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First Lieutenant (centre)

First Lieutenant (centre): has finished second and fourth in the race

  PICTURE: Getty Images  

Lieutenant and Filleule head to Down Royal

SATURDAY'S Champion Chase is shaping up to be a cracker as both favourite Ma Filleule and second favourite First Lieutenant were on Wednesday confirmed for the race.


First Lieutenant's connections had the option of sticking at the highest level at Down Royal - or dropping down to the Grade 2 bet365 Charlie Hall Chase - and the nine-year-old will attempt to build on his second and fourth-placed finishes in the race.

Morris said on Wednesday: "I've spoken to the Gigginstown team and we've decided to run First Lieutenant in the Champion Chase rather than in the Charlie Hall Chase. Bryan Cooper will ride him."

Having been the 7-2 second favourite for the Charlie Hall, First Lieutenant's defection resulted in a reshuffle in the market, with Paddy Power cutting favourite Silviniaco Conti to 11-10 (from 6-4). Taquin Du Seuil is now next in the Charlie Hall market and as low as 7-2 (from 5), then Menorah at a top-priced 8-1.

Paddy Power also made First Lieutenant a 3-1 chance for the Champion Chase, with Ma Filleule their 5-2 favourite.

Nicky Henderson had been debating whether to let Ma Filleule carry topweight in the United House Gold Cup at Ascot, or step into Grade 1 company, and has plumped for the latter option.

The trainer said: "She's in good form and she's got to start somewhere. She might as well start in a Grade 1 as opposed to carrying topweight in a handicap."

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