The ground is currently described as yielding on the hurdles course at Leopardstown, while on the chase course it is good to yielding. The opening contest is a 21 runner maiden hurdle and a case can be made for quite a few. Vision D’honneur is a fascinating contender on his Irish debut for Gigginstown and Gordon Elliott. He holds some fancy entries, cost £350k and he won his sole start in France by 3.5L. The bookies haven’t missed him though, and he is a best price of just 5/4.
|Jon Ess showed he had potential as a hurdler at Cork.|
Classical Dream brings French Grade 1 hurdling form to the table and he has an experience edge over Vision D’honneur. Dancing On My Own comes into the reckoning on the back of a fine effort last time at Navan, while Entoucas ran well on his last outing at Gowran Park. However, the one that could go well at a big price is Jon Ess for Conor O’Dwyer and Ricky Doyle. On a line through Éclair De Beaufeu (a head behind him at Cork) he has only 3L to find with Dancing On My Own, yielding ground could suit and at odds of 33/1 he is a tentative each way selection in a tough looking heat.
STEVOS’ SELECTION: 12.10-JON ESS E/W @ 33/1
Things don’t get any easier in the second race on the card, another 16f maiden hurdle with 18 runners. City Island has won his last three starts, including his hurdling debut last time, but he was disqualified for a positive post-race drug test. He will be looking for compensation here and it is no surprise to see him favourite at 11/8.
To be honest, I can’t really see much value in this race. Raya Time, Defy De Mee and Dallas Des Pictons all look to be priced up correctly to me and while Song Of Namibia is mildly tempting at 14/1, it is too risky to chance backing him first time out over timber. No bet for me, but I do think the favourite City Island is the most likely winner.
STEVOS’ SELECTION: 12.40-NO BET
This Grade 2 Juvenile Hurdle is for 3yos only and it has attracted a field of 18 runners. Gordon Elliott holds the key to this contest and two of his entries are battling it out for favouritism. Only a head separated Chief Justice and Coeur Sublime at Fairyhouse in a Grade 3 last time (in that order) and given that the winner is now 4lb better off now it is difficult to see the runner up turning the form around.
|Got Trumped could improve on his fine win last time.|
However, at a nice each way price Got Trumped looks a very interesting contender for Jessie Harrington with Brian Hayes getting a rare ride for the yard. This fella beat Rocky Blue comfortably despite showing signs of greenness last time at Punchestown and he gave the impression that there could be a fair bit more to come. The form of both his hurdle runs looks solid and if he improves again he could go close at odds of 14/1.
STEVOS’ SELECTION: 1.10-GOT TRUMPED E/W @ 14/1 NAP
This novice handicap hurdle has attracted 15 runners but plenty of bookies will be paying four places each way, so shop around. Warnaq won as he liked at Navan and he looks a worthy favourite off 10lb higher. I like one at a juicy price here and I think Tara Dylan could go well for David and Thomas Mullins. This daughter of Dylan Thomas ran better than her finishing position suggests last time out at Fairyhouse.
She travelled well in rear and just couldn’t get into the race when the leaders quickened. She has yet to win over timber, but she won three times on the level and some of her best flat form came at Leopardstown (beaten just over 2L over 13f off 83), including a maiden win. The handicapper has generously dropped her 5lb to 117, David Mullins is back on board and at odds of 20/1 she should go well for each way players.
STEVOS’ SELECTION: 1.40-TARA DYLAN E/W @ 20/1 NB
The first Grade 1 of the Xmas Festival at Leopardstown is a 17f Novice Chase. Disappointingly, only six runners will line up at the start and Mengli Khan is the red hot favourite. Plenty of pundits were waxing lyrical about this fella after his chasing debut but I wasn’t as taken by the performance as some others. He could well prove me wrong and hack up, but I am going to take him on with Us And Them.
|Us And Them could make a bold bid from the front.|
This son of Stowaway produced arguably a career best when lowering the colours of Duca De Thaix at Navan last month, his first run on good ground. The application of a first time tongue tie suggests he may have had some breathing issues when beaten at the same track by Hardline last time. This front runner should be suited by a small field and if Mengli Khan fluffs his lines Us And Them could be the one to benefit. At odds of 20/1 a small each way interest is advised.
STEVOS’ SELECTION: 2.20-US AND THEM E/W @ 20/1
The penultimate race at Leopardstown on St Stephens’ Day is a 17f handicap chase. Twelve horses will go to post and Quamino looks an interesting runner for Paul Nolan and Bryan Cooper. This fella remains unexposed over fences and I think he could be well suited by the drop back in trip. He won a Beginners’ Chase on his seasonal comeback at Fairyhouse (21f gd) and he was far from disgraced behind Judgement Day and Kildorrery at Punchestown last time out (20f gd).
This son of Lord Of England won a 2 mile handicap hurdle at Wexford last season and was placed on his next two starts at that distance. I think dropping back to 17f won’t inconvenience him at all and it could help him turn the Kildorrery form around. He makes his handicap debut over fences off a mark of 129 and at odds of 16/1 he could surprise with a big run.
STEVOS’ SELECTION: 2.55- QUAMINO E/W @ 16/1
No bet for me in the closing bumper, a race to watch with a view to the future.
STEVOS’ SELECTION: 3.30 LEOPARDSTOWN-NO BET