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Bellshill and Our Duke put unbeaten chase records on the line

Bellshill bids to book his ticket to Cheltenham and remain unbeaten over fences in the Flogas Novice Chase
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3.30 Leopardstown
Flogas Novice Chase (Grade 1) | 2m5½f, 5yo+ | ATR/RTE1

The Willie Mullins-trained Bellshill and Jessica Harrington's Our Duke will put their unbeaten chase records on the line in this.

Harrington has resisted the temptation to enter Our Duke in any of the novice chases at the Cheltenham Festival next month with a view of minding the old-fashioned chaser.

However, Bellshill already sits at the head of the betting for the RSA Chase and will be bidding to follow in the footsteps of Cooldine, who won this race for the stable in 2009 before going on to win the RSA.

Mullins said: “Bellshill is two from two over fences and won a Grade 2 over 2m3½f at Limerick at Christmas. The extra furlong or so won't be a problem – he was a Grade 1 winner over three miles as a novice hurdler last season. A good jumper, we expect him to improve into the spring and we're looking forward to a big run."

Bleu Et Rouge also represents the champion trainer, who added: “He is a course winner over hurdles and fences – he won the Deloitte Novice Hurdle this day last year. He hasn't jumped well on his two chase starts, both of them at this track, but he's schooled well since coming down at the third fence in the Arkle last time. He has the ability to be there or thereabouts.”

Jessica Harrington won this race in 2011 with Bostons Angel and, while Our Duke has won at Grade 1 level here at Christmas, his trainer admits this shorter trip won’t be ideal.

She said: “He won well at Christmas where he had quite a hard race, but he's had plenty of time to recover and comes here in good form. The trip may be a bit sharp, but the experience will do him good."

The Noel Meade-trained Disko was not beaten far by Our Duke here at Christmas and should be able to cope with the drop in trip.

Meade said: “He's in good shape. He'll be racing on better ground this time and that is a slight concern, but he ran well in a three-mile Grade 1 over the course at Christmas and the shorter trip shouldn't be a problem.”

Gordon Elliott admits he would be pleasantly surprised if A Toi Phil could get involved in the shake-up.

The trainer said: “He stayed on well when he won a handicap chase here last time and the smaller field will help, but it’s a good race and I'd be surprised if he's good enough.”

The Henry de Bromhead-trained Balko Des Flos is the third and final Gigginstown representative in the race and arrives here after finishing third to Anibale Fly at Naas last month.

He won well at Christmas where he had quite a hard race, but he's had plenty of time to recover and comes here in good form
E.W. Terms