LEOPARDSTOWN GRADE 1 SPECIAL

13:50 Leopardstown – Christmas Hurdle Vroum Vroum Mag is the obvious place to start with her quality plus how well the Ricci runners have gone since the John Durkan. This mare was short-headed when looking the most likely winner in the Hatton Grace when giving the winner weight. A versatile mare tripwise and ground wise she is the one that sets a very high standard and looks the most likely to add to her Group 1 tally. Noel Meade’s Snow Falcon won two starts back when staying on strongly off a decent gallop to beat De Plotting Shed. He looked to be going well once more at Newbury in the Long Distance Hurdle before coming to grief three out and would have served it up to Unowhatimeanharry in the closing stages. Some of his jumping can leave a bit to be desired and that has to be the concern because he needs to be foot perfect in this race to get close to Vroum Vroum Mag. There are two at bigger prices who I’m interested in. The fly in the ointment in this race could prove to be the Nicky Henderson charge Kotkikova. This five year old mare is yet to race in the UK or Ireland but has a superb record in her native France. She is highly regarded and whether she tackles hurdles and fences in the future she has a big one. She hasn’t been on a racecourse for 245-days but she has won fresh previously, so if tuned up can’t be discounted.  The other to mention is De Plotting Shed. Gordon Elliot trained the winner of this race last year with Prince Of Scars and this six year old can definitely hit the frame. He’s a big imposing type who has finally started to come good of late and completed a hat-trick at Naas last month before finishing second to Snow Falcon last time. The step up to three miles is one that should suit him and he has the acceleration needed in the latter part of the race. De Plotting Shed (E/W)

15:00 Leopardstown – Lexus Chase Just 1lb in the official ratings separate Djakadam and Valseur Lido and you have to expect a ding-dong battle in this between the pair in what looks a high class renewal. Valseur Lido romped home at Down Royal on his return to action on his first start for Henry De Bromhead. He travelled and jumped supremely and if he can repeat that performance then he will run his race. However, he is a horse that seems more suited to right-handed tracks, so this course may not play to his strengths. Djakadam’s last two victories have come in the John Durkan, which came 17-days ago. This year he asserted himself on that race in the closing stages unlike last year when he easily saw off today’s main rival. This two-time Gold Cup runner up has a liking for Leopardstown having won both previous starts here and when you factor in how well the Mullins string have been running of late you have to strongly fancy him to continue that winning thread. If he can get into his usual rhythm and fluency then he could give his rivals plenty to think about given we know how he can got through the gears. A bigger odds then Zabana is of interest with Davy Russell back in the plate. A winner of the Grade 1 Champion Novice Chase in April and this seven year old has a fairly good record with Russell and at this track. If he jumps like he did in the latter part of the race at Down Royal then that’ll stand him in good stead, it’s just a matter if they go off to quickly for him to maintain his pitch. Last year’s winner is the plodder Don Poli, but he might be wanting some rain to soften the ground. If put in the race then he has a cracking chance at a big price but he is likely to be staying on late-on to trouble the judge. Djakadam (WIN)

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