Don returns in Champion Chase
View from connections ahead of the JNwine.com Champion Chase at Down Royal on Saturday.
Don Poli is one of three runners for Gigginstown
Gordon Elliott expects Don Poli to improve for the run as he makes his eagerly-anticipated debut for the yard in the JNwine.com Champion Chase at Down Royal.
The seven-year-old was perhaps the most high-profile chaser to leave Willie Mullins' yard following the shock announcement earlier this autumn that owners Gigginstown House Stud were to remove all the horses they had in training at Closutton with an immediate effect.
Don Poli has already won three times at Grade One level and was placed in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, the Betfred Bowl at Aintree and the Punchestown Gold Cup at the end of last season.
He is fitted with cheekpieces for the first time this weekend and with Bryan Cooper still sidelined, Barry Geraghty takes over in the saddle.
Elliott said: "Cheekpieces are on him and he will come on for the run. It's his first run of the season, but we'll get a good start and see what happens. Barry schooled him the other morning."
Don Poli is one of three runners for Gigginstown. Elliott also saddles Galway Plate winner Lord Scoundrel, while Valseur Lido – another former Mullins inmate – debuts for Henry de Bromhead.
The County Waterford handler is also double-handed with recent Punchestown scorer Sadler's Risk in the field.
De Bromhead said: "Valseur Lido is obviously new to us. He's a very good horse with high-class form and we're very happy with him, so we'll see how we go.
"Sadler's Risk is in very good form and won the Grade Three in Punchestown the last day. He has a bit to find on ratings, but he's an improving horse with a lot of class, he's race-fit and he'll love the ground.
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"It's great to have the two of them in there and we'll see how we get on."
"He is in really good form and everything has been straightforward this season. Last year there were training problems with him but the one day he did show he was at his best he won a Grade One."
Harry Derham on Silviniaco Conti
Paul Nicholls has won this prize four times, with the mighty Kauto Star successful in both 2008 and 2010.
This year's representative is dual King George hero Silviniaco Conti, the winner of seven Grade Ones overall.
The 10-year-old makes his first appearance since pulling up in the Grand National in the spring, but connections are hopeful he is fit enough to do himself justice.
Nicholls' assistant, Harry Derham, said: "He is in really good form and everything has been straightforward this season. We've done plenty of work with him and he had a nice racecourse gallop at Chepstow the other day.
"The only concern is that he has often needed his first run. It is a right-handed track which should suit him well, though, and we've been happy with him.
"Last year there were training problems with him but the one day he did show he was at his best he won a Grade One.
"He could not be any fitter without running him. He has been a fantastic horse to us and no doubt he will give it his best.
"Paul will take it one race at a time with him and he has had this race in mind for a long time. This will tell us if he is still capable of running in Grade One races."
Silviniaco Conti was joined on the trip across the Irish Sea by Grand National runner-up The Last Samuri.
Trainer Kim Bailey said: "He arrived on Friday morning and he's in good form. It's obviously a tough race. If we can run into a place it would be great and anything better than that would be fantastic.
"There are not many opportunities to run him with his rating, so we'll see how we get on."
The seven-strong field is completed by Noel Meade's Monksland, who made a winning reappearance when gaining a narrow success at Galway last month.
"We had him in the other race (Titanic Belfast Chase) as well and decided to go for this for the three miles as much as anything," said Meade.
"He's taking on very good horses who have a lot more experience over fences than he does, but he's in good form and we thought we'd give it a rattle."
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