It’s hard to make conclusive decisions with regard Cheltenham from the racing at Leopardstown at the weekend, as it’s very unlikely they’ll be racing on ground as quick come March, but we can take a view on any positives or negatives from what was still 2 days of high class National Hunt racing.
The first race on the Saturday looked more like an Albert Bartlett trial than anything else with Latest Exhibition staying on best of all to land the spoils as showing he’s a strong stayer and perhaps the main Albert Bartlett contender from the race. Elixir D’ainay could be marked up for his run as didn’t settle at all well, having been held up which resulted in his hurdling being less than accurate.
The Dublin Chase saw A Plus Tard taken out, which was probably the sensible thing to do by connections and he’ll now go straight to Cheltenham with the Ryanair seemingly still his main target. A pity Cilaos Emery fell early on, leaving pretty much a match between Chacun Pour Soi and Min. They pulled miles clear of the field with the former showing the best turn of foot to win well and put his name firmly in the Queen Mother Chase hat, alongside Defi Du Seuil and Altor, with Min likely to step up in trip for the Ryanair. Chacun Pour Soi got the better of Defi Du Seuil at Punchestown last year and it’ll be a interesting to see them take each other on again at Cheltenham.
The Arkle Chase again had a notable absentee in Fakir D’oudairies, but still saw a cracking finish between Notebook and Cashback who had both previously been unbeaten over fences, with Notebook just getting the upper hand on this occasion. Both will surely head to the Arkle at Cheltenham with a fair shout. Melon was very much exposed over fences, whilst Gallant John Joe ran with great promise and whilst he may fall short of the top grade, he’ll win races over fences and has the option of stepping up in trip.
Honeysuckle landed some defy bets when winning the Irish Champion Hurdle, although in beating the novice Darver Star and Petit Mouchoir in less than impressive style, she hardly set the Champion Hurdle pulses racing. That said, she’s perhaps benefit from a softer surface and in what is an open looking division she may well take her chance at Cheltenham. One that did catch the eye, although not as a Champion Hurdle contender was Aramon, who stayed on well and ran his best race for sometime. Depending on what the handicapper make of that run, he could be an interesting contender for the County Hurdle at Cheltenham off his current rating.
Appreciate It was very impressive in the NH Flat race and is now favourite for the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham, but he’s now a very short price in what is always a hugely competitive event.
On first major action with regard Cheltenham saw the fall of Aspire Tower in the Juvenile Hurdle, which puts a doubt about his Triumph Hurdler credentials. He’s hopefully okay, but with Cerberus having previously been comprehensively beaten at Chepstow this form looks below what is required.
Asterion Forlonge was very impressive when winning the two mile Novice Hurdle, very much putting him name in the Supreme picture for Cheltenham, In the same ownership as current favourite Shishkin it’ll be interesting to see what connections decide, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see both contest this race, as it’s the most suitable for both the Mullins and Henderson horses.
It was great to see Faugheen win his race, albeit not as impressively as his previous win over fences. He’d probably prefer a softer surface and this may have been his Cheltenham. Not to say he won’t take his chance in March with the Marsh Novices Chase the most likely target, but you’d have to wonder if he has quite got the engine for what would be a much tougher ask at the age of 12.
The Irish Gold Cup pretty much played out as expected with Delta Work, Kemboy and Presenting Percy battling out a great finish. How strong is the form with Jett only 5 lengths further back on 4th you’d have to wonder. Add to that Delta Works previous last gasp victory in beating Monalee and the doubts of the strength of this form have to be questioned. At this stage Al Boum Photo looks to be the best Irish Gold Cup hope.
Roll on Cheltenham, just 5 weeks tomorrow…