The new format for Leopardstown’s first meeting of the year whereby two fantastic cards are run on the same weekend has given the event the feeling of a mini-festival. Whilst the weekend’s races are important in their ownright, as ever there is always one eye on Cheltenham.
The two and half mile maiden hurdle features last year’s Cheltenham bumper runner-up in AUPCHARLIE. He has largely been disappointing and looks the type to run into the frame no matter what the class of the race but actually winning seems to be against his nature and he is not one to take a short price about. COMPETITIVE EDGE is a viable contender in this grade. Time will probably tell that he faced an impossible task when running against the potentially very decent MAKE YOUR MARK. Even so, he was heavily backed on the day as the each way alternative to the favourite before filling the runner-up slot.
The grade two novice ‘chase features horses with pretensions to make an impact on at least one of the Spring festivals. HIDDEN CYCLONE has already been given a big write up on this site but now looks less likely to head to Cheltenham. He has no doubt been finely tuned for this assignment and the P.J. Moriarty ‘Chase back here next month. He landed a little flat-footed after the last on his debut and then recovered to regain his momentum on the run to the line making the bare result look less than flattering. Singularly, however it was a most professional performance. SIR DES CHAMPS is a worthy opponent as he is both a proven graded novice ‘chase winner and a Cheltenham Festival victor. The five pound penalty he has to concede to the field could prove decisive but it would be disappointing if he is unable to beat any of them bar HIDDEN CYCLONE.
The feature handicap hurdle, the Boylesports.com Hurdle, is as undecipherable as it usually is. Some speculative suggestions as to a group of horses that may make an impression based on the fact that they have bumped into well handicapped opponents in recent races, are given as follows; ASKTHEMASTER was a course winner at Christmas and even at the age of twelve appears to remain progressive. He is rated a lot higher over fences, with the pick of his form being a second placed finish at Cheltenham last season. The first time I saw him on course was when he lined up for the Royal Bond at Fairyhouse back in 2006. He didn’t look out of place in a grade one novice field that day. At 16-1 he can go well on the prevailing good ground. MADAME MADO was undeniably disappointing when only 17-2 to win a listed mare’s race here. In mitigation, conditions deteriorated rapidly before the race and the start was delayed. She raced well off the pace in the race itself and without getting a breather, she tired at the second last. It is interesting that as a valuable broodmare, she already has black type, she takes her chance in handicap company rather than the less crowded environment of pattern class. At 40-1 she is not without a chance.
The Leopardstown Handicap ‘Chase has also has attracted a fully subscribed field. I can’t help but get the feeling that some part of the decision to send SEABASS here rather than to the Thyestes ‘Chase was heavily influenced by the presence of the eventual winner, ON HIS OWN. Connections had clearly planned on going for a shot at a big pot this month given they still have a progressive horse on their hands. If you had backed MONTAN at Leopardstown over Christmas you must still be wondering how he didn’t win. He travelled and jumped superbly and was visibly being restrained, even towards the later stages, probably due to the trip being an unknown variable. It was his first effort at three miles. A particularly strong jockey has been booked for tomorrow’s assignment and a stronger pace will be of benefit. His weight is a slight concern but he gives the impression of a horse going places.
1:45 Leopardstown, Lay AUPCHARLIE at 2.52 or less
2:45 Leopardstown, Back ASKTHEMASTER at 16-1 (ew), Back MADAME MADO at 40-1 (ew) 5 places freely available.
3:20 Leopardstown, Back SEABASS at 7-1 (ew), Back MONTAN at 12-1 (ew).
ALTERNATIVELY; Back MONTAN (ew) in betting without SEABASS.