IRISH CHAMPION HURDLE (GRADE 1) (2M)
The Irish Champion Hurdle is one of the most eagerly anticipated races of the weekend at Leopardstown as the bang in form Apple’s Jade sits at the top of the market where she’s looking to add yet another Grade 1 to ever growing collection on her CV. She was last seen when winning over three miles here at Christmas when bolting up the last day and has also won her other two previous starts this term both at the top level. It’s pretty obvious to most that she’s a massive player and will likely take all the beating. The horse that finished a very close second in the English Champion Hurdle takes his place next in the betting and that’s of course the Willie Mullins trained Melon. He was slightly underwhelming in the Ryanair Hurdle last time on his reappearance effort last time however it’s likely he needed the run that day and will be a lot better for it on this occasion. A talented horse who will have a big part to play should he turn up in form, you can find him trading at a general 5/2.
A horse that did run well last time in the Ryanair Hurdle was Jessica Harrington’s Supasundae. He’s a horse that’s a very likeable sort and often runs his race in top flight events, he’ll certainly be a player again here but does have quite a bit to find on Apple’s Jade on the back of when the two met earlier in the season. He’s a general 11/4 chance in the market. It’s a trio of Gigginstown horses that make up the line up at the minute which include Petit Mouchoir, Farclas and Tombstone. All of which have a lot to find on current form should they play a meaningful part.
This is a race that looks to revolve around Apple’s Jade which reflects in her price, a top class horse that’s versatile over a range of trips at the top level. If we’re being honest if she handles the differing trip again she’s the obvious winner here. However I think MELON will step up to the plate here and progress from that slightly below par run last time. He’s often been the bridesmaid and often flattered to deceive at times but i’m hoping he comes of age here and serves it up to this talented mare and not to be forgotten the classy Supersundae.
WIN: MELON (5/2)
DUBLIN CHASE (GRADE 1) (2M 1F)
(*No longer 8 runners. Footpad. Doctor Phoenix & A Toi Phil all Non Runner as of Friday*)
The Dublin Chase is a Grade 1 affair that’s contested over a distance of two miles and a furlong and it’s a race that see’s a fascinating battle between two top class stablemates at the top of the market. These two National Hunt behemoths are of course the Willie Mullins trained duo in Min and Footpad. Both arrive here in very different form though with Min arriving here on the back of a Grade 1 success when taking the John Durkan the last day at Punchestown whereas Footpad arrives here on the back of a defeat here in the Sugar Paddy when he was ran down by Simply Ned close home who reopposes again in this particular contest. It certainly looks as though Footpad has a few questions to answer on the back of his two outings this term, the first of said appearances was his defeat to Saint Calvados, who he also reopposes here. He was looking laboured when turned over at short odds that day and despite looking in control next time here in the Sugar Paddy, he failed to put the race to bed.
Saint Calvados was last seen when finishing a good way behind Altior in the Tingle Creek but before that looked impressive when lowering the colours of Footpad on Irish shores. He’ll be looking to recapture that form here with Gavin Sheehan back in the saddle. As mentioned previously it was Simply Ned that got the better of the one time Champion Chase hope last time and he’s a horse that certainly comes to life over here. The Nicky Richards charge may well surprise a few again here and he’s one that you wouldn’t want to be taking too lightly. Castlegrace Paddy is a smart performer on his day and a general consistent performer as well that being said. He ran another solid race here last time and won very well on his reappearance run the time before. He’s a general 10/1 chance. The Henry de Bromhead pair of Special Tiara and Ordinary World look slightly up against on current form and the same can be said for the Gordon Elliot duo of A Toi Phil and Doctor Phoenix who conclude the line up.
The market suggests that this race could well turn into a match between Footpad and Min which could well be the case. A return to the Footpad of last season would certainly be a huge player, but the air of uncertainty that surrounds him on the back of two below par runs this term can’t be excuse. All the money has come for MIN in the last few weeks or so in the build up to this race and coming into the race he’s got to be the one for me. He should come on for that win in the John Durkan last time and he could prove a tough nut to crack in this. The price has crashed on Min though and when there’s a short priced horse I fancy I always like to put up an each way alternative too for those who want one at a more appealing price. The one i’m going to go with here as my each way alternative is CASTLEGRACE PADDY. He often runs his race at the top level and unlike some of them at the more sizeable side in the market he looks to still have some of his better days ahead of him. He could well get involved should the big guns not fire for whatever reason.
WIN: MIN (11/10) – (NOW: 8/11)*(FOOTPAD NON RUNNER FRIDAY MORNING*)
EACH WAY: CASTLEGRACE PADDY (8/1)
IRISH GOLD CUP (GRADE 1) (3M)
The showpiece event of this two day extravaganza is of course the Irish Gold Cup. A Grade 1 affair that’s contested over three miles and this race i’m actually piecing together on Friday so hopefully half the field won’t be obliterated like has been the case for the majority of my previews throughout this shambolic excuse of a National Hunt season. Anyway, this year’s renewal of the Irish Gold Cup is headed by Road To Respect for Noel Meade and Sean Flanagan sporting the Gigginstown silks. He was last seen when finishing a solid third in the Savills Chase here before winning decisively on his reappearance run earlier in November. He’s many people’s pick to go close in the Cheltenham equivalent and it would be no surprise to see him increase his claim in this particular assignment where he’s a general 9/4 chance in the betting. Behind him in the market are two Willie Mullins contenders and these come in the form of Al Boum Photo and Bellshill. Both horses are very capable performers at the top level and Al Boum Photo showcased this with a smart victory on his reappearance the last time, the form of that race has since been giving a significant boost with Invitation Only coming out and winning the Thyestes Chase. Paul Townend sides with Al Boum Photo who you can find trading at a best price of 10/3. Ruby Walsh opts for Bellshill here, he was only just behind Road To Respect last time in the Savills and wouldn’t have too much to find on the principal here should the placing be reversed. He looks as though a Cheltenham Gold Cup route is likely also and a bold showing looks set to be on the cards.
Henry de Bromhead also has two representatives in the line up and these come in the form of Monalee and Balko Des Flos. Monalee was last seen when finishing in front of Road To Respect in the Savills here last time which is a stand out piece of form, he’s a Grade 1 winning novice who looks sure to make his presence felt at the top flight against the elders and he could well do that here. Robbie Power is set to take the ride and he’s a general 15/2 chance. Balko Des Flos will need to rediscover the form of his Ryanair victory of last year should he play a meaningful part here, he’s struggled since that impressive win over Un De Sceaux at Cheltenham but does have the services of the in form Rachael Blackmore here.
A very competitive affair as you would come to expect for this type of race, Road To Respect sets a solid standard and if turning up in top form will take all the beating. There’s a horse in this line up i’m a big fan of though who was unlucky in top events last year but got off to the perfect start this time around and that’s AL BOUM PHOTO. He’s one of the youngest horses in the line up and I think he has bags of potential at the top level, as stated in the build up the form of his win the last day has been boosted significantly and there’s nothing that suggests he can’t go well again here.
WIN: AL BOUM PHOTO (10/3)