It’s the first of three top-class meetings at Leopardstown over the next month with the Irish Champion Hurdle (Sunday week) and Leopardstown Gold Cup (February 05) fixtures also sure to throw up plenty of Cheltenham Festival clues.
Leopardstown 1.20 – Maiden Hurdle
Pylonthepressure looks to lose his maiden tag after finishing second to Tombstone at Fairyhouse last time out. That was a a good run, especially considering Tombstone went on to finished second to Long Dog in a Grade 1 at Leopardstown over Christmas – finishing ahead of some quality horses.
Pylonthepressure was a good bumper horse last year, he’s fit and well and hopefully he’ll take some beating. The step up in distance from 2m 2f to 2m 4f should suit him, it definitely won’t inconvenience him anyway.
He looks to have improved a little bit for the run at home and with the experience under his belt he should be better for it at Leopardstown. The dangers are Gordon Elliot’s Delegate and Jessica Harrington’s Our Duke who are both decent horses.
Leopardstown 1.50 – Handicap Hurdle
My mount Children’s List carries plenty of weight and the ground will probably be a worry for him. He seemed to improve through the Spring and Summer on better ground. He had a decent run in Navan the last day but didn’t get the clearest of runs.
Looking at the improvement Gallant Oscar has made over fences I think he could still be ‘well in’ over hurdles. He fell last time out in the Paddy Power Chase at this venue when he was sneaking into contention and wasn’t without a chance when he tipped up. He’s dropped down to a nice mark over hurdles and he could prove the one to beat.
Ma Garrett is at the bottom of the weights and is a consistent mare who might have a small chance but Gallant Oscar looks the one we all have to beat.
Leopardstown 2.25 – Handicap Hurdle
I’d a few choices in this but have gone for Buiseness Sivola from Ivan Grozny, Kalkir or Bamako Moriviere. It’s 600 odd days since Ivan Grozny last ran and he’s carrying top weight so I think it will be difficult for him.
Bamako Morviere ran okay in Limerick over Christmas, he has improved a bit but he needs to improve a good bit more to be competitive here.
So that left me with a choice between two five-year-olds in Kalkir and Buiseness Sivola. They both seem to be working well and they’re on the very same weight.
Having run in the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap at Cheltenham last year, Buiseness Sivola might have just that bit more handicap experience which is why I went with him.
The ground and distance should suit both horses but it’s a very competitive and Paddy’s paying the first five home.
JP McManus has nine entries including Whatsforuwontgobyu who won well last time up at this track, Waxies Dargle who ran a blinder in the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham while De Name Escapes Me looks to be on a decent mark.
But retained rider Barry Geraghty has gone for Shay Barry’s After Rain who won well on his last start as well. And Barry got it right with Minella Foru in the Paddy Power Chase.
Leopardstown 3.00 – Handicap Chase
My mount Blood Cotil has his first run since May, since beating Irish Cavalier at Punchestown – but carrying top weight is going to make it difficult.
The best handicapped horse in the field is Heathfield, who carries 10-4 with Barry Geraghty riding him. He just got touched off over this trip when I rode him last year but this is a better race.
He was also entered in the Thyestes Chase next Thursday but I’m glad he’s running here instead as he’d be harder to beat over three miles. He’s a very strong stayer.
My dad’s Seabass won well in Thurles and then ran well behind Noble Emperor last time. He’s back over fences, and dad won this last year with Foxrock. He’s happy with Seabass – but he’s not getting any younger.
Leopardstown 3.30 – Novices Chase
I like Killultagh Vic and he won his beginners chase at Fairyhouse very well.
Of the rated horses, Lord Scoundrel is on a mark of 142 and sets the standard. Walk To Freedom is a 139 so in ratings technically Lord Scoundrel and Walk To Freedom are meeting at the right terms.
But if Killultagh Vic is going to be a potential Cheltenham Festival horse (after winning there last year before beating Thistlecrack at Punchestown) he’ll have to be collecting this.
He steps up to 2m 3f on Sunday which isn’t an issue and he looks my best ride of the day.