Elliott to swerve £1m tilt with Don in favour of Down Royal
Gordon Elliott has all but ruled out a tilt at chasing's revived £1m Triple Crown for Don Cossack to strike while the iron is hot with him at Down Royal on Saturday.
After the highest-rated chaser in training made a smooth winning reappearance at Punchestown two weeks ago, Elliott indicated that the horse's owners Gigginstown House Stud might favour prioritising Saturday's JNwine.com Champion Chase for last season's Gold Cup third, Road To Riches.
In the meantime, though, it has been revealed that last year's winner Road To Riches suffered a slight setback that might rule him out of the €140,000 Grade One, and Elliott has confirmed Don Cossack is an intended starter.
He also hinted that Leopardstown's Lexus Chase could yet be preferred over a tilt at Kempton's King George VI Chase, which had been mooted as a target for his talented eight-year-old.
"Don Cossack definitely runs on Saturday," the Co Meath handler stated yesterday after watching the deeply exciting performances of Tycoon Prince and No More Heroes in the Gigginstown colours at Punchestown.
"He came out of his Punchestown race well and he works in the morning; once everything goes okay, he will run.
"It was always probably going to be Down Royal or the John Durkan at Punchestown for him. Then, all being well, he will run next at Christmas. He won't be going to Haydock. He will get an entry, just in case he tips up or something else stupid happens on Saturday; then it might be considered. But it's more than likely that he will wait until Christmas, when he will go for either the King George or the Lexus. No decision has been made on that."
Don Cossack and Road To Riches were among 10 left in Saturday's three-miler at the five-day entry stage. Bookmaker Paddy Power installed Don Cossack at odds of 4/7 to claim the first Grade One of the fledgling jumps season, with Road To Riches next best at 5/1. They pushed Don Cossack out to 7/2 from 3/1 for the Betfair Chase in three weeks' time.
The Haydock feature is the first leg of the Triple Crown initiative that has been launched in Kauto Star's honour, with the winner eligible for the lucrative bonus if it were to go on to claim the King George and the Gold Cup at Cheltenham in March. Apart from the two main protagonists, Gigginstown also have Elliott's Roi Du Mee in Saturday's race, as well as Meade's Wounded Warrior, which was placed in Grade Ones at Cheltenham and Aintree as a novice last spring.
Paul Nicholls' Rocky Creek, an 11-length runner-up to Road To Riches 12 months ago, is expected to line out again, while Dynaste, Irish Cavalier and O'Faolains Bay are other cross-channel contenders that could lend some depth to proceedings.
The season could really crank up a notch this weekend, with the Gold Cup hero Coneygree a surprise Sunday entry at Carlisle, a low-key outpost in the north-west of England. A day earlier, the reigning Hennessy Gold Cup and Grand National victor Many Clouds could reappear at Wetherby.