The worst horse that Gigginstown owns, Champagne Classic, runs in the Grade 2 Ten Up Novices' Chase at Navan (15:25) on Sunday - according to the stud's owner Michael O'Leary, that is, after he won the 2017 renewal of the Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle at the Cheltenham.
Champagne Classic has proved categorically that he is not the worst horse owned by Gigginstown when also winning his next start in the Grade 1 Irish Daily Mirror Novices' Hurdle at Punchestown, and he has the chance to climb the stud's rankings higher still on Sunday. He shaped very well when 12 and a quarter lengths third to Ballyward in a Grade 3 novice at Naas on his chasing debut last month, travelling well for a long way until tiring late on, hardly surprising as it was his first run for 641 days. Likely to come on for the outing, he has leading claims.
While the absence of leading novice hurdler Battleoverdoyen at the Dublin Racing Festival raised a few eyebrows, Elliott may have his own Battleofthepipes as he also saddles last year's Martin Pipe winner Blow By Blow. He has much greater experience over fences than his stablemate, and has shown flashes of useful form, but he ran very poorly at Naas last month and is yet to match his peak hurdling efforts.
Any Second Now has leading claims on ratings, but would make more appeal in handicap company. He was gambled on, running well in first-time blinkers and leaving the impression he should have finished closer still, when fifth to Auvergnat in Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown last time, however he's proving an expensive horse to follow.
Of more obvious interest is Chris's Dream, who finished one and a quarter lengths (and one place) ahead of Champagne Classic last time. Henry de Bromhead's charge is lightly raced and has made a promising start to his chasing career, winning his maiden at Navan (by three lengths from Gun Digger) in December before running to a similar level at Naas last time. His jockey Rachael Blackmore may try to dictate from the front, though her mount may prefer more testing conditions than are forecast.
Of the others, Moonshine Bay ran as if amiss last time but has work to do with Blow By Blow on their Topaz Novices' Chase form, while Agent Boru has plenty to find on form and is another who needs to bounce back from being pulled up when last seen.
The Boyne Hurdle (14:20) looks equally competitive, but has a very strange make-up to it thanks to the presence of the Grand National first and third Tiger Roll and Bless The Wings. Clearly both are using the 21-furlong contest as a stepping stone to Cheltenham (Cross Country race) and Aintree, so it's probably unreasonable to expect anything more than encouraging staying-on efforts.
Of more interest for win purposes is their stablemate Cracking Smart who won a maiden at Punchestown and a listed novices' event at Cork in 2017/18, though his best effort came when a length second to Next Destination in the Lawlor's of Naas Novices' Hurdle. Cracking Smart was tailed-off in the Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown last time but is much better than that and this looks a feasible assignment, especially if any rain arrives at the track.
The Willie Mullins pair of Bachasson and Coquin Mans are respected. The former won three times over fences last season before getting no further than the second in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, but overcame the run of the race when winning a five-runner minor event at Punchestown last time. He's not the biggest so it's no surprise that he remains over the smaller obstacles, and - with more improvement to come after that outing - he looks the stable number one in receipt of 5 lb from Coquin Mans. The last-named raced on the unfavoured inside when well held on his reappearance and a repeat of his smart Grade 2 win at Fairyhouse last April would see him go close.
Completing the field is Off You Go, a Timeform 'Horse In Focus' thanks to two wins this season including from a mark of 143 in the 19-runner Ladbrokes Hurdle (Handicap) at Leopardstown (by a length from Jezki, finding plenty to lead close home) last time. Clearly this is a different test, but he is progressing rapidly and it would be no surprise to see him step up again.