A massive crowd were treated to a Lexus Chase to savour on Sunday afternoon at Leopardstown, with a thriller going the way of Galway Plate hero and now dual Grade 1 winner Road To Riches (at an SP of 4/1).
Noel Meade’s rising star got the better of On His Own and Sam Winner in a pulsating contest, with all three threatening to grab the race by the scruff of the neck as they turned for home.
Another former well backed Galway Plate winner Carlingford Lough also looked like he might be involved, but it was Noel Meade’s seven-year-old son of Gamut who was able to assert on the run-in, rewarding those punters who’d taken overnight prices as big as 9/1 with Paddy Power, and giving owners Gigginstown House Stud and jockey Bryan Cooper a 68/1 treble on the day, adding to earlier victories for Identity Thief and Lieutenant Colonel.
Road To Riches earned quotes ranging from 10/1 to 14/1 for the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup, blowing a raspberry at those pundits who’d suggested he might struggle to go on the testing Leopardstown ground.
If he’s a possible Cheltenham winner in the making then what about two horses who’ve been and done it?
The fourth and final instalment of the great Christmas Festival rolls around on Monday, with old rivals Hurricane Fly and Jezki taking centre stage in the Grade 1 Ryanair Hurdle at 1.25pm.
Live on RTE2, the big race sees the renewal of a rivalry which currently stands at 3-2 to the older horse, with 10-year-old Hurricane Fly having beaten the reigning Champion Hurdle winner in this race 12 months ago, again here in January, and then in last month’s Morgiana at Punchestown.
Inbetween times Jezki got his own back, galloping to success at the Cheltenham Festival back in March, and then repeating the dose at Punchestown at the start of May.
The width of a fine coat of paint appears to divide them, though bear in mind 20-time Grade 1 winner Hurricane Fly is a perfect eight from eight at Leopardstown, and has won this race three times.
Enjoy him while you can, as surely even he can’t keep conjuring the big race wins forever.
It might come down to whoever gets out of bed on the right side, but with so little to split them in the betting then it’s perhaps better to attack the remainder of the card for an opportunity for a wager….
The final live tv race of the four day extravaganza in the three mile Grade 1 Topaz Novice Chase at 3.05pm, which on the strength of the 7 declared runners promises to be a humdinger.
The bookies make Gigginstown horse Don Poli – trained by Willie Mullins and a winner over hurdles at Cheltenham in March – their market leader, while in the same colours another Festival winner Very Wood could be a live danger if he can brush aside a disappointing recent effort at Punchestown.
Waterford trainer Henry de Bromhead had a Saturday to remember with a ‘cross the card’ double at Leopardstown and Kempton Park, and he is responsible for hat-trick seeker Shanahan’s Turn.
Gordon Elliott has his team in red-hot form after a treble including a Grade 1 win for Clarcam on Friday, and he goes on the hunt for more top level success with Mala Beach.
All four could be the solution, but Mala Beach is interesting as two runs back he was well and truly stuffed by the Sandra Hughes-trained The Tullow Tank at Fairyhouse.
Lining up in the familiar yellow silks and black sash of owner Barry Connell the robustly built six-year-old Oscar gelding The Tullow Tank was a big noise over hurdles, winning twice at Grade 1 level, including at this fixture a year ago.
He went on to chase home a certain Vautour back here in February in the Deloitte Novice Hurdle, and if we knew then what we know now about Vautour then it’s some compliment that The Tullow Tank was sent off at odds on (9/10) to beat him!!
Of course Vautour went on to win both the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham and the Grade 1 Champion Novice at Punchestown, so not exactly a disgrace that The Tullow Tank should find him three lengths too good, especially when conceding a pound!
Since then The Tullow Tank has his successful chasing introduction at Fairyhouse, but then fluffed his lines in the Drinmore last month, when only fifth but found to be suffering from a minor lung infection in the aftermath of the race.
Is he being prematurely written off on the strength of one off day?
The 6/1 available with any of Ladbrokes, Paddy Power, Skybet or Unibet would appear to suggest so, but this is a horse who was right up there with the best of his rivals over hurdles, is said to be back in rude health, boasts outstanding course form at Leopardstown, thrives on Soft ground, has already won well over fences (stuffing Mala Beach who is no bigger than 4/1 for this), and comes from a stable who struck at Grade 1 level with Lieutenant Colonel on Sunday.
For all of those reasons The Tullow Tank looks a cracking bet at 6/1 to land this.
Elsewhere, the freezing weather is threatening to play havoc with the fixture list in England, with inspections planned all over the place and Newbury deploying frost covers to try and ensure they stage the Challow Hurdle card.
The Berkshire track is marshalled by one of the best Clerks in the business in the shape of Richard Osgood, from whom I once stole a very nice golf umbrella (sorry if you’re reading this Richard, but it was raining).
If anyone can keep the show on the road it’s him, and if successful then a risky but possibly rewarding play could be Emma Lavelle’s Highland Lodge in the 0-130 Handicap Chase at 1.35pm.
Without a win for two years and partnered by an inexperienced rider in Richie O’Dea the pitfalls are plain to see, but if he’s going to return to winning ways then this could be the day.
Having slipped from 143 to a mark of just 130 he creeps in here at the top of the weights in a lesser race, but his jockey’s 10 pound claim makes this much more acceptable, and with Lavelle’s string in form (2 winners in the last 9 days) this might be the right time for a return to form.
After all, don’t forget this horse was fourth over course and distance in the Hennessy off nearly a stone higher just 13 months ago, and if he could re-produce a glimmer of that form then winning this would be a formality.
Both bet365 and BetVictor will lay us 4/1 about that suggestion becoming a reality.
Just over an hour later the Philip Hobbs-trained powerhouse Royal Regatta can make it two from two fences, with a repeat of his recent course and distance victory (2.45pm).
Monday’s best bets:
1.35 Newbury – Betfred Mandarin Handicap Chase – 1 Highland Lodge (win) @ 4/1 (bet365 and BetVictor)
2.45 Newbury – Betfred Novices’ Ltd Handicap Chase – 2 Royal Regatta (win) @ 5/4 (BetVictor, Coral, Paddy Power or William Hill)
3.05 Leopardstown – Topaz Novice Chase – 5 The Tullow Tank (win) @ 6/1 (Ladbrokes, Paddy Power or Skybet)
Posted 2 years, 6 months ago