Cheltenham National Hunt Chase Prediction: Dounikos to Prove Best of Gigginstown Septet

Dounikos – 8-1 William Hill ( money back if does not run at the festival ) or 6-1 Skybet ( NRNB ) 4.50 Cheltenham Tuesday 13th March

Leading Irish owner Gigginstown House Stud hold a strong hand in the marathon four mile National Hunt Chase on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival being responsible for seven of the 53 entries. Just how many of the septet the powerful operation decide to run is unclear but trainer Gordon Elliott, in a recent interview, expressed himself very sweet on the chances of his Dounikos, saying: “ Has improved an awful lot this year and has done very well for us. If I had my choice, he’d be running in the National Hunt Chase.”

Easy winner of his first two starts over fences the seven-year-old took a big step up in class when contesting the Grade 1 Flogas Novice Chase at Leopardstown earlier this month. Sent off a 25-1 chance against a field of high-class staying novices the son of Smadoun outran his odds in finishing a close fourth despite being short of room jumping the last, going down by just a length and three quarters to the smart Monalee.

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The mount of Jack Kennedy was staying on strongly towards the end of that 2m 5f contest, suggesting that the longer National Hunt Chase rather than the three mile RSA would give the gelding a better chance of a victory at the festival. Stablemate Shattered Love (also in the ownership of Gigginstown) has been earmarked as going for the RSA so unless connections have a change of heart Dounikos looks the stable’s main hope for the sixth race on day one.

Those bookmakers going non runner no bet on the race have the Patrick G Kelly-trained Presenting Percy as their 4-1 Cheltenham betting favourite but the recent runner up to Our Duke at Gowran Park is almost certain to contest the RSA, in which case Dounikos could easily start as short as 4-1 or less with many horses quoted in the ante-post betting holding entries in other races at the festival including the handicaps. The Colin Tizzard-trained Elegant Escape may prove the biggest danger based on his close second to Black Corton over Christmas at Kempton but is another who could end up in the shorter RSA Chase.