Leopardstown Racecourse Christmas Festival Preview
Tuesday, 4 December 2012
Leopardstown Racecourse Christmas Festival Declarations
Please click here for the downloadable version of the Declarations.
Racing Post Novice Chase
It looks like Arvika Ligeonniere, hugely impressive pillar-to-post winner of the Grade 1 Bar One Racing Drinmore Chase at Fairyhouse on his seasonal debut last Sunday, is on track for the Grade 1 Racing Post Novice Chase on the opening day of the 2012 Leopardstown Christmas Festival. His free-going style and slick jumping make him a formidable opponent for all.
Willie Mullins said afterward the Drinmore win, "He jumped fantastically and has a tremendous cruising speed, and for now we'll be coming back to two miles with him. I imagine he'll go to Leopardstown at Christmas for the Racing Post Chase.”
Oscars Well is on a recovery mission of sorts after taking a heavy fall at the second fence in the Craddockstown Chase at Punchestown last month. A top class hurdler last season, it was an uncharacteristic error, it was the first time that the Jessica Harrington-trained gelding had ever fallen in public, and he had been foot-perfect in winning his beginners’ chase on his chasing bow at Punchestown in October. He remains a hugely exciting prospect.
Dedigout and Boston Bob both hold entries, although it is probable that their respective futures lie over further than the minimum trip. The ex-Gordon Elliott-trained His Excellency, now with British trainer David Pipe, is an interesting entry, as is the Willie Mullins-trained mare Tarla, while Dylan Ross, Jenari, Lord Windermere, Buckers Bridge and Sword Of Destiny are other entries that catch the eye.
Paddy Power Dial-A-Bet Chase
Old rivals Big Zeb and Sizing Europe could find themselves going toe-to-toe again in this year’s Paddy Power Dial-A-Bet Chase, a race that the former has won three times in the last four years and in which he will be bidding to complete a hat-trick of wins this year as a near-12-year-old. The Colm Murphy-trained gelding won’t have it all his own way; even if Henry de Bromhead’s horse is re-routed to the Lexus Chase on Friday or to the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Wednesday as Willie Mullins has entered four in the race, including Cheltenham Gold Cup joint-favourite Sir Des Champs and last year’s Racing Post Novice Chase winner at this meeting Blackstairmountain. While Rubi Light, Tranquil Sea, Realt Dubh, Forpadydeplasterer and British representative Edgardo Sol also hold entries.
PaddyPower.com Future Champions Novice Hurdle
Waaheb and Don Cossack, two of the most exciting novice hurdlers in training, head the entries for the paddypower.com Future Champions Novice Hurdle. The former, winner of his first three bumpers two seasons ago and only just beaten in the Punchestown Champion Bumper in April 2011, made a pleasing start to his hurdling career when he won on his seasonal debut at Fairyhouse in October. The Dermot Weld-trained gelding should progress from that, and could be a huge talent.
The Gordon Elliott-trained Don Cossack also won three of his four bumpers, and was, like Waaheb, most impressive in winning on his hurdling bow at Navan last month.
Jezki showed a nice turn of foot on ground that was probably softer than ideal for him to land the Grade 1 Bar One Racing Royal Bond Hurdle at Fairyhouse last Sunday, and his trainer Jessica Harrington nominated this race as his next probable target, while Un Atout, Sizing Rio, Minsk and Champagne Fever are numbered among a host of other notable entries.
Paddy Power Chase
Last year’s Paddy Power Chase winner Cross Appeal looks set to return to Leopardstown on 27th December in an attempt to complete back-to-back wins in one of the most competitive handicap steeplechases on the Irish racing calendar.
Noel Meade’s horse raced off a handicap mark of 125 last year, and had just 10st 4lb on his back. He is 9lb higher in the handicap this year, but he is also a year older and a year stronger and you can be sure that, if he makes the line-up, his trainer will have him primed to run for his life again. Others that catch the eye among the 62-strong entry include the Nicky Henderson duo Prince Of Pirates and Nadiya De La Vega, Munster National and Cork National winner Raz De Maree, Byrne Group Plate third Glam Gerry and Troytown Chase second and third, Like Your Style and Glenquest.
This year’s Lexus Chase could be dominated by the new kids, with Sir Des Champs and Flemenstar both holding entries. Sir Des Champs was installed as favourite for the 2013 Cheltenham Gold Cup within a couple of days of his victory in the Jewson Chase at the Cheltenham Festival last March, and he consolidated that position with a fine display to land the Growise Champion Novice Chase at the Punchestown Festival in April. We haven’t seen the Willie Mullins-trained gelding yet this season, but he is exciting.
Flemenstar has also been busy making headlines. Winner of his last five chases last term, his final victory of the season coming in the Grade 1 Powers Gold Cup at Fairyhouse, Peter Casey’s gelding kicked off this season by beating the evergreen Big Zeb in the Fortria Chase at Navan. He still has to prove that he can stay three miles but, if he can, he will be a serious player in the top staying chases this season. A strong supporting cast looks set to line up for the Lexus Chase, with the second and third from the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury last Saturday, Tidal Bay and First Lieutenant both set to take their chances with Sizing Europe and Hidden Cyclone also entered. Interestingly, Noel Meade has entered Pandorama, who won this race in 2010 and has been off the track since March 2011, while among the more interesting British entries are Saturday’s Hennessy Gold Cup winner Bobs Worth and last season’s Gold Cup runner-up The Giant Bolster.
Topaz Novice Chase
Some of the top staying novice hurdlers of last season look set to take each other on in the Topaz Novice Chase. Boston Bob hasn’t jumped a fence in public yet, but Willie Mullins’s horse looked like a top staying steeplechaser in the making last season when he notched up a hat-trick of wins over hurdles before just giving best to Brindisi Breeze in the Albert Bartlett Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March. Dedigout didn’t go to Cheltenham last year but, like Boston Bob, he was beaten just once as a novice hurdler, and there was a lot to like about the manner in which he battled on to land the Grade 1 Champion Novice Hurdle at the Punchestown Festival last April. He impressed with his jumping in winning his beginners’ chase at Punchestown last month without breaking sweat, before chasing Arvika Ligeonniere home in the Drinmore Chase, but he remains an exciting staying novice chaser. Other entries that catch the eye at this stage include Mount Benbulben, Mikael D’Haguenet, Lyreen Legend, Buckers Bridge and Sword Of Destiny.
Istabraq Festival Hurdle
Hurricane Fly sets a high standard once again in the Istabraq Festival Hurdle. The Willie Mullins-trained gelding has lost just three times in 17 runs over hurdles, 15 of them at Grade 1 level. He bounced back from defeat in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham last March to win the Rabobank Champion Hurdle at Punchestown in April, and he looked as good as ever in making all the running to land the Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown last month.
Darlan is the young pretender. JP McManus’s horse was travelling better than any of his rivals when he fell in the big Betfair Hurdle at Newbury last February. Runner-up to Cinders And Ashes in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham just a month later, he looked like a high-class individual when he beat Captain Conan in the Top Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree in April. He hasn’t run yet this term, very soft ground has seen him scratched from both the Racing Post Hurdle and the Fighting Fifth Hurdle, but he would be an intriguing addition to the Istabraq Festival Hurdle field were he to make the trip.
Willie Mullins has five other entries in the race besides Hurricane Fly, including Sunday’s Hatton’s Grace Hurdle winner Zaidpour as well as Thousand Stars and So Young, while Dermot Weld has three in the race, headed up by last year’s winner Unaccompanied, and Colm Murphy has entered Voler La Vedette. Darlan apart, there is a strong British team assembling, which comprises of 2011 Champion Hurdle runner-up Peddlers Cross, and Saturday’s Fighting Fifth Hurdle first and second, Countrywide Flame and Cinders And Ashes.
Christmas Festival Race Programme:
Day 1 – WEDNESDAY 26th December
The Bookmakers Bar at Bewleys Hotel Leopardstown Maiden Hurdle of €11,500
The Q8 OILS Handicap Hurdle of €12,000 (Rated 80-116)
The Q8 OILS Juvenile Hurdle of €42,500 (Grade 2)
The Download The Free Racing Post Mobile App Maiden Hurdle of €11,500
The Racing Post All You Need For Irish Racing Handicap Steeplechase of €25,000
The Racing Post Novice Steeplechase of €85,000 (Grade 1)
The Donohue Marquees Flat Race of €8,000
Day 2 - THURSDAY, 27th DECEMBER
The Paddy Power On Your Mobile 3-Y-O Maiden Hurdle of €12,000
The Paddy Power Maiden Hurdle of €12,000
The Paddy Power Dial-a-Bet Steeplechase of €100,000 (Grade 1)
The Paddy Power Future Champions Novice Hurdle of €80,000 (Grade 1)
The Paddy Power Handicap Hurdle of €26,000 (Rated 0-140)
The Paddy Power Steeplechase of €190,000 (Extended H’Cap Chase rated 0-145 Grade B)
The Paddy Power On Your Mobile Flat Race of €10,000
Day 3 - FRIDAY, 28th DECEMBER
The Madigans Maiden Hurdle of €11,000
The Mongey Communications Novice Handicap Hurdle of €11,000
The Topaz Novice Steeplechase of €75,000 (Grade 1)
The woodiesdiy.com Christmas Hurdle of €40,000 (Grade 2)
The Star, Best For Racing Christmas Rated Hurdle of €16,000
The Lexus Steeplechase of €150,000 (Grade 1)
The Thornton's Recycling Flat Race of €8,500
Day 4 - SATURDAY, 29th DECEMBER
The Martinstown Opportunity Handicap Steeplechase of €12,500 (Rated 0-116)
The Ryans Cleaning Maiden Hurdle of €11,000
The Ballymaloe Country Relish Beginners Steeplechase of €13,000
The Istabraq Festival Hurdle of €85,000 (Grade 1)
The I.T.B.A Fillies Scheme European Breeders Fund Mares Hurdle of €42,500 (Grade 3)
The Pertemps Handicap Hurdle (Qualifier) of €24,000
The Thornton's Recycling Flat Race of €10,500