Leopardstown Racecourse held their 4 day Christmas Festival jumps meeting over the holiday period. One of the busiest meetings in the Irish Racing calendar, race goers were hoping for Cheltenham pointers from the seven Grade One races run over the 4 days.
St. Stephen’s Day (26th) and the first Grade 1 race-the 17 furlongs Racing Post Novices Chase at 14.55pm. The favourite, the Willie Mullins trained Vautour, could only manage to dead heat for 2nd place, after making a mistake at the 7th. The winner’s prize went to Clarcam, who he had easily beaten on their previous meeting. After the race, Willie Mullins said, “I’m just drawing a line under Vautour’s run. He wasn’t right.” Entered for the Arkle Chase and the JLT Novices Chase at Cheltenham, he must be given a chance to redeem himself.
Paddy Power Day (27th) held two Grade 1 races. The first-the 17 furlong Paddy Power Dial a Bet Chase-went off at 1.20pm. Winners prize went to the Willie Mullins trained Twinlight, at 16/1. Hidden Cyclone ran a game race but could not shake off Twinlight, with the rest easily beaten. Twinlight is now 20/1 for the Queen Mother Champions Chase at Cheltenham,
The 2nd Grade 1 of the day-the 2 mile Paddy Power Future Champions Novices Hurdle-went off at 1.50pm. The odds-on favourite, Nicholas Canyon, made a mistake at the 3rd and unseated Ruby Walsh. Winner’s prize went to Sizing John, at 11/1. The Henry de Bromhead trained bay, made all and sprinted away to beat Sub Lieutenant by 6.5 lengths. Nicholas Canyon is entered for the Supreme and Neptune Hurdles at Cheltenham. He will probably need a confidence booster before either of these cavalry charges.
Lexux Day (28th)-the Grade 1 races continued with-the 1.50pm 3 miles Squared Financial Christmas Hurdle. Well placed through-out, Lieutenant Colonel got the better of Jetson on the run-in, to win by ¾ of a length, having beaten that same rival by 4 lengths previously. Absent for 710 days, Monksland finished a credible 3rd. Bookies opinions varied for the World Hurdle in March, as Lieutenant Colonel was on offer from 8/1 up to 16/1. A place bet on Monksland at 20/1 could be the value.
The 2nd Grade 1 of the day-was the 2.55 Lexus Chase. Last year’s winner, Bobs Worth, was short at 5/2. He and Lord Windermere were never in contention. There was a lot of money for Road to Riches, down to 4/1 and the punters cash proved well placed. He came home by 1.5 lengths from On His Own, with Sam Winner a further 2 lengths away. Never out of the first three, Road to Riches was ridden into the last fence and kept on up the run-in. He is now 2nd favourite for the Cheltenham Gold Cup, with Silviniaco Conti favourite, at 3/1. Come March, this should be some race.
Ryanair Day (29th)-Frost threatened but the final Grade 1-the 2 mile Ryanair Hurdle, went off at 1.25pm. Favourite, Hurricane Fly held off Jezki, who had committed first on the run-in, by ½ a length. Hurricane Fly is available at 12/1 for the Champion Hurdle, with Jezki at 6/1. Add Faugheen and The New One to the mix and what a race.