Matt Tombs / Sunday 28th December 2014 / 10:18
t’s the big day of Leopardstown’s four day Christmas meeting, with the Lexus Chase (3m) taking centre stage. The ground has dried out to soft to heavy on the chase track and soft on the hurdles track.
I’ve always thought that, high-class horse though he is, Bobs Worth (4/1) won a Gold Cup where the others almost walked over the line and that he was overrated for doing it. It also probably took a lot out of him and he’s not looked the same horse since. He bombed on his reappearance in the Betfair last season, won a weak renewal of this and then went sideways under pressure on the run in, in the Gold Cup. The rain has done him a real favour in that it’ll slow the others up, but he comes here without a run and looks well worth taking on.
Boston Bob (6/1) is a horse I’ve liked since his novice hurdling days, though I struggle to work out the days he’ll win on. He looked really good in the spring, winning the Melling (2m4f) and Punchestown Gold Cup (3m1f,) showing plenty at the business end in both races. He blew the cobwebs away at Down Royal before finishing 4½l 2nd to Don Cossack in the John Durkan, (2m4f) at Punchestown. A fair bit was made of the fact he was hampered by a faller at the 3rd, but it wasn’t that serious and it happened with a circuit to go so he had plenty of time to recover. Willie Mullins has a poor record in this and has said his runners tend to improve 10lb between the Lexus and Irish Hennessy. Unless he’s changed his method because he wants to finally win this race, I expect Boston Bob to run well again without winning.
Had the rain not arrived, I might well have been backing Road To Riches (7/1). He had a big advantage in terms of race fitness when winning the 3m Grade 1 at Down Royal, but he really did spreadeagle that field, in the manner of a young horse on the up. It’s hard to know how good he is from that though and the ground has gone against him, so it’s a watching brief for now.
British raiders have a great record, (7 wins from the last 8 renewals,) and Paul Nicholls saddles Sam Winner (7/1). He’d have been any price you’d have liked had there been an ante-post market at the start of the season, but he looks hugely improved, winning both starts this season. He won a handicap at Cheltenham (extended 3m3f) off 147 and then won one of the farcical races were half the fences were omitted at Aintree. The tongue tie that was applied for both those wins is replaced by cheekpieces here. He comes here a bit of an unknown quantity and whilst he merits respect with Paul Nicholls sending him over, I ‘d be slightly surprised if he was good enough to win.
Carlingford Lough (12/1) was an improver throughout a long campaign last season, outstaying Ballycasey in the 3m1f Grade 1 novice at the Punchestown Festival on his final run. He hasn’t run since though and, like Bobs Worth, this is a big ask on his seasonal debut.
That leaves Lord Windermere (13/2) who is another I’ve struggled to back on the correct days. It was a poor renewal of the Gold Cup that he won, but he’d won the RSA the season before and he’s been continually underrated. He was conceding race fitness to Don Cossack and Boston Bob when an eye-catching 5l 3rd in the John Durkan over an inadequate 2m4f. He’ll obviously be at his best in March but connections are keen to try and win this en route.
It’s often hard to know the form of small stables – last season Jim Culloty’s horses were under the weather most of the winter but both his Festival runners won. He hasn’t had a winner this season either but the vibes are much better and Lord Windermere obviously ran well earlier in the month. The ground won’t be ideal but I think he’ll go through it and he looks a big price.
1pt Lord Windermere to win the Lexus Chase (2:55 Leopardstown) @ 13/2
The big surprise in the 3m Grade 1 Christmas Hurdle was that Ruby Walsh chose Zaidpour (6/1) over Briar Hill (7/1), with Paul Townend opting to ride Glens Melody (16/1). Having expected Briar Hill to be a short priced favourite he’s now a big drifter and the vibes about his homework, which has never been good, are dire. Whilst Zaidpour will love the testing ground, he looked to have lost enthusiasm last season and having won a poor Lismullen, (seems best fresh,) he tipped up in the Hatton’s Grace. This has the feeling of a race where the Mullins’ horses are worth opposing.
At Fishers Cross has been made favourite (9/2) but is another who looks to have lost his way. He was really laboured on his comeback at Wetherby, though the cheekpieces were left off there, (back on today.) The testing ground will help him but he looks one to be wary of, and I couldn’t consider backing him at a short price, for all he has the form to win this.
Monksland (8/1) is a horse I’ve always liked and he beat Zaidpour by 2½l in this two seasons ago. He hasn’t been seen since though and this is a huge ask after two years off. Jetson (7/1) got a brilliant ride when beating Quevega at Punchestown in the spring but I suspect that was a real end of season result and nothing else he’s done has suggested he’s a Grade 1 horse, (fair 4l 2nd to race fit Lieutenant Colonel in the Hatton’s Grace on his reappearance.)
I think the Gigginstown pair are the 2 to concentrate on. Brian Cooper has unsurprisingly chosen Hatton’s Grace winner Lieutenant Colonel (5/1) who looks a young horse on the up. He was a good novice last season, (13½l 6th in the Neptune,) without ever looking as if he was being hard trained. He hasn’t run beyond 2m5f so far and, whilst I think he’s got a decent chance of staying, it is a question mark.
I’m therefore taking a chance on Dedigout (33/1). He hasn’t run since last season’s Hatton’s Grace but goes really well fresh, (won on his seasonal debut all 3 seasons under rules,) and will love the ground. Tony Martin said after he won the Lismullen last season that, “near untraceable ground is what he wants.” I doubt it’ll be that bad here, but it is testing and it’s worth remembering that this was a horse with a massive reputation in his younger days. He won the 2m4f Grade 1 novice hurdle at the Punchestown Festival in 2012 and was an even money shot for the Drinmore the following season.
Tony Martin is known as a master of laying one out for handicaps but he wins Grade 1s too these days and horses like Benefficient have done so at big prices, (50/1 when winning the Deloitte). It’s clearly a speculative bet given he hasn’t run for a year and we don’t know whether he retains all his ability, nor how straight he’ll be for this. However, he does go well fresh and he had more than enough ability to win this - so at 33/1 I’m happy to be speculative.
1pt Dedigout to win the Christmas Hurdle (1:50 Leopardstown) @ 33/1
A horse with a more obvious chance is Le Vent D’Antan (3/1) in the 2m3f beginners chase. On his chasing debut he was a really good 2nd to Real Steel at Naas who subsequently ran well in the Drinmore. He wasn’t helped by the dawdling pace there but should be sharper this time and the vibes are strong.
It’s an ideal betting race in that I rate Le Vent D’Antan and want to oppose favourite Un Atout (11/4). He was a really promising novice hurdler two seasons ago but had been off since April 2013 when 27l 5th to Mala Beach at Punchestown. He blundered badly at the 5th there and whilst he was back on an even keel and in a perfect position 3 out, perhaps that mistake took its toll. However, he found absolutely nothing when asked and it might be he’s nothing like the horse he was.
It’s not a two horse race as Sizing Codelco’s (7/2) 5l 2nd to Clarcam looks good now and Balbir Du Mathan (9/2) was running a big race when falling at Fairyhouse when Adriana Des Mottes beat Rule The World. However, Le Vent D’Antan could easily be a Grade 1 horse and rates good value at the prices.
1pt Le Vent D’Antan to win the 1:20 Leopardstown @ 3/1