There is a mouth-watering card on Sunday at Leopardstown, with four Grade 1 races including the feature race of the day; the Irish Gold Cup. The Foxrock track will play host to some of the biggest names in jumps racing and as always, the Gold Cup is the main attraction on the day.
A field of ten will line up in the race and all eyes will be on returning champion Carlingford Lough who is bidding for a third success in a row. The John Kiely trained stalwart provided AP McCoy with a memorable farewell victory at Leopardstown in 2015 and followed up last year with an unlikely win under Mark Walsh. Turning for home, Carlingford Lough was stone last but stayed on best of all to pass every rival and clear away to a remarkable 12 length win. “We got lucky last year, they went too quick up front and Carlingford Lough just outstayed them. It worked out brilliantly for us and the way the race was run it just suited him perfect” said his trainer John Kiely.
This year’s renewal looks stronger than it has been for a number of years, nevertheless John Kiely’s 11 year old is not without his chance as he bids for a hat-trick of wins. A fourth placed finish behind Jezki over hurdles at Navan three weeks ago on his seasonal re-appearance has pleased his trainer; “He has come out of the race in Navan well. I suppose Sunday is a bit of a fact finding mission due to his age but he’s fit and well, he goes well fresh and I’m very happy with him”. The ground on Sunday should pose no problems and Kiely added “Sunday’s race is very competitive, there are no bad Grade 1s and we’re looking forward to seeing him back over fences. He’s well in himself and he’ll be fine on the ground. He’s getting older now but he’ll take his chance and hopefully run well again”.
The betting confirms that this is a wide open contest. Several high class horses are vying for favouritism including the Gordon Elliott trained Don Poli, runner up in the Lexus Chase at Christmas, and the Jonjo O’Neill trained Minella Rocco who won the 4 mile National Hunt Cup at the Cheltenham Festival last March. The Jessica Harrington trained Sizing John steps up to 3 miles for the first time and although he is stepping into the unknown, he looks primed for a big run before heading to Cheltenham where he looks bound for the Ryanair Chase. The Gordon Elliott trained Troytown Chase winner Empire of Dirt, successful in his last three races including a handicap chase at Cheltenham, is another horse who is not without his chance.
We look set to experience another great day of racing at Leopardstown and although the Gold Cup takes centre stage, there are three other Grade 1s on the card including the Spring Juvenile Hurdle, Deloitte Novice Hurdle and the Flogas Novice Chase. As always, there will be lots of Cheltenham festival contenders to take out of Sunday so it really is a day not to be missed.
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