Leopardstown – Limerick – Down Royal – Kempton – Chepstow
Leopardstown, Limerick & Down Royal serve up an abundance of top class racing over Christmas and, for most, Christmas Day serves only as an appetiser to the main meal which begins on December 26th. Whether you’re heading south to Limerick, north to Down Royal or living it up in the capital while taking in Leopardstown Tote Ireland will have plenty on offer for the four days.
With over €600,000 in pool guarantees at Leopardstown and massive pay-outs last year over Christmas (Pick 6 dividends of over €81,000 and €34,000 on the 27th & 29th respectively) there’s sure to be huge interest again this year.
To try and help you bolster that 2017 holiday fund we’re taking a look at some of the key players that will be in action over the early part of next week:
The Knight Frank Juvenile hurdle is the first of the graded races to take place and Landofhopeandglory & Bapaume renew rivalry. Bapaume may reverse placings this time with that run under his belt but they both face a very exciting juvenile in Prospectus who bolted up on debut for Gavin Cromwell at Fairyhouse a little over two weeks ago. Later that day we have the race of the day, and possibly the entire week as Min & Identity Thief lock horns. Min is currently rated odds-on to win here and that looks very skinny on what they both achieved over hurdles. Min is following exactly the same route as both Douvan & Vautour and is hugely exciting but he’ll have to improve significantly to overthrow Identity Thief. Henry De Bromhead’s charge could turn out to be Ireland’s biggest Arkle challenge at next year’s Cheltenham Festival.
Down in Greenmount Park there’s a belter of a Novice Chase as Diamond King tries to get his season back on track following a disappointing run behind Coney Island in the Drinmore. He has some serious competition here in Bellshill and Attribution. Bellshill was foot-perfect on debut at Gowran Park and beat Coney Island at Punchestown so should have the measure of Diamond King.
The Hunters Chase takes centre stage at Down Royal where Foxrock and Buckers Bridge bring high class form to the table. Foxrock had a pipe-opener recently at Borris House and will be very difficult to beat under Katie Walsh. If Grand Jesture decides to take part (and not plant himself at the start) he could shake up the principals.
Over the water at Kempton we have the clash that all of racing is talking about. Cue Card & Thistlecrack go head-to-head in the King George with Cue Card fancied to make his vast experience tell. He won this race (from Vautour) last year and looked a highly likely winner of the Gold cup before knuckling on landing three out. Thistlecrack has looked more impressive on all runs over fences so far but this is a huge ask for a novice.
The Paddy Power Chase once again attracts a maximum field and Forever Gold should go well at a price. Ed Cawley’s 9-yr-old took the Pertemps Hurdle Qualifier at this meeting last year and he has the perfect profile for this race. Ground and distance will be ideal for him and, although there are dangers everywhere, he should give a very good account.
The Welsh Grand National takes place on Tuesday and Hennessy winner Native River is well fancied to follow up here. This is a huge test though with no top-weight having won this since Carvills Hill in 1991. It generally pays to side with a 7 or 8-yr-old off a nice weight and Racing Pulse fits the bill here. Rebecca Curtis’s 7-yr-old won at this (re-arranged) meeting last season and he has been really unlucky in both runs so far this season. He unseated on his reappearance at Cheltenham and was then brought down behind Viconte Du Noyer at the same course three weeks later. The handicapper hasn’t relented but he still runs off a very appealing mark (136) having been rated 144 over hurdles.
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