Cheltenham Festival winner Vanillier set for Down Royal chasing debut

Gavin Cromwell's six-year-old provided a shock at Cheltenham when winning the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle; he makes chasing debut at Down Royal tomorrow hoping to follow in footsteps of former winners Minella Indo and Monkfish

Mark Walsh riding Vanillier clear to win the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham
Image: Mark Walsh riding Vanillier clear to win the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham

Cheltenham Festival winner Vanillier starts his new career over fences in the Tote Ten To Follow Beginners Chase at Down Royal.

Trained by Gavin Cromwell, the grey bounded clear up the Cheltenham hill to win the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle in March.

The two previous winners of that Festival contest, Minella Indo and Monkfish, have gone on to be seen as two of the best chasers in training - albeit the latter is currently sidelined - and Cromwell will be hoping Vanillier can reach similar heights.

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He faces far from an easy task on his chasing debut on Friday, however, up against Noel Meade's Beacon Edge - last season's Boyne Hurdle hero - and Gordon Elliott's Grand Paradis, winner of the Michael Purcell Memorial at Thurles.

"It looks a hot race - but it's to be expected in Ireland at this time of year, especially at this meeting," said Cromwell.

Vanillier and Mark Walsh en route to Cheltenham success earlier this year
Image: Vanillier and Mark Walsh en route to Cheltenham success earlier this year

"We're looking forward to getting him started off. He jumps well (at home) - and while we'll step him up in trip as the season goes on, this looks a nice place to get him started.

"It was good to soft when he won at Cheltenham, and it will be something similar again. He doesn't need it bottomless, (so) the ground should be ideal.

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"That day he came up the hill at Cheltenham he looked to be crying out for a fence, so we're hoping it all goes well."

Elsewhere on the card, Triumph Hurdle fourth Zanahiyr meets Cask Mate in what looks a match in the Grade Two WKD Hurdle

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