12:20: MAIDEN HURDLE 2m 4f
I’m on Okotoks, trained by Tony Martin who had a great day on Saturday, which included winning the Paddy Power Chase with Living Next Door. It’s Okotoks’ first time over hurdles but Tony thinks he’ll run a big race, how close he’ll go is a different story. Hopefully it’ll be a better start than Saturday for me.
12:50 HANDICAP HURDLE 3m
Dara Tango ran a blinder in a very competitive handicap hurdle at Navan on testing ground but it was only 14 days ago so the one concern I have is that this race is too soon. There’s only a certain amount of Pertemps (Cheltenham Festival) qualifiers in Ireland and you have to finish in the first six for the final so you have to run when the races come up. I think Tony would love if this race was in 10 days time.
13:20 BEGINNERS CHASE 2m 3f
I haven’t got a ride here but was on Un Atout when he made a bad mistake at Punchestown earlier in December. That was a good race anyway with Mala Beach in it. Having had such a long lay off Un Atout couldn’t afford to make that mistake – it knocked the wind out of his sails. He’s improved a hell of a lot for that run and schooled very well since. He’ll run a better race, but – mistake or no mistake – I was disappointed with him at Punchestown. He’ll have to do a lot better today to convince me he’s the horse he once was.
13:50 CHRISTMAS HURDLE (GRADE 1) 3m
I’m on Zaipour but could have ridden Briar Hill or Glens Melody. Briar Hill hasn’t sparked at home yet. Glens Melody hasn’t run in a long time and on ratings has a bit to prove. Maybe I should have been brave and sided with her but Zaipour won the race last year and gets the trip. At Fishers Cross is the one to beat. He ran a blinding race at Punchestown last year so we know he can travel and, along with Jetson, this is a very competitive race.
14:20 NOVICE HANDICAP HURDLE 2m
I’m on Shemshal for Tony Martin. If he puts his best foot forward he has a chance, if he runs to the best of his bumper form he could be well-enough handicapped to have a good chance.
14:55 LEXUS CHASE (GRADE 1) 3m
Boston Bob is a classier horse than On His Own and always will be, and I hope that works out today. Cheekpieces will help On His Own, and I wouldn’t put anyone off having a small each-way on On His Own at a big price. Leopardstown is a stiff track and the ground will be testing after the frost overnight. The ground might catch out Road to Riches. Sam Winner is in really good form and he wears cheekpieces too. Lord Windermere has never been as good around Leopardstown as he has around other tracks. This is a very good race.
15:25 NATIONAL HUNT FLAT
Up For Review (my bet of the day) has a huge stride and I have no doubt he’s the pick of Willie Mullins’ horses here. He’s caught my eye already this year at home.