Quito De La Roque can keep home fires burning in Lexus
Published 28/12/2011 | 05:00
Synchronised and Noland are the two English-based raiders in what promises to be a hugely informative renewal of the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown this afternoon.
Prior to Pandorama's triumph 12 months ago, the three-mile Grade One had gone for export on four successive occasions.
However, as Noel Meade's mud-lover galloped to victory in 2010, the winds seemed to be changing for the Irish staying chasing division, an impression that was confirmed at various removes in the ensuing months.
Still, for all the progress that has been made, Monday's enthralling events at Kempton Park offered another reminder of the standards that are there to be met in the highest echelon. Quito De La Roque and Rubi Light have a way to go before they could even be considered contenders for the very top honours, but they are making progress.
While neither horse is guaranteed anything in this afternoon's showpiece, both have done enough to generate an enhanced level of expectation, and it will be surprising if one of them doesn't step up to the plate.
Earlier, the likes of First Lieutenant and Last Instalment spearhead a decent representation of the next crop in the big novice chase.
By the close of play, then, we should a much clearer idea of exactly what's what.
12.25 Madigans Maiden Hurdle 2m 4f
Competitive Edge had his followers here on Monday but was unfortunate to be pushed out early on. AP McCoy takes the reins now and this bumper-placed son of Presenting should figure prominently.
Zerashan was useful on the Flat and should improve for his effort to finish seventh at Fairyhouse recently, though Make Your Mark is probably the one to beat. A point-to-point winner in April, he scored by 11 lengths on his bumper debut last month.
Verdict: Make Your Mark strikes as a useful prospect.
12.55 Mongey Communications Novice Handicap Hurdle 2m
Munsaab hosed up by 12 lengths at Wexford in October. He took time to find his form, but is clearly talented and a stone hike may not be enough to slow him.
Cairdin, successful in a Punchestown maiden the same month, has it all to do under top weight, while Leah Claire is fairly exposed off this mark despite her comfortable verdict at Wexford last time. Having shown up well before tiring when third at Punchestown recently, Masked Phantom may appreciate the drop to two miles.
Verdict: Masked Phantom is a tentative selection in a tricky race.
1.25 Topaz Fort Leney Novice Chase 3m
Davy Russell had a tough choice here, eventually opting for his Cheltenham Festival-winning partner First Lieutenant over Crash and Last Instalment. Pulled up after a bad blunder at Fairyhouse last time, First Lieutenant had been slow to hit peak form this term anyway, though this first try at three miles ought to suit.
Of the other two, Last Instalment has the most attractive profile. Highly regarded, he is unbeaten in two over fences, and any overnight rain would be to his advantage. Willie Mullins' pair Allee Garde and Raptor look the best of the rest. Both won nicely last time, and have the potential to be better over fences than they were over flights.
Verdict: First Lieutenant is fancied over three miles on better ground.
2.0 woodiesdiy.com Christmas Hurdle 3m
Voler La Vedette has been at the top of her game this season, securing back-to-back victories when accounting for Mourad in the Hatton's Grace at Fairyhouse last time.
She has never won over this far, but that wouldn't be much of a concern provided that she settles. Mourad, successful in this race last year, looks to be the obvious danger, as the longer trip will certainly be to his advantage.
Karabak can improve for his fifth place in the Lismullen Hurdle at Navan last month, but it's hard to envisage him turning the tables now.
While Powerstation is a fair yardstick, he tends to come up short in this type of event, with Mourad's stablemate Dare To Doubt maybe a more interesting prospect.
A good winner of a Punchestown handicap last time, this is her first start over three miles.
Verdict: Voler La Vedette is taken to confirm her ascendancy.
2.35 Lexus Chase 3m
On all known form, last season's Welsh National winner Synchronised will be up against it in this grade, though Noland isn't without a squeak for the travelling party.
Lightly raced, Paul Nicholls' runner is two from two in Ireland, and turned in a fine performance to prevail when last seen at Newbury, though that was back in March.
Others returning from breaks are Magnanimity and Follow The Plan, both of which may be better for the outing. Rubi Light came of age in tremendous fashion in the John Durkan at Punchestown, accounting for Joncol by a commanding margin. The latter will be more at home over today's longer trip, but Rubi Light has the makings of a serious horse if the extra half-mile doesn't trouble him. Quito De La Roque is unbeaten in five since going down to Bostons Angel here a year ago.
There was a lot to like about the way he ground out a result at Down Royal last time, and his trainer Colm Murphy knows how to handle a good horse.
Verdict: Quito De La Roque shouldn't be inconvenienced by the drying conditions.
3.10 Racing Coverage Rated Hurdle 2m
Quiscover Fontaine and Wilde Wit Pleasure are the joint top-rated here on official figures. Of the two, Quiscover Fontaine, fourth in the Irish Grand National in April, appeals slightly more, though he needs to step up on his middling reappearance run.
At his best, Beau Michael would have a big hand in this, but he hasn't been firing in recent months. Dul Ar An Ol is the form option, having won two handicaps in testing ground last month. While he is 10 years of age, there may be more in him.
Verdict: Quiscover Fontaine might just be worth a speculative punt.
3.40 Thornton's Recycling Bumper 2m
Big Generator made a perfectly respectable bumper debut for Paul Nolan at Down Royal in November. He was ultimately no match for Monksland, but mixed it well and kept on to be a clear second.
The Bosses Cousin returns after a long lay-off for Willie Mullins, and Sam Da Vinci showed promise when third on his initial outing at Tipperary in June. If he handles the slightly slower conditions, he could go close.
Verdict: Big Generator is the one to keep on side.