Valseur's Down Royal absence opens door for 'Duke'
The confirmed absence of last year's winner of the JNwine.com Champion Chase, Valseur Lido, from the Down Royal feature will make things easier for Our Duke, but jockey Robbie Power is taking nothing for granted.
This will be the Jessica Harrington-trained gelding's first entry into the premier division of three-mile chasers, although his brilliant victory in last year's Irish Grand National underlined his enormous potential.
The seven-year-old is a general 8/1 shot for the Cheltenham Gold Cup next March and Power knows his credentials will be given an early test on Saturday. "He's ready to go and he's as fit as we could have him without having a run," he said. "He's been away for a racecourse gallop and hopefully he'll run well."
The jockey feels Our Duke will need to raise his game to challenge the best the staying chase division has to offer, which includes his Gold Cup-winning stablemate Sizing John.
"On ratings he was the best novice chaser in Ireland and England last year, but he's stepping out of novice company for the first time now," said Power.
"He schooled really well this morning, he looks fantastic, and he's ready to rock and roll. We can't get him any fitter at home and he needs to go and run now.
"He's got to step up to that level and prove that, hopefully, he can be a genuine Gold Cup contender."
Gigginstown House are set to fire a four-pronged assault on the Grade One contest, despite ruling out Valseur Lido. The leading owners have claimed the prize five times in the last six years, with Quito De La Roque, Roi Du Mee, Road To Riches and Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Don Cossack joining Valseur Lido on the roll of honour.
This year's team is set to be headed by Noel Meade's Road To Respect, which, having won at Cheltenham and Fairyhouse in the spring, made a successful return to action at Punchestown.
Gigginstown's racing manager, Eddie O'Leary said: "Valseur Lido has a small issue, but we're hoping he'll be back to run in the John Durkan in Punchestown. He should be good to go by then. We're looking like having four runners in the big race - Sub Lieutenant, Outlander, Mouse's (Morris) horse (Alpha Des Obeaux) and probably Road To Respect."
Meanwhile, the Willie Mullins-trained Total Recall is among the headline acts in 60 entries for the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury on December 2. The Grade Three handicap - formerly known as the Hennessy Gold Cup - carries a prize fund of £250,000, making it the second richest handicap chase in Britain after the Grand National.
Harry Fry's American is the 8/1 joint-favourite with the sponsors along with Total Recall, which dominated his rivals on his first start for Mullins in the Munster National at Limerick. Total Recall is one of five entries for the trainer along with Acapella Bourgeois, Childrens List, Pleasant Company and Polidam.
Gordon Elliott also has five possible contenders, while Noel Meade has three.