There has been some excellent racing at Leopardstown over the Christmas Festival, and it has offered many clues for the future. Throughout, I keep thinking how nice the place looks, despite the motorway, Creche, Microsoft HQ, and what looks like the early warning system from Day of The Triffids. Once this wretched Covid is over, the idea of going there for a post-Christmas break, staying perhaps at The K Club, has some appeal. I like the Irish, and I find their company, their optimism, and their generally understated sense of self, all endearing characteristics. Willie Mullins talking through a win, is an object lesson in understatement, making AOB sound like a babbling egotist by comparison. Four wins yesterday for the Maestro, and what’s more, there’s every chance he’ll do the same today. That same understatement also applies to Henry de Bromhead, but in his case, it is not unreasonable given his comparative strike rate. However, he finally broke his Savills jinx, by winning this Gold Cup trial with A Plus Tard, having seen his other Cheltenham hopeful, Minella Indo, crash out at the 8th. As a result, the market has APT at 12½/1 for The Gold Cup and I really think that is a decent ante-post price for a horse who will almost certainly finish in the first three. Back in Blighty, clues might become a bit thinner this weekend, with the threat of abandonment from Cheltenham. Newbury too just survived an inspection, Donny is already inspecting for Tuesday.
So another morning catching up on various projects, which is NOT a euphemism for watching Madame move office detritus from one corner to another. Then another afternoon of excellent racing in the company of herself looms, and I am pleased by the prospect. Despite my impolitic (and incorrect) reputation, it’s actually rather jolly watching the racing with Her Honourableness. At one point yesterday she leapt from her chair and actually tried pushing Western Boy back from his challenge to Burlesque Queen, on-screen, using her hand. The day before, she walked around to the side of the TV, in order to see a horse’s number cloth more clearly. I am all too aware of her ability to make grown men tremble at her voice, so the full development of her telekinetic synchronicity with the TV is only a matter of time. I have every confidence then when she’s mastered it, we are on the way to untold riches, as she prevents any threat to our 20/1 selections.
Talking of untold riches, here are today’s racing tips:
1:15 LEOPARDSTOWN Advent Insurance Irish EBF Mares Hdl (G3) (4yo+) 2m4f
CONCERTISTA was impressive on her seasonal reappearance, and she underlined her Cheltenham Festival credentials (Win and Second to date) by trouncing Henry de Bromhead’s MINELLA MELODY in a Fairyhouse G2 last month. Willie Mullins has won the last four runnings of this race, and one could make some sort of case for Mullins’ BUILDMEUPBUTTERCUP and Gordon Elliott’s BLACK TEARS, but I’m not sure they’d be outstanding ones. The latter gets 8lb, despite being just 2lb inferior on official ratings. She did beat CONCERTISTA at The Dublin Racing Festival last February, but still and all the currently dominant form of Mullins and Townend and the way CONCERTISTA seems to be progressing suggests a 6lb pull will not be enough.
CONCERTISTA Win – BLACK TEARS e/w
1:30 NEWBURY MansionBet’s Bet 10 Get 20 Novices’ Limited Hcap Chase Cl3 (5yo+) 2m6½f
DEMACHINE and SEVARANO are both 2-2 over fences with the former mentioned by trainer Kerry Lee as a Ladbrokes Trophy possible. Peter Bowen has put EQUUS DANCER up in trip, (as has Sherwood for SEVARANO), and he’s already defied a 7lb hike with a 12l victory at Sedgefield LTO. Up another 11lbs, he’s still bottom weight and at 8s looks value. I would have fancied PAINT THE DREAM but for the ground, which he won’t like.
EQUUS DANCER e/w – ½ pt RFC with DEMACHINE
1:50 LEOPARDSTOWN Neville Hotels Novice Chase (G1) (4yo+) 3m
This is a strong G1 Novice Chase but the market and all know universal form suggests that Mullins and Townend will take this with MONKFISH whose chasing debut at Fairyhouse last month was so facile, that he was immediately installed as RSA Chase favourite. I simply cannot see him facing any threat from LATEST EXHIBITION who he beat in the Albert Bartlett and who was disappointing at Punchestown LTO. Gordon Elliott has landed four of the last five renewals, so CONFLATED demands some respect, but six runners and bags of potential pitfalls suggests it’s the favourite or nothing.
2:05 NEWBURY MansionBet’s Watch And Bet Hcap Hdl Cl2 (4yo+) 2m4½f
The removal of KATESON and CHTIBELLO has spoiled a wide-open race. Claimers might play a crucial part now.
GOOD MAN PAT Win
2:25 LEOPARDSTOWN Matheson Hdl (G1) (4yo+) 2m
Nothing went right for the 5yo SAINT ROI in the Morgiana Hurdle where he lost out by a ¼l to ABACADABRAS who he meets again, having made a hash of the second-last and losing position. Providing we get a true-run race, the free-going SAINT ROI should be competitive. SALDIER is talented, but fragile, but goes well fresh. On his best form might also be a threat… and he is trained by Mullins, as is SHARJAH who has won The County Hurdle, this race twice and the 2018 Morgiana. His attack on Epatante in The Champion Hurdle is by far and away, the best form on offer… and Mullins trains him as well.
SHARJAH Win – SALDIER e/w – Add SAINT ROI for a combination Trifecta
2:40 NEWBURY MansionBet’s Best Odds Guaranteed Mandarin Hcap Chase Cl3 (4yo+ 0-135) 3m2f
If you’ve been beaten LTO by the winners of The King George and The Ladbrokes Trophy, as MANOFTHEMOUNTAIN has been, you might think him unbackable. I don’t, and I think he’ll get back on the progressive track he was on before. AMATEUR’s last race was a 15l 2nd at Carlisle to Sojourn who went to be 2nd in the Tommy Whittle next time. That Carlisle race has produced five winners from 10 runners. ORCHARDSTOWN CROSS also has some appeal.
MANOFTHEMOUNTAIN Win – AMATEUR e/w – ORCHARDSTOWN CROSS e/w
3:00 LEOPARDSTOWN Irish Stallion Farms EBF Novice Hcap Hdl (4yo+ 80-130) 2m4f
GABBYS CROSS arrives here on a hat trick, and the form is working out well. It might even be that the handicapper is suffering from an excess of generosity, and he looks shy of another 6lbs. LEGACY THOR stepped up LTO and looks the danger.
GABBYS CROSS Win – LEGACY THOR e/w
3:15 NEWBURY MansionBet Challow Novices’ Hdl (G1) Cl1 (4yo+) 2m4½f
There are six growing reputations ready to be lost here, and I have it I think down to two. STAR GATE is 2-2, and he strolled clear in a Chepstow maiden on UK debut (top three have all won since) before, showing an electric turn of foot in a heavy ground Sandown in a G2 LTO. Williams and Wedge are flying with a 30%+ SR over the last fortnight. The other is THE GLANCING QUEEN who takes a big leap in class here today and gets a 7lb allowance which in the Newbury building site might well prove decisive.
Dutch the two for 4 pts between them
STAR GATE Dutch Win – THE GLANCING QUEEN Dutch Win
3:45 NEWBURY MansionBet’s Faller Insurance Hcap Chase Cl3 (4yo+ 0-125) 2m½f
SHUT THE BOX e/w