Balko Des Flos set for Saturday return in one of his trainer's favourite races
Henry de Bromhead has fond memories of the PWC Champion Chase at Gowran Park thanks to Sizing Europe who won the race four times on the trot from 2011, and the trainer is hoping last season's Ryanair Chase winner Balko Des Flos can continue his fine record in the Grade 2 on Saturday.
Balko Des Flos was one of the surprise packages of last season, going from Galway Plate hero in August to Un De Sceaux's conqueror at Cheltenham in March, and De Bromhead's ace chaser heads an interesting field of 15 entries as he bids to get his season off to the best possible start in the autumn highlight.
De Bromhead said: "It's an ideal starting point. It's a Graded race over a suitable trip at a great track so it's a race I do like to target with my better horses.
"We had some good days in it with Sizing Europe and it would be great if Balko Des Flos could start there too.
"There are a lot of variables between now and then. We'll have to see what way the ground goes and he's got some work to do, but if the ground is okay and he works well I'd imagine you'll see him at Gowran on Saturday."
Eddie O'Leary, racing manager to owners Gigginstown, said Balko Des Flos' starting price of 66-1 for the Christmas Chase at Leopardstown last season was "an insult to a horse of his quality".
He finished second to Road To Respect there before readily accounting for Un De Sceaux in the Ryanair and is between 8-1 and 10-1 to retain the crown in March. He is a standout 40-1 with bet365 to win the 2019 Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup.
De Bromhead added: "He had a terrific season last year and has summered very well. He looks great and everyone seems happy with him. He came back into training in great shape and we're looking forward to getting his season going."
JP McManus has a strong hand at the entry stage with Ballyoisin, Don't Touch It and Rock The World engaged, while the Peter Fahey-trained Peregrine Run and Colin Kidd-trained Rashaan also catch the eye.
Fire burning bright ahead of Tipperary mission
There is a cracking mixed card at Tipperary on Sunday, with the Ger Lyons-trained Psychedelic Funk set to try and make it back-to-back victories in the Group 3 Concorde Stakes, while Arctic Fire has been reported in top shape by trainer Denis Cullen in advance of his Grade 3 Horse & Jockey Hotel Hurdle assignment.
Runner-up in the 2015 Champion Hurdle and winner of the 2017 County Hurdle when trained by Willie Mullins, Arctic Fire came out of retirement to win over three miles at Cork in August for his new trainer, and could face Mullins' Galway Hurdle winner Sharjah as well as Wicklow Brave on Sunday.
Cullen said on Tuesday: "Arctic Fire has been very good since Cork and did some work on the Curragh this morning, so it’s all systems go.
"Dropping back in trip isn’t going to be ideal but he’s still a classy horse and seems to retain plenty of ability.
"I’d say, ideally, his trip is two and a half miles at this stage, but it’ll be interesting to see how he gets on against these two-mile horses on Sunday.
"We’re taking things step by step. We’ll see how he comes out of Sunday before making any further plans."
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