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12.05 - tote.ie Maiden Hurdle (2m4f)
He appeared to run into a good one on his first start for Willie Mullins when second to Holymacapony at Punchestown last month and Gaillard Du Mesnil will have decent prospects of the victory. The winner was very disappointing next time in a Grade 2 however and this is no easy spot for the French import in his attempt to go one better, so a short price is hard to take.
Takarengo was behind Gaillard Du Mesnil that day and the former Irish Cesarewitch winner is frustrating now. He has won here before though and could go well at a big price.
There looks to be plenty of depth to this opener, with Great Bear and Indigo Breeze already boasting solid credentials on their hurdles form. The market will be informative but Henry De Bromhead has a pair of newcomers to note in Mr Incredible and MAGIC DAZE. The Doyen filly changed hands for close to £80,000 after winning a point-to-point for Colin Bowe in October and could go very well under Mark Walsh here. He gets the nod, despite Rachael Blackmore seemingly siding with twice-beaten stablemate Gaspard Du Seuil.
12.40 - Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle (Qualifier, 3m)
Not an easy race to assess. Commander Of Fleet was once hugely promising for Gigginstown, finishing second to Minella Indo in the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham in 2019 having won a Grade 1 novice here that same spring. He was pulled up behind the same rival at Punchestown and then missed 570 days before a lacklustre chasing bow last month. He's probably on a high enough mark with questions to answer.
Giving a soft lead to Hannon would be risky. He's 2-3 since joining current connections, scoring over 2m4f at Gowran Park in October and this month on the all-weather at Dundalk. He's never tackled this far before.
Unexpected Truth remains progressive on the evidence of a winning return to action this month at Punchestown (3m, heavy). He's up 8lb in the ratings but settled that race in short shrift and needs to be on any shortlist.
Others of note include Mortal, Dommage Pour Toi and Jukebox Jive but the vote goes to THE BOSSES OSCAR for Gordon Elliott and Jack Kennedy. Fifth in the Martin Pipe at Cheltenham in March, he scored at Thurles on his comeback before finishing second in a valuable Navan handicap over this trip recently. He's only 1lb higher and should have his say again.
1.15 - Leopardstown Christmas Hurdle (Grade 1, 3m)
Recent evidence would suggest the balance of power in the staying hurdles division rests fairly comfortably on British soil and the line-up for this 3m Grade 1 emphasises that. The likes of Bacardys, Bapaume and The Storyteller are not stars but they are reliable and useful on their days.
In particular, The Storyteller turns up and does his thing day in, day out; irrespective whether he's over hurdles or fences. He got up late to win the Grade 1 Champion Chase at Down Royal in October and has won four from his last five starts. He was though behind stablemate Sire Du Berlais in the Pertemps Final at Cheltenham in March, beaten a half-length into second as that rival retained the crown in that top handicap. The winner is 3lb better off today and a leading player on form having held off French Dynamite to take a Navan Grade 2 on his return.
With Fury Road also in the line-up following his own Grade 2 victory at Punchestown last month (2m5½f, heavy), Elliott has a really strong hand to play here, though ranking his trio is no easy task.
Ronald Pump found only Honeysuckle too strong in the Hatton's Grace at Fairyhouse last month, while he was second to Lisnagar Oscar in the Stayers' at Cheltenham in March. A return to three miles will suit Matthew Smith's consistent performer.
Whether or not FLOORING PORTER has a Grade 1 in him remains to be seen, but he was a fine winner of a 20-runner Navan handicap last month over this trip and Gavin Cromwell sees fit to give him a cut at this prize having scaled to 150 in the ratings for that win. He needs to improve again but he's still only five years old and, in the absence of a star player (Apple's Jade won the last three of these), he is a viable each-way shout.
1.50 - Irish Daily Star Christmas Handicap Hurdle (2m4f)
Given that this 2m4f trip on soft ground is likely his optimum, it won't come as a major shock if DIFFICULT DECISION leaves behind his recent run at Punchestown (3m, heavy) for the Oliver McKiernan team. That was his first run in 11 months and, under a waiting ride, he was being niggled at a fair way out and never really threatened to challenge. It's probable that his fitness will be nicely boosted by that run. Successful at Clonmel and Limerick at this sort of trip on testing ground back in January, a mark of 110 isn't beyond him and his rider is taking off a handy 7lb.
There are lots in the field with potential to go well, Rapid Response amongst them reverting to hurdles from a potentially lenient mark, while Rightplacerightime and handicap debutante Boher Cailin are notables but the other fancy is Arctic Light for Tom Mullins. He's something of an in-and-out performer but his Cork second last month was given a boost of sorts when the winner placed here on Saturday in an ultra-competitive contest and, from an unchanged mark and with this longer trip to suit him, Mark Walsh's mount has to hold his chance.
2.25 - Savills Chase (Grade 1, 3m)
Ireland's premier recognised Gold Cup trial takes centre stage at Leopardstown and the Savills Chase boasts a field fully meriting its status.
Kemboy (2018) and DELTA WORK (2019) are back to seek more success. The former has lost his way now and stable jockey Paul Townend instead chooses to partner Allaho for Willie Mullins. Having ended last season with a good third in a strong RSA at Cheltenham, plenty was expected from him on his comeback in the John Durkan this month.
What befell remains a mystery as the fog engulfed Punchestown that day but the official margin was 34 lengths between himself and winner Min, as Allaho beat only one home. The jury is out for now.
Delta Work meanwhile was beaten at Down Royal on his comeback, just as he was last season before turning up here to defeat Monalee in a storming finish with the likes of Kemboy, Presenting Percy and Jett further behind.
The reigning champion faces a strong challenge from Minella Indo this time in the same silks for Henry De Bromhead and Rachael Blackmore. He was a place ahead of Allaho in the RSA, mugged late on as they both were by Champ, and has progressed again this winter with wins at Wexford and Navan, propelling him to be second-favourite for Cheltenham in March. This is a real acid test and there are lots of dangers, so while every respect is due, he is passed over at the prices.
The resurgent Presenting Percy looks to build on his Thurles win on debut for the Elliott team while the Cullentra handler also aims Samcro at this. It would have been inconceivable to some earlier in his career that he'd never win this contest. He answered his critics in some style at Cheltenham winning the Marsh and while he was defeated on comeback by Battleoverdoyen at Down Royal, that rival tends to do best early in the season.
Samcro now tackles three miles for the first time. Once touted as the 'second coming' by some, he'd surely have been preordained for this in that scenario. Don't rule him out in haste.
3.00 - Ballymaloe Foods Beginners Chase (2m5f)
He toiled into third on his chasing bow at Navan (2m4f, soft) early in the month but surely THE BIG GETAWAY is better than that. His form over timber last season, including third behind Envoi Allen in the Ballymore, certainly suggested that to be the case. His trainer Willie Mullins also does very well in this particular contest and this represents a great chance to quickly get back on the up.
It's a similar case for Floueur given his tame start over fences at Fairyhouse though Gordon Elliott will expect more from him now.
The main danger however might come from the selection's stablemate Karl Der Grosse. The form of his beginners' chase third at Galway back in July is strong and, with first-time tongue-tie applied now, he's a potential improver.
3.35 - Midland Legal Solicitors Flat Race (2m)
Ramillies was well beaten as favourite here last year on his rules bow, having been an expensive recruit after an easy success in the point-to-point sphere. Connections have remained patient with him however and if he's strong in the market it would be noted.
HAMUNDARSON is perhaps a little unfortunate to be 0-5 at this point. He was ahead of Ramillies when finding only Risk Factor too strong here a year ago and also occupied the second berth on his comeback at Tramore in October. He's been placed in two hurdles runs since and his race-fitness could be key.
Unbreakable Bond cost ?210,000 as a four-year-old and while it's some concern he has been absent a long while, he is definitely worth paying close attention on rules bow.