We start a bumper Leopardstown card featuring four grade ones with the Spring Juvenile Hurdle over two miles. This is one of the key indicators towards the triumph hurdle at the Cheltenham festival either winning or placing in this event going on to win the big race in March.
Willie Mullins is on a bit of a retrieval mission with Kalkir, put up by Rich Ricci as a dark horse to follow, after been beaten well over the festive period. That day he finished behind Fiscal Focus who wasn’t disgraced behind Hurricane Fly and Jezki two weeks ago. He is priced accordingly but will need to improve to take this.
Vercingetorix from Gordon Elliot was very impressive last time out beating a poor field in a Limerick maiden. While he looks classy enough that form has taken some beatings and at 2/1 is opposable.
To try and solve this grade one with eight runners I’ve looked for some value and landed on Chatham House Rules. While he looks the second Elliot string based on the odds he looks overpriced to run into a place. He is out of Authorized (same sire as Tiger Roll) and won his maiden very well beating the much more fancied Petite Parisienne who is again much shorter. That day he forced the issue under Davy Condon to make all, while not jumping fluently. He should learn from that and with top jockey Barry Geraghty booked he could be hard to reel in. While he was well beaten by the favourite the race before he was held up that day. With a change of tactic he could get alot closer.
Of the remainder the interesting one is Lettre De Cachet. Thrown in first time out over hurdles to grade one level for Noel Meade he is an interesting contender.
Chatham House Rules (E/W)
Next up we have the Deloitte Novice Hurdle over two miles. Again a key indicator towards the Cheltenham Festival with the last two horses to win this prestiges race have gone on to win the Supreme Novices hurdle. Both of these have been trained by Willie Mullins and he holds another strong hand here with four entries.
The current favourite is Alvisio Ville who won as he liked over course and distance. I have big question marks over that form. The second has been highly tried and again was beaten yesterday. He is a very short price here and while he was eyecatching last time I feel he is worth taking on. The JP McManus horse has been very well punted ante post for the festival races so is clearly showing signs of quality at home.
Nicholas Canyon is already a Grade One winner, when a surprise winner of the Royal Bond. He unseated next time out but reports are he is going well at home and has to be respected.
Current Cheltenham Champion Bumper winner Silver Concorde has been overlooked by Davy Russell for this but shouldn’t be discounted the faster pace here will suit him today and he was a winner all bar the final quarter of a mile last time out. Davy Russell rides Windsor Park, he has a chance but again the form behind his maiden win is very weak.
The selection is for Henry De Bromheads Identity Thief won has shown very well in his two rules appearances. He won his bumper well from an impossible position and then followed up in a maiden hurdle first time, jumping fluently and efficiently. The second has come out and won very well since. The Kayf Tara gelding could be the trainers best novice hurdler since Sizing Europe and will hopefully improve again to go close at least here.
Identity Thief (E/W if 5/1+)
We quickly follow the previous Grade One with another!! Again Willie Mullins is well represented and again he has the short price favourite. On all known form Valseur Lido should be tough to beat after winning an ultra competitive Drinmore over the same trip. He has excellent novice hurdle form behind Vautour and Faugheen, This race doesn’t have the best record at Cheltenham but it is a cracking renewal today.
It is hard to see past the favourite here but there are a couple who are less exposed than most. The second favourite is Apache Stronghold and based on what he has shown he shouldn’t be able to overturn the favourite but I would expect him to be closer.
Another Mullins horse is the mare Adrianna Des Mottes who looks a big price given the weight she is in receipt off. Looking certain to finish a well beaten second behind top novice Gilgamboa before unseating at the last. Ruby rides her for the first time today over fences however she needs to improve to get involved, on a line through here Rule The World is also held. Jarry D’Honneur is thrown in the deep here but the second and third have won since but this looks a massive step up in class based on that form.
The Tullow Tank is on a massive retrieval mission while Le Vent D’Antan also has to contend with a massive step up in class.
The selection is Shanahan’s Turn to give Henry De Bromhead a big race double. He has shown some excellent form over fences beaten subsequent impressive winners Wounded Warrior and Indevan. He struggles behind Don Poli last time out but back in trip could continue his improvement. He was a top novice over hurdles who has transferred and improved that level over fences. The form off his two winning chases are rock solid and that gives him a each way chance.
Shanahan’s Turn (E/W)
The feature race of the day is the Hennessy Gold Cup over three testing miles, won impressively by Last Instalment last year. Willie Mullins has won three of the last four renewals, on the face of it this looks a stronger renewal with the Master of Cotswold double handed. Ruby rides On His Own and Townend rides Boston Bob. Both are opposable however and don’t seem to hold there form on consecutive runs. For that reason the selection will come from elsewhere.
Lord Windemere is not ruled out however looks to be primed towards the Gold Cup in March and is overlooked. Fockrock deserves his chance at this level after an impressive performance last time but needs to prove to me he wants a genuinely run three mile plus this is the best race he will have ever run in.
First Lieutenant looks overpriced on his best form but the yard have been out of sorts while the horse has been given plenty of chances and looks just below this level.
Home Farm and Texas Jack while shouldn’t be discounted, I would be disappointed if either proved good enough.
The selection is for Carlingford Lough and AP McCoy, who unbelievably will be taking up his last ride in his last Hennessy. This horse was a big eyecatcher last time out when running well in the Lexus. He just got tired in testing conditions over course and distance. With natural progression between runs he looks the most likely type. A big positive is the relationship between jockey and horse. He is by far the most solid in this race.
Carlingford Lough (WIN)