Horse Racing Tips: Timeform’s 3 things to note at Down Royal and Wincanton

Timeform's previews the weekend's action and list a few to keep on the radar.

Timeform Wincanton

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Expect more Elliott domination at Down Royal

It’s no secret that Gordon Elliott likes to target this weekend’s meeting at Down Royal with some of his better prospects and the trainer has declared no fewer than 12 runners on Friday’s card alone. They include Fil Dor and Pied Piper, who are set to clash again in the Grade 2 WKD Hurdle (14:05) having finished second and third, respectively, in the Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival when they last met.

Elliott has won two of the last three renewals of the WKD Hurdle and he has an even better record in a couple of the other races on Friday’s card. Take the opening maiden hurdle (12:20), for example, won by Elliott with Fury Road, Farouk d’Alene and Hollow Games in consecutive years between 2019 and 2021. This year the trainer unleashes the hugely exciting American Mike, who was one of the best around in bumpers last season and found only Facile Vega too good at the Cheltenham Festival.

Elliott has been similarly dominant in Friday’s beginners chase (15:15) having won five of the last six runnings, most notably with the subsequent Grade 1 winners Delta Work, Samcro and Envoi Allen. This year Elliott gives Mighty Potter his chasing debut in the race and it’s likely to be a stepping stone to bigger and better things for him, too, judged on the smart form he showed as a novice hurdler last season.

Elliott will then be looking for a fifth victory in the meeting’s feature contest on Saturday, the Grade 1 Champion Chase (14:32). Unsurprisingly, he appears to hold another very strong hand with Irish Gold Cup winner Conflated and last year’s runner-up GALVIN – who went on to make the breakthrough at the top level in the Savills Chase – dominating the betting.

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Fighter Allen remains with potential over fences

Willie Mullins tends to play his cards a bit later than Gordon Elliott when it comes to unleashing the big guns at Closutton, but he does have a couple of interesting runners at Down Royal this week, including FIGHTER ALLEN, who could be flying under the radar ahead of his return to action in the Grade 2 Eventsec Chase on Saturday.

Unlike many from his yard, Fighter Allen didn’t get off the mark over fences until the third attempt last season, but he looked good when making all at Tramore in April, travelling well and jumping fluently on his way to a comfortable six-length success.

Next up was the EMS Copiers Novice Handicap Chase at the Punchestown Festival, a race Mullins has farmed in recent years, winning six of the last seven runnings. Fighter Allen, ridden by stable jockey Paul Townend, was sent off the 4/1 favourite for the latest edition but didn’t get beyond the first fence where he fell after landing too steeply, leaving stablemate El Barra to land the spoils.

Nevertheless, it says plenty about the regard in which Fighter Allen is held that he was the stable number one for a race Mullins has won with the likes of Kemboy and Asterion Forlonge in recent years. He has obvious potential to improve with just four starts over fences under his belt and this Grade 2, which is restricted to second-season chasers, looks an ideal starting point to the new campaign.

Chasing could be the making of McFabulous

Paul Nicholls dominated the ‘Rising Stars’ Novices’ Chase (13:15) at Wincanton earlier this century, winning the race eight times between 2006 and 2017. Admittedly, it’s now been five years since Nicholls last won this Grade 2, but he’ll be hopeful of adding to his tally on Saturday with the interesting chasing debutant MCFABULOUS.

There was one time in the career of McFabulous when he looked one of the most exciting young prospects in Britain. On reflection, it’s fair to say that he probably didn’t scale the heights expected of him over hurdles, though he has shown himself to be capable of smart form on his day, notably winning three times in Grade 2 company, most recently in the Select Hurdle at Sandown in April.

Now an eight-year-old, McFabulous finally gets the opportunity to embark on a chasing career – a season later than planned after a setback delayed his return to action last term – and it’s potentially significant that Nicholls is prepared to start him off in graded company against horses who mostly have the benefit of previous experience over fences.

It’s clear that the 13-times champion trainer hasn’t lost any faith in McFabulous and he’s certainly worth a try chasing, even at his age. A half-brother to the top-class chaser Waiting Patiently, he has the physique and the demeanour to suggest it could well be the making of him.

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