It’s a familiar road at this stage and the lovely brand spanking new Newlands Cross flyover makes it even more convenient too.
Crowned Racecourse Of The Year at the Horse Racing Ireland Awards in December, Leopardstown Racecourse could also be rewarded for endeavouring to answer more pre-Cheltenham questions than any other racecourse in the world.
Since the Christmas tree has lost its importance for another year we’ve had 10 Grade One races in Ireland, nine of which were at Leopardstown, and the track has also staged the likes of the BoyleSports Hurdle and the Leopardstown Chase.
On Sunday, we’ll return for four more Grade Ones. Yes, four, and it’s the only racecard on this island that will stage four top level races on the one day. The Hennessy Gold Cup is the feature race and if the weather of this week has been anything to go by a warmed-up glass of the sponsor’s finest will go down very well indeed.
The race itself actually hasn’t produced a Cheltenham Festival Gold Cup winner since Imperial Call in 1996 but Sir Des Champs and Florida Pearl both went close in finishing second at the Festival afterwards. They were just two of Willie Mullins’ nine winners in the race and Cheltenham Gold Cup and Lexus Chase runner-up On His Own is joined by race favourite Boston Bob for the champion trainer.
Last year’s Cheltenham hero Lord Windermere is the same price for Sunday as Foxrock, who is on the upgrade but doesn’t hold a Cheltenham entry, while Carlingford Lough heads many notebooks after an encouraging effort at Christmas. It is wide open.
The Spring Juvenile Hurdle should tell us if we have a chance of seeing an Irish winner of the Triumph Hurdle for the third year in a row, while from a personal point of view at least, the grey Alvisio Ville is one of the most exciting horses we will see over the weekend if his Irish debut is anything to go by. He heads the Deloitte Novice Hurdle crew.
The Flogas Novice Chase seems to revolve around Valseur Lido but we’ve seen some surprises in that category this season, and the return of Salsify in the Hunters Chase is another highlight.
Before all of that gets underway on Sunday, though, we have the prospect of last season’s Champion chaser Sire De Grugy winging his way around Newbury for a first competitive appearance of the season. A win for him in the Game Spirit and you’ll be looking at the new clear Champion Chase favourite.