Leopardstown – 26th – Monday – December
Listen to the Weekly Watch Podcast for a Christmas Racing Preview.
Nap of the day – Midnight Escape (3.30)
12.15 – Outspoken – Horse – Jockey Hotel Maiden Hurdle – Win
An intriguing race where several can be fancied in a big field and Bunk Off Early is an interesting hurdling recruit for trainer Willie Mullins. Formerly trained by Andy Oliver, he won a Cork maiden in October 2015 and if fully ready for his first outing in 14 months, he must be a strong fancy. Imperial Way has shown promise in two bumper starts and is one to note but a bigger threat is likely to be stable companion Outspoken who showed abundant promise when runner up to a smart rival at Fairyhouse a year ago. If fully ready for his first run since then, he could be the one to beat. No Brainer has shown enough on his two starts to suggest he can reach the frame while of the two Jessica Harrington runners, Jelan may prove the pick after a couple of smart performances in bumper races and Davy Russell is a notable booking.
Exacta: 18 – 3
Trifecta: 18 – 3 – 24
12.45 – Castello Sforza – Thorntons Recycling Maiden Hurdle – Win
Castello Sforza may just have needed the run when a close up third in a Fairyhouse maiden hurdle three weeks ago and with improvement expected, he could prove the answer here. That was his first effort since finishing a close up fourth in the Cheltenham Bumper last March and he remains a potentially smart prospect. Joey Sasa is a big threat on his two fine runner up placings at Navan in recent weeks and this dual bumper winner is sure to travel strongly throughout this 2 ¼ mile trip. The long absent Felix Mandelssohn looked a promising sort when winning a Navan maiden in October of 2014 and if anywhere near ready for this task, should make his presence felt but a bigger danger is likely to be Barra, an ex-French trained mare who made the well regarded Invitation Only work harder than expected for victory in a Gowran Park maiden hurdle in late November and she has first rate claims if showing the anticipated improvement.
Exacta: 1 – 4
Trifecta: 1 – 4 – 7
1.15 – Bapaume – Knight Frank Juvenile Hurdle (Grade 2) – Win
A fascinating re-match between the 1-2-3 in the Fairyhouse Bar One Racing Juvenile Hurdle 3 weeks ago and another thrilling race is in prospect. On that occasion Landofhopeandglory proved a length too strong for Bapaume with Mega Fortune a further 1¼ lengths back in third spot and on similar weight terms today, Landofhopeandglory is the likely favourite and is the one to beat. However, Bapaume was having his first run in Ireland that day having won well in France in April and he could improve enough to reverse those placings here. Mega Fortune would be a leading player if more rain falls over the weekend as he is very effective on soft ground and he should not be far away at the finish. Prospectus was a comfortable winner of his only hurdle start at Fairyhouse nine days ago and could have each claims although this is a big step up in class for him.
Exacta: 4 – 1
Trifecta: 4 – 1 – 8
1.50 – Artful Artist – Cardinal Capital Handicap Hurdle – Each/Way
An open looking race and while it was a little disappointing that Artful Artist failed to justify favouritism in a rated hurdle at Limerick last time out, the step up to this longer trip looks sure to suit and this decent flat performer is the choice to record his first victory over hurdles provided the ground does not turn too soft overnight. Concordin rates a big threat on his fair third at Navan in late November as that was his first run since last April, plenty of improvement can be expected while Black Label has been in good form on the all-weather surface at Dundalk and could be an interesting contender back over hurdles here. Dawerann came good at Punchestown over a longer trip last time and a 6lb rise for that win suggests he can play a prominent role once again while Another Challenge ran very well at Fairyhouse when runner up 9 days ago but a 5lbs rise makes life more difficult for him. Top weight Blast Of Koeman has yet to win over hurdles but has shown enough to suggest he could feature off this type of handicap rating while Top Of The Ra was fourth in what was probably a better class race at Punchestown nearly six weeks ago and is another with frame claims.
Exacta: 13 – 10
Trifecta: 13 – 10 – 3
2.20 – Min – Racing Post Novice Chase (Grade 1) – Win
A high class contest between two potentially top class performers and narrow preference on the likely softish ground goes to Min. A smart novice hurdler last season where he had a tendency to run too freely in his races, he looked much more settled when making a successful winning debut over fences at Navan last month and may be capable of making all the running once again. Identity Thief was a classy hurdler and proved successful in the 2015 Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle and also was a close second in the Ryanair Hurdle here a year ago. His two starts over fences to date have been impressive and he holds every chance of victory in this event. It will be a surprise if any of the remaining quintet can win this but Ordinary World has really taken well to fences and should figure prominently with Three Stars a frame possibility if showing a little bit more.
Exacta: 3 – 2
Trifecta: 3 – 2 – 4
2.55 – Ball D’Arc – Bet Through Racing Post App Handicap Chase – Each/Way
An open looking handicap chase in prospect with last year’s winner Dysios sure to be a big player off a 3lbs higher rating. He ran well enough on his return to action when fourth at Cork in November to suggest he can go close once again. The 2014 winner was Forty Foot Tom who was also third in this race a year ago and it would not be a surprise to see him battling it out once again but with some decent looking novices engaged here, it may pay to side with Ball D’Arc. A useful novice hurdler last term, he ran well on his handicap debut when runner up at Navan to Oscar Knight and the return to this type of distance should be in his favour. Lake Takapuna has yet to win over fences but has run some pretty solid races in defeat and the switch to handicapping should result in another forward showing for this consistent performer. Riviera Sun only just failed to win at Cork last time out where a mistake at the last proved costly for him and this improving sort looks likely to go pretty close once more while Coolaghknock Glebe was a big gamble when narrowly failing to justify favouritism at Navan last weekend and is another for the shortlist in a tough contest. Jarry D’Honneur was very disappointing on his only start this season but could not be ruled out on the strength of last season’s capable efforts and is one to note in the betting market.
Exacta: 3 – 4
Trifecta: 3 – 4 – 10
3.30 – Midnight Escape – Lep Inn INH Flat Race – Win
Midnight Escape caught the eye when staying on strongly to take third place in a big field Navan maiden hurdle in late November at odds of 50/1 and with normal improvement expected, he makes plenty of appeal in this finale. Aeglos has started as market leader on both starts to date but failed to land a blow when only seventh at Punchestown two weeks ago and needs to improve on that effort to take a hand in the finish while Mr Champers was a respectable sixth on his only racecourse start to date and could reach the frame. However, with 6 newcomers engaged here it is likely that at least one of them will go close and Fly Rory Fly is one for the shortlist hailing from the Noel Meade yard with the talented Danny Benson on board. Trainwreck represents the powerful Gigginstown House Stud and Henry de Bromhead’s charge is sure to go pretty close having won his only point to point last season while Young Bidder is bound to make his presence felt on his debut as his stable does well in these types of races.
Exacta: 5 – 9
Trifecta: 5 – 9 – 3
Limerick – Monday 26th December
Nap of the meeting – Never Again (2.35)
12.25 – Leomar – Holmes O’Malley Sexton 3-Y-O Maiden Hurdle – Win
Leomar has arrived from France and should be up to making a winning start to his new career over hurdles. Twice a winner on the Flat during the summer, he finished his season without troubling the judge in a couple of starts in Listed races and should be too good for these. The ground certainly won’t be an issue and he is the choice ahead of Tout Est Permis who has had three runs over hurdles and was no match for Dinaria Des Obeaux at Cork but must be considered on an earlier effort behind Landofhopeandglory at Punchestown. Jefferson Davis was a fair sort on the flat for Kevin Prendergast and is another over hurdles for the first time here. He hasn’t run since the Galway festival in July but might still pose a bigger threat than either the British imports and stable companions Zoffanys Pride and Denham Sound.
Exacta – 4-7
Trifecta – 4-7-2
12.55 – Allblak Des Places – Signsplus Hurdle – Win
Allblak Des Places is difficult to get away from. He is absent since chasing home his stable companion Footpad in the Grade 1 Spring Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown in February and that certainly represents top form. Coming from these quarters, it is hardly a concern that he hasn’t run since and he can win this at the main expense of Val De Ferbet who drops back in distance after finishing second to Clondaw Warrior at Clonmel earlier in the month. Runfordave was a narrow winner at Fairyhouse but this certainly represents a huge step up in class. That said, he could sneak into third place ahead of Alto Esqua and Consharon Boy as they both lack a recent outing.
Exacta – 6-5
Trifecta – 6-5-7
1.25 – Without Limites – FutureTicketing.ie Maiden Hurdle – Win
Without Limites is back on heavy ground and might take all the beating. He certainly relished testing conditions when winning a pair of bumpers earlier in the year and possibly didn’t lose too much in defeat when only third on his hurdling debut on good-to-yielding ground at Gowran Park a month ago. That was his first start since April and he can improve to win from the Willie Mullins newcomer Bravissimo who finished third on his sole start over hurdles in France this time two years ago. Champagne Classic was a clear-cut bumper winner at Fairyhouse in November but was no match for even money favourite Turcagua over hurdles at Punchestown last time. Ornua will possibly improve on his run at Clonmel and looks the pick of the remainder.
Exacta – 2-4
Trifecta – 2-4-1
2.00 – Bellshill – Grade 2 Shannon Airport Novice Chase – Win
Bellshill made a winning return to action with what appeared to be easy success in the fog at Gowran Park a month ago and he will be the choice of many to follow up. A top-class novice hurdler last season, he was having his first run over fences that day and can surely only improve for the experience. Haymount wasn’t as good as his stable companion over the smaller obstacles but he made a cracking start to his chasing career when beating subsequent Grade 1 winner Coney Island to win at Punchestown five weeks ago. That was a good performance and he looks a bigger danger than Attribution who was all out to win at Navan last time and Diamond King who was a total disappointment when sent off favourite for the Drinmore Chase, won by Coney Island, at Fairyhouse.
Exacta – 2-4
Trifecta – 2-4-1
2.35 – Never Again – O’Kelly Brothers Demolition Mares Handicap Hurdle – Win
Never Again will love the ground and might surprise one or two better fancied rivals. She won her maiden hurdle over the course and distance in March and should go well on her first start in a handicap. She had two runs on the Flat soon after her maiden hurdle success and while it is a worry that she hasn’t run since April, it is possible that this race has been a long-term target. Dragon Fei has been far busier but it is disappointing that she hasn’t been able to add to her maiden hurdle success at Tipperary in October of last year. Another at home in the most testing of condition, she could be a threat along with Knockraha Pylon who was a winner two weeks ago at Cork and runs off an 8lbs higher mark here. At the other end of the handicap, Goulane Davina might also have a chance of sorts after a good run behind Orchard Road over the course and distance at the beginning of the month.
Exacta – 4-1
Trifecta – 4-1-2
3.05 – Knockraha Boss – Mr. Binman Handicap Chase – Each/Way
Knockraha Boss is an interesting contender as he goes back over fences. He ran a big race when runner-up to the well-fancied Logical Star in a handicap hurdle at Cork two weeks ago and while he was down the field in a maiden hurdle here before that, an earlier run in a similar race to this at Naas certainly gives him a chance. Show And Go is another in good form and he has done well in two recent starts in handicap chases at Galway in October and at Clonmel two weeks ago. He is certainly in the mix here and might be a bigger danger to the selection than Cahirconree who went close in a beginners’ chase at Tramore. Eiri Na Casca is another that makes some appeal and British import Arthamint is another worth a second look.
Exacta – 4-2
Trifecta – 4-2-3
3.40 – Miss Sapphire – Lyons Of Limerick Jaguar & Land Rover Mares INH Flat Race – Win
Miss Sapphire is surely the one to beat. Representing the champion trainer, she is making her debut in what looks a very winnable heat and is likely to know her job. Of those that have run, Good To Flow possibly boasts the best form as she ran well when fifth at Naas in November before finishing fourth to Pravalaguna over hurdles at Navan. Crackerdancer hasn’t run for two years and surely has it all to do while Marienstar made a promising debut at Cork at the end of March but didn’t do as well in a better race at Tipperary six weeks later but might just get involved on her first start since.
Exacta – 9-2
Trifecta – 9-2-7
Down Royal – Monday 26th December
Nap of the meeting – Tethra (3.00)
12.20 – Burgas – Irish Stallion Farms EBF Beginners Chase – Win
Burgas was predictably no match for Yorkhill last weekend but faces nothing of that calibre here and is certainly the one to beat. He was running for the first time since April when runner-up to Willie Mullins’ charge at Fairyhouse and is entitled to improve. Moonshine Lad has done well on his most recent starts over fences and might be second best ahead of the likes of Art Of Payroll and Baby Bach.
Exacta – 3-7
Trifecta – 3-7-1
12.50 – Germany John – Adam & Ann Armstrong Memorial Handicap Chase – Win
Germany John is the pick in what looks a difficult race for punters. He runs in his first handicap chase here and has joint-top weight to contend with after a fair effort behind Bellow Mome at Thurles a month ago. Any improvement on that run should see him home ahead of Refused A Name who finished runner-up at Market Rasen at the beginning of the month. James is also running in a handicap chase for the first time but he hasn’t been out since March and possibly Sean Airgead and Moonlone Lane might pose greater dangers to the selection.
Exacta – 1-4
Trifecta – 1-4-5
1.20 – Foxrock – Silks @downroyal Hunters Chase – Win
Foxrock surely has the form to be winning a race like this. There was plenty to like about what he did last season and while his return over the banks at Punchestown last month was nothing to write home about, his form over the years should set him apart. Grand Jesture was a good winner of a point-to-point at Loughbrickland seven weeks ago and he is taken to chase the selection home. Third best might just be Buckers Bridge while Balnaslow might also get involved on the pick of his runs.
Exacta – 1-9
Trifecta – 1-9-6
1.55 – The Storyteller – INH Stallion Owners EBF Maiden Hurdle – Win
The Storyteller has some nice form over hurdles to his name and should take all the beating. He ran his best race when second to the smart Monalee at Punchestown five weeks ago and the form of that race has been well advertised since. Tamlough Boy improved on his run at Navan in September when third to Saturnas in a big field at Naas last month and he looks second best ahead of possibly the point-to-point winner Monbeg Chit Chat and Elusive Theatre.
Exacta – 2-1
Trifecta – 2-1-7
2.30 – Black Ace – Enda Bell Maiden Hurdle – Win
Black Ace has most certainly been found a winning opportunity. Successful in a bumper on good ground at Killarney in May, he has done quite well since and ran another nice race when third to the well-fancied Dr Mikey at Cork two weeks ago. That was his first start since August and he might not have to improve all that much to account for Turbojet who ran well on good ground here in November and again in conditions more similar to today’s when fifth to Brelade at Navan last time. Racing Stripes has the form to reach the frame but he will have to get the better of Robin Des Mana to do so.
Exacta – 1-15
Trifecta – 1-15-13
3.00 – Tethra – Martinstown Opportunity Handicap Hurdle – Win
Tethra has run three nice races since her summer break and could be the answer to this open heat. She was only beaten a little over two lengths when third to Catcheragain at Gowran Park last month and that form looks reasonably strong. Broughtons Star was a first hurdle casualty at Cork last time but had earlier run big races at Fairyhouse and Thurles and might not be far away if putting in a clear round. Mr Moondance is another to have fallen when last seen but his overall form reads quite well and he could go well if overcoming an absence of just over four months. Summer Storm was pulled up when tried over fences at Tramore but earlier runs over hurdles at Naas and Thurles would certainly give him a chance. Balynaclash Warrior was a winner at Thurles at the start of the month but will need to improve on his latest effort at Fairyhouse to figure.
Exacta – 10-7
Trifecta – 10-7-6
3.35 – Blairs Cove – Bet With The Tote INH Flat Race – Win
Blairs Cove ran well in good races at the Fairyhouse and Punchestown festivals back in the Spring and might be up to making a winning return. He was third to the promising Cilaos Emery on his most recent start at Punchestown and none of these can boast such good form. It is a worry that he lacks a recent run but he is still chosen ahead of Broken Soul, one of two Gordon Elliott runners, who was runner-up to the highly-regarded Bon Papa at Fairyhouse three weeks ago. Runforbob is another returning after a fair break but he too can be given a chance on his Punchestown festival effort while Colwinston will possibly be best of the remainder.
Exacta – 6-2
Trifecta – 6-2-10
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