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Chance to lay Down marker

WITH the likes of Florida Pearl, Looks Like Trouble, Beef Or Salmon and Kauto Star on the roll of honour for the JNWine.com Champion Chase at Down Royal, it's evidence of the quality race it has become.

Credit has to be given to Down Royal and all concerned for that, and there is no reason to suggest that there won't be a future Gold Cup winner in tomorrow's line-up.

Kauto Star has been given a different route this year, while current Gold Cup hero Long Run was never likely to have this on his agenda, but in the field are a couple of horses emerging from the novice ranks that may represent this island well in a quest to see an Irish-trained Gold Cup winner for the first time since War Of Attrition in 2006.

In truth, we have never really threatened to produce a real candidate on the day that counts since the time of Kicking King and War Of Attrition came along one year after the next.

Sadly, not one Irish horse has entered the winners' enclosure at Cheltenham (which hosts the first four places) since War Of Attrition, and hopefully that trend will not continue for a sixth year next March.

We were of course robbed of a number of horses from doing so through injury, and Weapons Amnesty has been the latest, but Irish national hunt fans can look at tomorrow's race with a bit of hope for success.

Cheltenham specialist Midnight Chase and Paul Nicholls' The Nightingale are notable entries from across the Irish Sea and will be looking to start their campaign on a high note and as they form stiff opposition, but hopefully the home challenge can cope.

The ever-underrated Cheltenham Festival winner Bostons Angel and Cheltenham Festival absentee but Aintree and Punchestown winner Quito De La Roque are the two horses we can really look forward to.

Both of these are youngsters progressing from novice ranks and both should have no problem making the top grade in the staying division.

Apart from being beaten out of sight in the Drinmore at Fairyhouse, Bostons Angel (pictured below) has the perfect record over fences, winning his beginners on what was today's card 12 months ago and then racking up a hat-trick of Grade Ones.

In winning the second two of those he was sent off at a 8/1 and a 16/1 shot and proved his worth on both occasions.

Colm Murphy is no stranger to training top-class racehorses either and his Quito De La Roque boasts a record of five from six over the larger obstacles, the last of which was a Grade One win at Punchestown to follow up the Grade Two he won at Liverpool.

Seemingly versatile on any ground, he appears to prefer a dig in it and will be a strong force in the big races throughout the winter months. He already has plenty of experience under his belt.

Another who deserves a mention is Rubi Light, who is unfortunately absent from tomorrow's race due to a minor setback and although he is not quite emerging from the novice ranks he is still only six and has many good days ahead.

Add the mix Joncol after his very impressive win yesterday afternoon at Thurles and possibly Champion Chase hero Sizing Europe, who connections seem adamant to run over longer distances, and Jessies Dream, who was only a neck off Bostons Angel at Cheltenham (but won't run before Christmas), and surely this could realistically be the year that Irish runners play a part in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Not one of the Irish horses mentioned in this article are shorter than 16/1, though, so maybe there is value to be had. Maybe. The hardest thing to decide is which one represents the value. We will learn an awful lot more tomorrow.

JNWine.com Champion Chase
Boylesports Bet: Quito De La Roque 5/2, Bostons Angel 11/4, The Nightingale 3/1, Midnight Chase 5/1, Sizing Europe 5/1, Roi Du Mee 12/1, Rare Bob 20/1, Hey Big Spender 25/1, Coolcashin 25/1.