Will hopes to keep his excellent form going on Leopardstown Christmas Chase Day plus he also takes a look at Limerick which appears to have defied the odds to go ahead.
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Leopardstown Christmas Chase Day
12.15 – attheraces.com Maiden Hurdle (4yo): It’s no surprise to see Francin as favourite here given is useful form in France with wins in the Prix Munet and the Prix Steiner Pons, and he has been crying out to go further on that basis for all the second of those wins was 600 days ago. This will be no cakewalk however with Flawless Escape coming here off the back of a very creditable second at Punchestown and Daybreak Boy having perhaps achieved more courtesy of his third in a 2 mile maiden hurdle at Cork.
His Cork maiden hurdle was taken by Shady Operator, who had previously run into the Graded winner Cracking Smart before then going onto finish second to Sharjah, and he had point winner Castlebreak just ahead of him. He put 15 lengths between him and the re-opposing Jetez between the last two flights, strong form given that Jetez was then no less than seven and half lengths behind Flawless Escape next time, and if he should improve on that effort, or improve for this trip, he should be involved.
Hewroesandvillians was fourth in a Fairyhouse bumper and will need to improve a good deal for that. Momus, fourth to subsequent dual bumper Felix Desjy on his only pointing start, is of interest here and Border Control has to be respected coming from Joseph O’Brien’s yard too along with Best Behaviour.
Joseph O’Brien will have a good line into the main form contenders here and it’s interesting he gives Tower Bridge a chance in more exalted company than his debut at Down Royal, where his jumping constantly cost him all chance of victory.
12.50 – Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle (Qualifier) (4yo+): Fiercely competitive but perhaps the answer is a bit more obvious than the race suggests in the shape of the JP McManus pairing Mon Lino and Glenoe. Both of them ran fine races when second and third respectively to Red Devil Lads in the Proudstown Hurdle at Navan, and they are both weighted to turn around that form, which looks to be some of the most relevant in the contest.
Diedro Valls was a good second on his seasonal return in a rated novice hurdle at Fairyhouse and shaped as if he’d improve for a step up in trip, so is not surprising frontrunner at the top of the market. Asbury Ross’s tow good novice hurdle runs make a mark of 127 look very useful and he ought to go well here and so should 2m4f Fairyhouse winner Mount Hanover, coming from the red hot stable of Henry De Bromhead.
1.20 – Squared Financial Christmas Hurdle (Grade 1) (4yo+): Sam Spinner’s dominating victory in the Long Walk Hurdle has thrown a gauntlet down in the staying division and we will learn a lot about the Irish challenge here in a fascinating renewal of the Stayers’ Hurdle. Apple’s Jade hasn’t been this far, but the way that she put Nichols Canyon to the sword in the Hatton’s Grace suggested that she’d be able to step up to 3 miles in her sleep and a repeat of that career best would give her an excellent chance of not only taking victory here, but also at Cheltenham in March should connections send her. She was never stronger than at the finish when trashing Stayers’ Hurdle winner Nichols Canyon by a spectacular nine lengths and it would be surprised to see that form reversed.
Supasundae looked like he was going to be last when coming around the home turn, but he eventually managed to stay on to take third, just a length and three quarters behind Nichols Canyon. Last season’s Coral Cup winner would likely have needed the run on a surface that doesn’t suit him nearly as much as good ground, and it’s probably not a confidence that his career best effort has come over 3 miles on good ground at Aintree. Today, with that run under his belt, he’s stepped back upto 3 miles and will be running on a better surface than the one he encountered at Fairyhouse, meaning we should see him give a run that’s something close to his best and he looks value at 13/2 to get much closer to the protagonists here.
Jezki is a previous winner of the World Series Hurdle at Punchestown but he doesn’t look the horse that he once was although this is a far more suitable assignment than going up against Faugheen. Bapaume was one of the leading juvenile hurdlers of last year, taking victory at the Punchestown Festival and then finishing a good second at Auteuil in the Prix Alain du Breil. He stayed on very wrll on both occasions so going further should help matters although this trip is still a slight question mark and this is a daunting reappearance after 200 days off. Augusta Kate was well beaten in the Hatton’s Grace when her jumping let her down among other things and Lieutenant Colonel’s not the same horse as the one who won this three years ago.
1.50 – Irish Daily Star Christmas Novice Handicap Hurdle (4yo+): A select few of these make appeal but Low Sun’s latest effort on desperately heavy ground can surely be forgiven and on the basis of his first win he’d have to be given a fair each/way chance here. His Bellewstown defeat of Artful Artist was backed up when the latter went and finished fourth in a Premier Handicap afterwards and he was never going a yard last time. Both the potential that he and Wings On The Green (fourth behind three winners last time) bring here makes much more appeal than the handicap form that the likes of Ale Ambrosio and Like An Open Book bring to the table here, although it is not a race for heavy stakes.
2.25 – Ballymaloe Foods INH Flat Race (4-6yo): A cracking bumper which should be prime notebook, if not betting, material. Voix Des Tiep’s close second to Someday here back in February has worked out very strong and he sets a high standard, but there’s any amount of newcomers who could turn out to be very useful here and taking odds on looks to be a risky move.
Active Force, a six-length winner of his Courttown point, can be expected to go well and the same can be said of Tinahely point winner Whisperinthebreeze. Joseph O’Brien’s pair of Whatchamacallit (JP McManus) and Alighted (Gigginstown) definitely need market checks given how powerfully his newcomer Ballyneety travelled in the closing Tuesday bumper and it is tremendously exciting to see Young Wolf, a half brother to the very smart and sadly departed Neon Wolf. Nearly Man is a fascinating runner for the Rooney with Gordon Elliott.
3.00 – Leopardstown Christmas Chase (Grade 1) (5yo+): This is an absolute belter of a race and it can go to and absolute belter of a horse in Sizing John. The Gold Cup winner, who also took the Irish and Punchestown version last season, made it four straight Grade 1 successes with an impressive reappearance victory in the John Durkan when he put Djakadam aside comprehensively, and scarily for his opponents, he might come on for that success. He had Djakadam in trouble from the moment he hit the front and turned for home and he holds rock solid claims.
Yorkhill is many people’s idea of the most talented horse in training, and little wonder given the nature of his win in a fine JLT Chase at the Cheltenham Festival when he had three Grade 1 winners behind him – his second Cheltenham Festival success. He has plenty of quirks to match his talent, however, as his defeat in the Ryanair Novice Chase showed when going right handed proved to be too much for him as he threw the race away by jumping to his left. The return to going left handed should suit him a lot today, but this is his first time at 3 miles and on his seasonal reappearance under Paul Townend. Townend has proven himself an entirely able duty in the absence of Ruby Walsh but he found Yorkhill to be a difficult ride at Aintree two seasons ago over 2 miles and going three miles for the first time, it will be imperative that he settles and responds well to his ‘new’ rider for a horse with so much raw speed.
Road To Riches got the better of Yorkhill thanks to going right handed, but that was a fine end to a sudden burst of progression that included a dismantling of his opposition in a Cheltenham handicap. He has continued in the same vein since, with a taking win in the Irish Daily Star being followed by a fine effort when he went down all guns blazing to Outlander in the JN Wine at Down Royal. He ought to run well, but the winner of the JN Wine is interesting at a price here.
Outlander can give very different efforts from run to run, but it’s easy to forget that he took this race last year and in some style too, making it 4-4 at Leopardstown. His JN Wine Champion Chase win appeared to come fair and square, knuckling down to beat Road To Riches in gritty style with the two a mile clear. He was nowhere in the Betfair, but that result can be forgiven in what was near unraceable ground in the Betfair and it would not be a surprise if he was to bounce back in what have to be considered much more suitable conditions and he could pay handsomely if on his going day today.
Valseur Lido was tremendously impressive in last year’s JN Wine and went off 3/1 to follow up here and could ‘only’ finish fourth behind Outlander last year. He’s been off since and this has to be a watching brief for the tremendously talented eight-year-old. Minella Rocco would have a huge each/way shout on his Gold Cup second – although he was well beaten behind Sizing John – although he was a bit disappointing on his seasonal reappearance when well treated but unable to trouble Road To Respect. He might not have enjoyed the ground when pulled up at Cheltenham and is worth watching in running.
Zabana was 14 lengths behind Outlander and Road To Respect at Down Royal and the drying ground is unlikely to change that for him whilst Alpha Des Obeaux looks overmatched here. That we’re seeing Eduwlf here is a testament to the skill and professionalism of everyone at Three Counties Equine Hospital and Liam Kearns. Balko Des Flos won the Galway Plate and did so in fine style but that appears to be his level.
Advice: 3 pts win Sizing John (11/8 general), 1 pt each/way Outlander (16/1 general)
3.35 – Midland Legal Solicitors Beginners Chase (4yo+): Sutton Place is one of the most exciting horses in training and if he takes to chasing then he can go right to the very top. He hasn’t been seen since pulling up lame in the World Series Hurdle at Punchestown but before that he had trashed the opposition in the Limestone Lad and Boyne Hurdle, perhaps never more impressive than when putting nearly eight lengths between himself and Supasundae on his seasonal reappearance last season, a performance that gives strong encouragement about his return here, and if he were to take this then perhaps Cheltenham could be an option with the JLT looking ideal.
He is making his debut in a strong race, with Deloitte Hurdle winner and two time Grade 1 victor Bacardys on a retrieval mission after a dire first round of jumping on his Navan debut when dropping down to 2m3f did not help him at all. He surely can only improve but is also begging to be taken on as favourite with Snow Falcon, well ahead of him that day and then third in the Drinmore since, looking a rock solid option. Noel Meade’s chaser has jumped well in the main on both those outings and is also probably going to enjoy the ground more than he has the last twice.
Wishmoor, Chain Gang and Golan Lodge could struggle here.
We don’t know if the meeting will go ahead – there’s an inspection that will have taken place by the time you read this – but it’s to be hoped that we are able to race as there’s a fascinating card. Easily the most intriguing race is the Frontline Security Maiden Hurdle (2.45) simply for the presence of Epicuris, possibly the most talented recruit to the hurdling game for some time. It’s been 606 days since he ran in the Prix Du Muget but before that he was a winner of the Criterium de Saint-Cloud as a 2-year-old and then fifth in Golden Horn’s Derby, as well as also being fourth in the Prix Eugene Adam. He will be of interest for the Supreme in the eyes of many, and he needs to win this and win it well, and we have a good set of markers in the shape of Ministerforsport (Gowran bumper winner), Gun Digger (Thurles Bumper winner who possibly didn’t stay 2m4f last time), and the wide margin Bangor bumper winner Captain Zebo, who has moved yards since.
Meri Devie is not appealing at evens in the Irish Independent Hurdle (2.10) given the heavy ground and she’s crying out to be taken on with Us And Them, who rallied very hard to beat yesterday’s impressive Leopardstown handicap winner Trainwreck at Punchestown on heavy ground. He will need to improve a little bit again but this doesn’t look and overambitious assignment and he makes far more appeal than the favourite.
Duca De Thaix was behind Meri Devie at Naas but possibly needed that run after a year on the sidelines and remains of interest for the future, whilst it will be fascinating to see how Dolciano Dici fares here with Alexis Porier once again booked for Mullins. Prospectus and Balakani look overmatched.
1.10 Limerick – 1 pt win Us And Them (7/2 Bet365, Coral, Paddy Power)
Montana Belle looks to have been given a good opportunity in the D Pack Packaging Rated Novice Chase (1.10) if he produces his best, and her third in the Grade 3 Kerry Group Irish EBF Mares Novice Chase gives her a fighting chance. Experienced chaser Balbir Du Mathan could find this more suitable than past assignment and Ballela Boy and Notwhatiam look a bit exposed.
In the opening Woodlands House Hotel Adare Maiden Hurdle (12.35), Niven ought to go close. He’s already favourite, but deserves to be having bumped into Mengli Khan and Early Doors on his first two starts and either would be long odds on to take this contest. His big rivals are point winner Plan Of Attack and Great Trango, a five length second to Sharjah last time on his third start.
1.10 Limerick – 1 pt win Us And Them (7/2 Bet365, Coral, Paddy Power)
3.00 Leopardstown – 3 pts win Sizing John (11/8 general), 1 pt each/way Outlander (16/1 general)