Leopardstown Race Preview, 06/02/2021

Leopardstown, Saturday February 6th

Leopardstown 1.05
Nathaniel Lacy & Partners Solicitors ’50k Cheltenham Bonus For Stable Staff’ Novice Hurdle Grade 1 – 2m6f33y – Going: Soft – 13 runners

Ashdale Bob*
Second win over hurdles when taking a Grade 2 novice at Naas on December 18th, midfield 4 out travelling comfortably, niggled along off home turn, a length and a half to find 3 out, niggled along, hung left but produced to challenge 2 out, soon led, ridden clear and stayed on well despite hanging left, 5 lengths up last, driven out to beat Fakiera. Was an early faller in the Grade 1 at the same track won by Bob Olinger last time, but is arguably the pick on form here
Baptism Of Fire
Best form to date when 3rd to Fury Road in Grade 2 at Punchestown on November 15th, closed on leader 8th, nudged along approaching 2 out, niggled along approaching home turn, soon more firmly ridden, held place turning in, lost 2nd approaching last, stuck to task, kept on hands and heels when the 1st 2 were away, kept on well and closed on the 2nd last 100 yards. Relatively unfancied at 12/1, didn’t run a race behind Farouk D’Alene and reopposing Vanillier in 2m7f Grade 2 novice at Limerick on December 28th, blundered 5th, going worst of the field towards rear when given reminders a circuit out, dropped right out before 3 out and tailed off when pulled up. Not sure what to expect
Won Grade 3 novice at Navan on November 22nd, outpaced from 3 out but staying on strongly under pressure from the second last, passing rivals one by one after the last, finally collaring Fire Attack two or three strides from the post; last time chased home Ashdale Bob at the same track on December 18th, dropped to last pair turning out of back straight, pushed along home turn, no impression on those ahead from 3 out to next, hard ridden between last 2, stayed on approaching last, hard driven and passed  three rivals run-in, took 2nd 100 yards out, no impression on winner, nearest finish. Hit a flat spot going down the back straight which proved costly and is in cheekpieces this time, but he has a bit going for him despite his disconcerting run style, the two furlongs-longer trip likely to work in his favour
Fun Light
Went one better than on previous attempts over hurdles when taking a maiden at Fairyhouse in January, led, headed 4th, niggled along home turn, challenged and travelled the better approaching 2 out, in close, shaken up, not going best approaching last, found extra and drew upsides jumping, ridden out, stayed on well, led 175 yards out, pulled clear last 100 yards, workmanlike and decisive in the end from Salt Wind. The overall form gives him something to find here, and the workmanlike style marks of the Fairyhouse-win also suggest that
Shadow Rider
Promising 3rd to Ashdale Bob at Navan in November and confirmed that when winning an above average-looking maiden at Limerick over 2m4f on St. Stephen’s Day, led 5th, took something of a hold as led a length and a half 7th, in close to 10th, 1st 2 pulled clear approaching home turn, travelled comfortably, led 3 to 4 lengths approaching 2 out, pushed along between last 2, 2 lengths up last, just pushed out run-in, pulled clear of Eye Van last 150 yards, had something in hand.  A half-brother to 3m winner Samingarry and the useful Squouateur (also 3m-placed), he shouldn’t have a problem with the two furlongs-longer trip
After running 3rd to Vanillier at Naas in November, won his maiden when going in at Leopardstown on December 29th, led 6th, led a length bend before last (normal 2 out), ridden into it, travelled much the best home turn, niggled along straightening, pulled clear, hard ridden coming round omitted last, was challenged a furlong out, hard driven and found extra last 125 yards, pulled clear, workmanlike and decisive from Glens Of Antrim. Contender
Progressing over hurdles and on second run had Stattler back in 3rd when beating Fantasio D’Alene at Naas in November. Stepped up in trip and grade, ran well when 2nd to Farouk D’Alene in Grade 2 novice over 2m7f at Limerick on December 28th, closed on leader approaching 9th where in close, pushed along from 3 out as 1st 2 drew clear, stayed on under a ride approaching home turn, closed on 1st 2 under a ride approaching 2 out, mistake, hard driven, stayed on past the 2nd between last 2, the better jump last and closed on winner, hard driven and closing last 100 yards but too much ground to make up. Strong at the end having been outpaced as the 1st 2 pressed on leaving the back straight, it looks as though this one’s going to be a stayer; in theory therefore this one’s likely to find this 2m6f-trip the bare minimum, at least in time if not now, but the form puts him in this with a chance
Cape Gentleman*
Winner of the Irish Cesarewitch at The Curragh back in October. Next outing was his hurdling debut and won with high style marks – apart from his jumping – at Punchestown on December 8th, tracked leaders 2nd, blundered 9th, ridden into 3 out, moved upsides leader and going comfortably, led 2 out, narrow lead and going best home turn, disputed lead but going much the best approaching last, not hard ridden to go clear and led 3 lengths jumping, didn’t need to be shaken up to maintain 2 lengths’ lead last 150 yards, readily without being asked for a big effort, beat Petibonome 2 lengths. Appeared to have a ton in hand there and could well be of the standard required to run close in this
Gaillard Du Mesnil
Improved on debut-2nd to Holymacapony at Punchestown in November (ridden along home turn, within 2 lengths when mistake last, no more run-in as winner drew clear, stuck to task) when going in at Leopardstown on December 28th, took a bit of a hold, shuffled back and prominent to midfield 2nd, made ground and prominent 4th, mistake 8th, edged closer going comfortably bend before 2 out, jumped big, smooth ground to chase leader home turn and going best, led on the bit approaching last, led 3 lengths jumping without being shaken up, not hard pressed to draw well clear run-in, readily with plenty in hand by 9 lengths from Mr Incredible. Likely to go well, but will probably be short odds on account of the colours he carries  and that he’s Paul Townend’s choice from the four Willie Mullins-runners
Probably improved on win at Cork in November when 2nd to Dreal Deal at Punchestown on January 17th, plenty to do 2 out, pushed along approaching home turn, stayed on under a ride once in line for home, closed on leader, led approaching last, 2 lengths up when in close to it, quickly challenged by Dreal Deal, soon headed, no extra under a ride last 125 yards – nothing he could do about the winner coming from further back than he himself had done. Probably a bit to find
This EUR250,000 purchase made a successful Rules debut when winning maiden over 2m at Cork on January 2nd, chased leader from 1st, a little keen, led and mistake 3rd, 1st 2 raced clear from 4th, mistake 6th, ridden into 3 out and drew 5 lengths clear of closest pursuer, some 10 lengths up 2 out and at most niggled along, pulled further clear approching last, not hard ridden to maintain, readily with plenty in hand. Was in the proverbial different county, taking that with high style marks and beating Mahnos Glory 21 lengths – the taking manner of his win suggests he’s worth his place in this field 
Successful Rules debut when taking a Punchestown maiden on November 14th, tracked leaders from 5th, niggled along approaching 3 out, led there, niggled along approaching 2 out, more firmly pushed along and found extra to lead a length and a half home turn, hard ridden approaching last, steadied into and hit it, ridden out, drew further clear run-in, workmanlike and unchallenged by 8 lengths from Gaillard Du Mesnil. On the strength of that started favourite for a Grade 2 novice at Naas on December 18th but disappointed, chased leader 8th, niggled along home turn, soon more firmly pushed, lost place very quickly and detached last approaching 3 out, immediately eased down and tailed off 2 out, pulled up before last, the race won by Ashdale Bob. Something to prove
Stepped up on modest first hurdles effort when taking a Limerick maiden on December 30th,  led approaching 3rd, jumped big 4th, led a neck home turn, niggled along approaching 2 out, soon more firmly pushed, led a length 2 out, hard driven, 1st 2 pulled clear, ridden into last, driven out, found extra last 100 yards, pulled clear, workmanlike from Rajsalad. Has a bit to find

Shortlist: Ashdale Bob, Cape Gentleman, Gentlemansgame

Leopardstown 1.35
Ladbrokes Dublin Chase Grade 1

2m1f57y – Going: Yielding to Soft – 6 runners

It’s unoriginal to suggest it but Willie Mullins has got this – though I have a feeling it’ll be Min** that prevails over Chacun Pour Soi. Min made all to win the John Durkan Memorial in the Punchestown fog early in December beating Tornado Flyer, whilst Chacun Pour Soi* for me wasn’t that impressive in beating Notebook in the Grade 1 here over Christmas, and on the start before that he had to work a lot harder than the betting suggested when winning the Hilly Way at Cork earlier in December – going back a year, Chacun Pour Soi didn’t actually have a lot left at the end when beating Min in this race, although that time it’s worth recalling that they were really trapping from before the second last. I just think it’ll be closer than people think between them. Sizing Pottsie, who got very tired prior to falling at the last over hurdles at Fairyhouse last time, has a bit to find stepping up from handicaps, and Fakir D’Oudairies has it to do with Notebook, let alone Chacun and Min, on the form of the Poplar Square Chase at Naas in November.

Selection: MIN – Alternative: Chacun Pour Soi

Leopardstown 2.45
Matheson Handicap Chase Grade B 0-150

2m1f57y – Going: Yielding to Soft – 20 runners, 3 reserves

Ordinary World
Probably flattered when 3rd to A Plus Tard and Chacun Pour Soi in the Grade 1 at Christmas 2019, produced to challenge coming off the bend, ridden along, a length down last, hard driven, outpaced last 200 yards, left well behind as 1st 2 pulled clear last 150 yards, looked heavy-legged at the line. Didn’t get far in Dublin Chase at this fixture last year when last seen out, not fluent 3rd and niggled along again, lost considerable ground on the others and tailed off turning into the back straight, pulled up before 4th. Best watched
Goulane Chosen
No form in two runs this season for this now-12 year-old, over hurdles at Limerick on reappearance made any amount of mistakes and dropped away before pulled up at the second last, and in Dan & Joan Moore Memorial at Fairyhouse last time won by Daly Tiger led, headed 9th, moved upsides new leader when in close to 3 out, pushed along and quickly dropped back, going worst of the field when pushed along in midfield home turn, hard driven after 2 out, stuck to task between last 2 till faded 150 yards off last, well back when blundered, no more, losing further ground on those ahead last 150 yards, finished 27 lengths 9th, Little expected
Failed to impress with his finishing effort when 2nd to Sizing Pottsie at Fairyhouse on December 12th, wandering all over then taking an eternity to go 2nd on the run-in, but next time looked more genuine whilst posting form that lagged the Sizing Pottsie-race when 4th to Daly Tiger in Dan & Joan Moore Memorial at Fairyhouse last month, prominent to midfield when blundered 5th, mistake 6th, midfield when mistake 8th, not fluent 9th, edged a little closer approaching 3 out but not fluent again, shuffled back and had 8 in front and 6 or 7 lengths to find home turn looking to be in a bit of a pocket, angled wide and not asked for maximum effort coming off the bend, not fluent 2 out, then shaken up, stayed on under a push between last 2 and closing on those ahead, took 4th nearing last, ridden and no more run-in, chance of 3rd last 150 yards, not quite get the place. How much better might that have been with a better round of jumping, much his worst error at the 5th, then followed by several bit-less-than-fluent jumps – his jumping was better the time before, and he could do something if he puts it all together
Epson Du Houx*
Comes into this unbeaten when completing over fences, posting his second chase-win last time at Naas on January 13th,  led 3rd, in close to 4th and headed, ridden into 3 out, 1st 2 clear, moved to within a length of leader home turn, led and going best approaching 2 out, jumped left, niggled along, stayed on between last 2, some 5 lengths up last, pushed out, one reminder, idled when in the clear last 175 yards but never in danger, decisive with a bit in hand by 6 lengths from Jack Hackett. Likely to go well
Pont Aven*
Confirmed the promise of his fast-finishing 4th to Uisce Beatha at Leopardstown over Christmas when running 2nd in Dan & Joan Moore Memorial at Fairyhouse last month, good headway wide approaching 3 out, nudged along home turn and looked stronger than some, closed on the bit approaching 2 out, shaken up on landing, outpaced as winner asserted, put under pressure between last 2, stayed on and pased a couple to take 2nd approaching last, had gone clear of the 3rd when mistake last, pushed out, kept on in Daly Tiger’s wake, no impression on winner but drew further clear of 3rd. Maybe this time?
Won the Boodles (Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap) at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival, at most a length down 2 out, niggled along after it, drew nearly upsides home turn, shaken up, effort and led approaching last, wandered right, hard driven, picked up well when challenged and whip not used last 125 yards, 1st 2 clear, perhaps had a little in hand over runner-up Night Edition. Has won one of his three chases, last time in a beginners’ at Fairyhouse on January 16th, niggled along and marked headway to close on leaders approaching 8th, niggled along again after 3 out, soon more firmly pushed and was 5th with 6 lengths to find turning in, closed on leaders approaching 2 out, pushed along between last 2 and switched inside rivals approaching last, strong effort to close Port Stanley down approaching last, 1st 2 clear, took off too early and led last, pushed out, ran on, drew clear last 150 yards, decisive. The bare form of that doesn’t put him in the mix, but his hurdles record very much does
Jan Maat
Went to last year’s Grand Annual with high hopes, but disappointed, and was beaten double digits on his next four outings. In first-time cheekpieces, he was in the process of posting his best form since winning in October 2019 when falling last behind Uisce Beatha at Leopardstown over Christmas, short of room just after the start and bumped 2 or 3 rivals whilst trying to take a position, prominent, tracked leaders approaching 2nd, chased leader approaching 4th, in close to 6th, bumped rival in the air 7th, niggled along from 3 out, tracked leaders when ridden into 2 out, chased new leader under pressure approaching home turn, wandered home turn, stayed on approaching last, every chance at most half a length down when fell heavily last. When he wasn’t wrestling his opponents, having had more bumps along the way than a car being driven over several potholes, he travelled much better than on his previous outing at Cork in first-time cheekpieces – my worst-case guesstimate over where he would have finished is alongside the 4th. At the back of my mind is still the possibility that he’s a short-runner, but has a chance on the last time out-effort
Most recently has been running over longer trips, finishing 18 lengths 6th to Castlebawn West over 3m in Paddy Power Handicap Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas, closer order 14th and travelled comfortably, pushed along after 3 out, very good ground wide approaching 2 out and 5 lengths off leader, soon ridden along, hard ridden and widest of all home turn, couldn’t find more and faded approaching last, then kept on late. Up to now he hasn’t added to his beginners-win at Thurles in February last year, came under a ride 3 out in 4th with 12 lengths to find, staying on when left challenging for 2nd 2 out, ridden along, stayed on, steadied into last, hard driven run-in, ran on strongly, led 75 yards out, drew clear of Arvico Bleu final strides. Possiblities now he’s dropped in trip
Port Stanley
Yet to win over fences, and has finished runner-up the last twice: at Fairyhouse on December 12th pushed along and led between last 2, stayed on under a ride, was joined by Front View last, hard driven, headed 150 yards, out, no extra. stuck to task; then also at Fairyhouse on January 16th,  dropped a couple of lengths off leader before ridden into 6th, ridden 50 yards off 7th, a length down on leader bend before 8th, niggled along after, ridden into 3 out, pushed along and not going as well as leader home turn, stayed on under a push and drew upsides straightening, led 2 out, hard ridden, stayed on, put under pressure approaching last, was closed on by Aramax, headed jumping, pair clear, readily outpaced run-in, stuck to task but no extra. On that occasion didn’t look like winning anywhere and he seems to be very hard work, particularly at the fences. Yet to fail to complete a race, he’s now in first-time cheekpieces
Best of her two chase wins at Listowel in September, 15 lengths clear 8th, hit 9th, some 15 to 20 lengths clear and still on the bit home turn, maintained lead without being hard ridden over last 2, passed the post on the bit. Not seen since disappointing in a conditions mares’ chase at Clonmel on October 29th, went on, clear, mistake 1st, raced freely, in close to 6th and 7th, mistake 8th, some 6 or 7 lengths up 9th, mistake 3 out, was closed on turning out of back straight, 1st 2 well clear, was joined by Western Victory home turn, readily headed approaching 2 out, was closed on by the 3rd, pushed along and tired, dropped away between last 2, mistake last and lost 2nd, looked heavy-legged last 100 yards – did way too much through the race and had nothing left at the end. Also arguably finding little in Grade 3 novice at Roscommon the start before the Clonmel-race when 3rd to Benruben, this one might function here only as a setter-upper
Has weakened tamely on his last two outings, last time at Naas behind Epson Du Houx  travelled comfortably, blundered 6th and midfield, a little ground when mistake 8th, was 6 lengths 4th home turn, niggled along, made ground and had half a chance approaching 2 out, disputed 2nd when hard ridden, faded between last 2, well held last, dropped away run-in, looked heavy-legged as lost ground and places last 175 yards, 7th beaten 21 lengths. Easy to take on
Or Jaune De Somoza
No form since winning in September 2019,, continuing a run of moderate efforts when 5th to Daly Tiger at Fairyhouse on January 16th,  towards rear when not fluent 2nd and 3rd, ridden into 6th and 7th, nudged along 9th, niggled along after 3 out, more firmly pushed along home turn with 7 in front and 6 lengths to find, no impression approaching 2 out, ridden and kept on a little approaching last, stuck to task but no further impression last 150 yards, beaten 16 lengths. All of his last six runs have lagged his handicap mark here by a stone or more
The Shunter*
Won beginners’ over 2m5f at Punchestown in September; best chase form to date when 4th to Home By The Lee in Grade 3 at Cork in November, held up, a little keen, passed a rival approaching 8th, raced wide approaching 10th, travelled largely comfortably but had 7 still in front and 7 lengths to find approaching 4 out, along with 3 others allowed 1st 3 to break clear approaching home turn, niggled along, took 5th and was closing on those ahead approaching 3 out, pushed along, stayed on and continued to close approaching 2 out, hard ridden and no extra between last 2, well held last, just kept on, beaten 12 lengths – jumped soundly; didn’t get home, but there was good work from the fourth last to the second last before his stamina failed. That was before his finest hour to date when, reverted to hurdles, he took the Greatwood Handicap at Cheltenham’s November meeting, shaken up 3 out, a bit to do and a few going better when not clear run approaching 2 out, hard ridden disputing 7th home turn with 6 lengths to find, put under pressure straightening, effort and ran on approaching last, at most a length and a half behind jumping, led 175 yards out, hard driven, stayed on strongly, pulled clear of Ballyandy. Back over fences, likely to run well
Arvico Bleu
Form seems to be worsening, and posted his worst for a while (in terms of the distance beaten) when tailed off behind Daly Tiger at Fairyhouse last time,  tracked leaders 3 out, not clear run approaching home turn and niggled along, quickly more firmly ridden and lost place approaching 2 out, hard driven and no impression between last 2, weakened approaching last, eased down and tired mistake last, tailed off. Best watched
Top Moon
Continued a dismal run of form when tailed off (again) behind Daly Tiger at Fairyhouse on January 16th, prominent approaching 2nd, lost place notably and rear when mistake 6th, last 7th, niggled along approaching 9th, struggling under a push after 3 out, well back 2 out under a ride, made no ground between last 2, tailed off last, no more. Done with at halfway then, he’s best watched
Bel Ami De Sivola
On return from a 664-day absence at Fairyhouse on November 28th, took time to warm to his task and made eye-catching headway from the third last till Impact Factor went clear; failed to confirm that at the same track behind Daly Tiger on January 16th, towards rear, vigorously pushed along for a few strides after 3rd, ridden into 7th, made no ground before mistake 9th, hard driven and reminders before 3 out, struggling in last approaching home turn, well back and left alone approaching 2 out, tailed off. Not sure where we stand with this one now
For a long way it looked as though he was going to better recent efforts at Fairyhouse on January 16th behind Daly Tiger but in the end was beaten further than on his last couple of starts, detached 5th, travelled comfortably, passed a couple 7th, marked headway through the field going a bit keenly and prominent to midfield approaching 8th, further ground to track leaders approaching 9th, jockey’s hands were off the horse’s neck approaching 3 out, looked strong as chased leader home turn, arguably travelled best approaching 2 out, in close and brushed it, shaken up, didn’t stay on under a hand ride, changed legs between last 2, dropped away approaching last, mistake, driven and no more run-in, weakening at the line. I’m not sure if they were trying something different with him or if the horse got the better of the jockey – maybe a bit of both – but the horse is winning the battle every time they go to the races at the moment, and another flop was the outcome, that time after a 1st 4-finish looked certain turning for home. Now hard to fancy
Emily Moon
Best run for a while when 3rd to Uisce Beatha in the 2m1f handicap chase at Leopardstown on St Stephen’s Day,  tracked leaders from 6th, chased leader 8th, ridden into 3 out and on leader’s quarters bend before 2 out, ridden into it and led, quickly opened up a 3-lemngth lead, niggled along home turn, soon more firmly pushed along, lugged left but staye on, was closed on approaching last, left 2 to 3 lengths up by the fallers, hard driven, all out 150 yards out, was closd on, headed by winner and 2nd last 100 yards, was being closed on by the 4th last strides. We’ve seen before with this one that if she’s too close to the front too early she checks out in the closing stages, and that’s what happened there – even over the minimum trip – as she hit the front ‘going too well’ at the second last, the jockey pressing on from that point, when ideally this one should get a toe from 3 or 4 others from the second last to the landing side of the last. Undoubtedly she has it in her to win one of these, but she’s got to be held on to for longer
A Wave Of The Sea
Won one of his five chases, at Kilbeggan in September over 2m4f, closer order 8th and rear of leading group, mistake 9th, niggled along, headway and disputed lead 2 out, travelled much the best approaching last, pushed along nearing it and opened up a 3-length lead by the time he reached it, just pushed out, pulled further clear, readily with something in hand. Against tougher opposition since he hasn’t built on it, well held in 5th in the 2m1f handicap chase at Leopardstown on St Stephen’s Day, a few mistakes (often flat backed), widest of all 8th, niggled along, more firmly pushed along after 3 out, no impression before 2 out, hard ridden approaching home turn, well held under a ride approaching last, driven run-in, avoided the fallers and passed beaten ones to take 5th 175 yards out, nearest finish. Barely getting a fence right, that might well be the best he could have done. Best watched for now until his jumping of fences gets better
Scheu Time
Only chase win at Galway on October 7th, but better form when placed subsequently including last time at Thurles on December 20th, held up, slow 4th (was close up behind traffic there), headway going comfortably and midfield 8th, nudged along approaching 9th, more firmly niggled along after, good ground going better than some and closed on 1st 3 approaching 3 out, ridden along approaching 2 out, attached himself to the leaders approaching home turn, soon put under pressure, took 2nd and chased Jack Dillinger approaching last, closed gap to a length jumping, hard driven, stayed on, all out, closed on winner last 50 yards but never getting there. Would have got up in another 100 yards, but it was a likeable performance – jumped soundly, travelled comfortably; only criticism maybe is that he was far enough off the better-positioned before the third last (about 8 to 10 lengths), but other than that hard to fault, and it puts him in the mix here


Underachieved since joining Gordon Elliott, last time was hopeless soon after halfway at Leopardstown on St Stephen’s Day, dropped back to last 3 8th and detached from main body of the field, pushed along in last and looked laboured bend before 2 out, tailing off approaching home turn, and best watched if getting a run
Yet to win a chase, best so far at Fairyhouse on November 13th, mistake 6th and niggled along away from it, shuffled back a little but remained prominent, made ground going to 3 out and within a length and a half home turn, niggled along, effort delayed nearing 2 out, shaken up between last 2, put under pressure approaching last, stayed on, was 2 to 3 lengths down when came away from last in 3rd, driven, one pace last 150 yards, hard ridden and not quite get 2nd close home, 1 1/2 lengths 3rd to Farmix and Dis Donc; the negative about the performance was the rider on this one was more vigorous than the jockey on the 2nd, yet he didn’t go past – and for me a little weak at the finish next time at Limerick on December 28th, not asked for maximum effort as winner broke 4 lengths clear approaching 2 out, hard ridden on landing, stayed on between last 2, took 2nd last and pecked on landing, hard driven, no impression on winner, faded last 125 yards and lost 2nd close home, 3rd to Dinny Lacey, If he gets a run chacnes are he’ll run well to a point
Grand Partner
Fine run by the then 12 year-old to run 2nd in the competitive handicap at Leopardstown on St Stephen’s Day, niggled along after 8th, headway and prominent 3 out, pushed along bend before 2 out, hard ridden after it, stayed on to track leaders turning in, produced to challenge under a ride approaching last, steadied into it and a length and a bit behind on landing, hard driven and stayed on well, headed eventual 3rd Emily Moon just after eventual winner Uisce Beatha swept by inside last 125 yards; turned out quickly, was tailed off over 2m4f at Cork a week later behind Treacysenniscorthy, headway and prominent turning out of back straight, hard ridden 3 out, stayed on home turn, faded approaching 3 out, blundered there, weakened and well held approaching 2 out, tailed off when not fluent last, trailed in. This time if getting a run he’s had a 35-day break, so the now-13 year-old has a chance on the Leopardstown-run at Christmas

Shortlist: Epson Du Houx, Pont Aven, The Shunter

Leopardstown 3.15
Chanelle Pharma Irish Champion Hurdle Grade 1

2m – Going: Soft – 6 runners

Any race with Petit Mouchoir in it is well run, so with Epatante and Buveur D’Air not at their best on their most recent starts, this could be a good marker for the Champion Hurdle. Honeysuckle* is the first place many people are looking, and she’ll surely go close today having won the Hatton’s Grace at Fairyhouse on her reappearance and having beaten Darver Star in this race last year in workmanlike style – finding extra on the run-in and holding on well after the runner-up closed on her in the final strides – but what she lacks is a finishing kick,  unlike Sharjah**, who didn’t turn up in this race last year – a well-held 6th – but bounced back when a running-on 2nd to Epatante at Cheltenham in March, and he won the Grade 1 here over Christmas, shaken up after 2 out, strong effort from home turn, ran on, closed on leader before and after last, leading on the run-in and going away from Aspire Tower and Petit Mouchoir at the line. At the start of this season it was the County Hurdle-winner Saint Roi that many were looking at as the most likely improver to get to the level required to win the Champion Hurdle, but while he had an excuse for not winning the Morgiana at Punchestown in November – trapped in a pocket on the home turn and ended up with too much to do – he was just plain disappointing at Leopardstown over Christmas, hard ridden coming off the bend, couldn’t find more approaching last, faded nearing it and more markedly on the run-in, losing ground at the post and 4th to Sharjah. Saldier was tailed off in 6th there, on his first start since November 2019, and has something to prove – having been talked up as a potential Champion Hurdler in the past – and the same for Abacadabras, one place ahead of Saldier at Leopardstown over Christmas but still 23 lengths behind Sharjah – luck was on his side when he won the Morgiana at Punchestown, him the one to take advantage of Saint Roi’s bad luck in running, and coming in to this he’s no potential Champion Hurdler.

Selection: SHARJAH – Alternative: Honeysuckle