One horse, one jockey, one trainer and one race to watch this Saturday
Back in January, Lisnagar Oscar ran in a Pertemps Final qualifier at Warwick to try and book his place in the competitive handicap hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. Very few people would have thought he would end up winning a championship race two months later.
The seven-year-old found a drastic amount of improvement in that space of time and catapulted Rebecca Curtis and his jockey Adam Wedge into the limelight when winning the Stayers' Hurdle at 50-1, which gave the duo the biggest victory of their careers.
Lisnagar Oscar makes his seasonal comeback in the Grade 2 bet365 Hurdle (2.45) as he begins the journey to defend his crown and prove that there was no fluke about his Cheltenham victory.
It has been nearly eight years since Denis O'Regan last tasted Grade 1 glory, but the resurgent jockey looks to have a real chance of breaking that barren streak in the Ladbrokes Champion Chase (2.25).
O'Regan, whose last top-level victory came in the Finale Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow in 2013, has been in fine form during the early stages of this jumps season, eclipsing last season's winning tally already, and looks on course to achieve his best campaign for some time barring mishaps.
His fine form has been rewarded after it was announced earlier this week that he had picked up the plum spare ride on Presenting Percy in the 3m contest, with regular rider Davy Russell sidelined until the new year with a neck injury.
Gordon Elliott earmarks the two-day meeting at Down Royal as the annual starting place to unleash his big guns for the season and this year is no different.
Following Envoi Allen and Abacadabras on Friday, he launches a three-pronged attack on the Ladbrokes Champion Chase (2.25), headlined by last year's Savills Chase and Irish Gold Cup winner Delta Work, who has all the top staying chases on his radar once again this term.
In the Lough Construction Ltd. Chase, Elliott takes the wraps off last year's Marsh Novices' Chase winner Samcro (3.00), who many feel still needs to improve this term to fulfil the lofty reputation that was placed on his shoulders a couple of seasons ago. It could be a season-defining 35 minutes for the Cullentra handler.
Very rarely has the Charlie Hall Chase (3.20) looked so deeply competitive and it is headlined by the eagerly anticipated return of Britain's highest-rated chaser Cyrname.
He has not been seen since taking a tired fall in the Ascot Chase in February and now must prove himself equally as effective around a left-handed track.
Such has been the worry about this theory, Paul Nicholls has not raced the eight-year-old around a left turn since he was fourth in the Manifesto Novices' Chase at the Grand National meeting in 2018.
Vinndication and Sam Spinner are big contenders for Kim Bailey and Jedd O'Keeffe respectively, while last year's winner, Ballyoptic, bids to become the first horse to win back-to-back renewals of Charlie Hall since See More Business at the start of the Millennium.
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