen finishing third in the Irish Gold Cup back in February, Delta Work missed the spring festivals and will need to show he still has the zest and the quality to compete in the elite chasing division, so he's best watched.

Ravenhill completes the Elliott challenge, and he will line up as a huge outsider for the event, and while like Galvin he has tasted glory in the National Hunt Chase (2020) at the Cheltenham Festival, he's failed to kick on, and is another that can't be trusted in this sort of company, and is likely to make the numbers up here.

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The field is completed by one of the stars of the British National Hunt game, as the mighty Frodon has upped sticks and headed across the Irish Sea from Paul Nicholls' Ditcheat yard, and the former Ryanair Chase hero will be looking to add another notable success to an already impressive CV. Nicholls certainly knows how to win this contest, as he - like Elliott - has saddled the winner of the race on four occasions, and in Frodon he will unleash one of the toughest, gamest horses to put a saddle on.

Now nine years old, last year's King George VI Chase winner showed he still has the ability to deliver at the top level, and to add to that Kempton Park success, he ended the season with a win in the Oaksey Chase at Sandown Park. He found the Cheltenham Gold Cup trip a bit too far for him back in March, as he could only finish fifth to Minella Indo, so a drop back in trip for this event is sure to play to his strengths.

Making his first trip across the Irish Sea, Frodon is sure to put up a bold bid, as he is one of the most consistent horses in training, but he's going to struggle to reverse the form with Minella Indo from their Gold Cup meeting, and with Bryony Frost sure to make the fractions on the Nicholls' charge, Blackmore can just sit in behind on Minella Indo before striking to the front in the latter stages and kick off the season with a win.

Ladbrokes Champion Chase
Minella Indo silk

Minella Indo

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