13:40 Leopardstown

The Ladbrokes Novice Chase is the first of four Grade 1’s on Sunday and it is a race that has unsurprisingly been dominated by Willie Mullins over the years, who has won six of the last 10 renewals and is responsible for five of the six runners.

His main hopeful, according to the betting at least, is James Du Berlais. He made his stable debut in last season’s Champion Hurdle before chasing home Klassical Dream in the Champion Stayers’ Hurdle at the Punchestown festival. Not seen for a long time afterwards, he reappeared in a beginners chase at Fairyhouse last month and was impressive in winning by fifteen lengths.

He is a leading player, while stablemate and National Hunt Chase favourite Gaillard Du Mesnil bagged a Grade 1 here last time and feared being the choice of Paul Townend. Also in the line-up is Gordon Elliott’s Mighty Potter has won both his chase starts and is likely to start favourite here given he sets the standard based on his chase form being the highest-rated.

I can pick holes in a few of these mentioned though so, at the likely odds, I am going to take a chance on the Willie Mullins-trained KILCRUIT (best price 14/1) who has seemingly been overlooked by bookmakers and isn’t out of this with conditions set to see him in better light.

This eight-year-old seems to be the forgotten horse nowadays and while his hurdles campaign didn’t really materialise into how connections had hoped it would, I think the combination of this trip on this ground on just his third start over fences will play to his strengths with a lot of improvement on the cards too.

He was a high-class bumper horse, who absolutely bolted up at this meeting two seasons ago by 12 lengths and was then a half-a-length second in the Champion Bumper at the Cheltenham Festival in that same season. He only won one of his five hurdle starts but did finish third in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.

A poor round of jumping behind State Man saw him only finish fourth on his final start of the campaign at Punchestown but he returned an emphatic winner on his chase debut back at there on his seasonal debut and he ran a really good race to finish third in the Grade 1 Faugheen Novice Chase when last seen.

I thought his jumping was pretty smooth and although he finished six lengths adrift of Gerri Colombe at the line, and two lengths adrift of Adamantly Chosen, he travelled best of all in that race and perhaps conditions stopped him in his tracks. Sean O’Keeffe maintains the ride and, with the step up in trip to suit, he looks a reasonable bet at double-digit odds here.

14:40 Leopardstown

The Bulmers Leopardstown Handicap Chase is an ultra-competitive handicap with a host in with chances but there is one horse who makes a lot of each-way appeal and could be ready to run a big race on his handicap debut with some strong back-form that gives him an excellent each-way chance despite the large number of runners.

The horse in question is the Gordon Elliott-trained MARS HARPER (best price 14/1) who I know could only finish a distant fourth behind Journey With Me last time in a beginners chase but has been targeted at this race and an opening mark of 132 is very lenient given his first two starts chase starts read well in the context of this race.

He finished a really good second behind Mighty Potter on his chase debut, beaten only three lengths, and the winner has won a Grade 1 since to boost the form. He then finished second in a Grade 2 at Punchestown which wasn’t a bad effort either. His only previous outing at Leopardstown saw him finish second over hurdles, so the track is fine for him and Dennis O’Regan has been booked to ride.

This larger field on his handicap debut off a lenient mark looks the ideal set-up for Gordon Elliott’s charge, so with most bookmakers paying a handy six places, he makes a lot of each-way appeal here.