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Five things to note from the terrific two-day meeting at Down Royal

Gordon Elliott: had seven winners from 17 runners at Down Royal over the two days
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1. Down Royal is Elliott's playground

Gordon Elliott had 17 runners over the two days at Down Royal, while Willie Mullins had just six – four of which went off at odds of 25-1, 16-1, 14-1 and 9-1.

Elliott sent out seven winners, all of which were sent off as the favourite in their respective races and returned at odds of: 8-11, 1-4, 6-5, 1-3, 7-4, 1-3 and 8-11. His biggest priced winner was Coeur Sublime at 7-4.

Envoi Allen jumps the last en route to victory in the 2m½f maiden hurdle at Down Royal

It is now safe to assume that Elliott uses the Down Royal November meeting as the starting point for his brightest stars. Samcro and Envoi Allen are the most prized possessions in Cullentra House right now and Down Royal had been pencilled in as their early-season targets since the summer.

Mullins waits a little longer and the Morgiana meeting at Punchestown the weekend after next will more than likely be when you start to see the 'Closutton Express' getting into motion. 

2. Respect him most on soft ground

Road To Respect's form figures on ground with heavy or soft in the going description now reads 213223212411. The only time he finished out of the first three was when fourth to Native River in the 2018 Cheltenham Gold Cup.

He is slicker over his fences on soft ground and he is also a more fluent traveller. Furthermore, you could argue that he is best when fresh.

Road To Respect and Sean Flanagan take the Ladbrokes Champion Chase (Grade 1)

His emphatic victory over Clan Des Obeaux was off the back of a 212-day absence. His win in last year's race was after a 192-day break, while he won after a 186-day layoff in October 2017.

The temptation must be to run just twice more this season – in the Savills Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas and the Cheltenham Gold Cup. He would be a massive player in both of those were he to get his conditions.

3. Samcro doubters could be eating humble pie come March

He only beat a 118-rated hurdler, so saying Samcro is a shoo-in for the JLT Novices' Chase would be foolish, but the early signs are that the most hyped horse in training can restore his reputation over fences.

He wasn't brilliant over the first fence, but quickly warmed up and you would have to love the way he attacked his fences and constantly outjumped Play The Part down the back straight.

Samcro: winning under Keith Donoghue at Down Royal

We will learn a lot more in the Drinmore next month, where he will probably be a shorter price than he should be, but the Samcro doubters could be eating humble pie come March. Get your knife and fork out, Paul Kealy!

4. It looks like Mengli Khan can't anymore 

Mengli Khan made his debut in a Newmarket maiden in September 2015 when third to Mustajeer, and was only 8-1 to win the Racing Post Trophy that year.

Four years later and he looks to have completely fallen out of love with the game, and it will take an extraordinary magic trick from Elliott to revitalise him.

Mengli Khan clears a fence at Leopardstown last December

Plenty looked to be in his favour in the Irish Daily Mirror Chase but he sulked and basically stopped to a walk for the final half-mile. What happens next will be interesting but punters have surely run out of patience at this stage.

5. King George winner could retain his crown

Clan Des Obeaux might not have won the Ladbrokes Champion Chase, but he certainly enhanced his King George credentials.

He raced a little too enthusiastically through the first half of the race and his extravagant leaps were a joy to watch, but the slowly-run affair did not play to his strengths and he will be better suited to the test presented by the King George.

Clan Des Obeaux (Harry Cobden) jumps the last ahead of Thistlecrack in the 32Red King George VI Chase at Kempton last December

It was the fourth season in a row that Clan Des Obeaux failed to make a winning start, but that did not stop him in the last three campaigns and it would come as little surprise to see him retain his King George crown.

Odds of 7-1 look very fair and it seems the seven-year-old does not get the recognition to deserves.


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He is slicker over his fences on soft ground and he is also a more fluent traveller
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