Tuesday 20 August 2019

Douvan tops the bill but Butcher can also be cut above the rest

Douvan and Ruby Walsh cannot be opposed today. Photo: Matt Browne / Sportsfile
Douvan and Ruby Walsh cannot be opposed today. Photo: Matt Browne / Sportsfile

Johnny Ward

Willie Mullins had a cracker of a day one of the Christmas festival and he will approach day two with that mixture of expectation, nerves and confidence that one would have when associated with Douvan.

Mullins has not been afraid to talk up the son of Walk In The Park, which will encourage professional money at around 1/5 when tackling the feature race today at Leopardstown.

Superlatives run dry when it comes to describing this horse, which should win in a canter.

If betting dominates your thoughts, perhaps the €190,000 Paddy Power Chase will be more worthy of perusal.

The Crafty Butcher, which will be especially popular with rugby followers due to his ownership, sneaks in off a low weight and looks to have a big chance. Gordon Elliott will be keen to reassert his supremacy at the top of the trainers' table over Willie Mullins and he has six runners, the Co Meath trainer especially sweet on the each-way credentials of Noble Endeavor and Ucello Conti.

This is a fascinating day's action, commencing with the juvenile maiden hurdle won last year by Ivanovich Gorbatov. Joseph O'Brien is triple-handed and introduces to jumping the Leger third Housesofparliament, one of the highest-rated horses off the Flat to go hurdling in the history of racing.

A bumper crowd flocked to the Dublin venue yesterday; those who return today will not be disappointed.

12.15 Paddy Power 'Only 363 Days Till Christmas' 3-Y-O Maiden Hurdle 2m

A race notable for Joseph O'Brien unveiling two of his highest-class recruits from the Flat that were trained by his father Aidan: Housesofparliament and Sword Fighter.

Doncaster Leger third Housesofparliament looks the one on jockey bookings, Barry Geraghty winning this last year too aboard subsequent Triumph Hurdle winner Ivanovich Gorbatov.

Though ground-versatile, Housesofparliament may not want it quite so soft. Preference, albeit of the speculative nature, is for Meri Devie.

This one was no slouch on the level - she was beaten just over four lengths at Group One level in France last year - and she handles heavy. Willie Mullins may provide the answer in this cracking race.

Verdict: Meri Devie is a hopeful pick in a hot renewal.

12.45 Paddy Power 'Easiest To Use Mobile App' Maiden HURDLE 2m

Bacardys looked pretty much a certain winner at Cork, only to fall two out when cantering, and that form was nicely boosted since. He had generally jumped with fluency prior to that and was a really good bumper horse last year, third at Grade One level either side of winning a Grade Two at Aintree.

That said, this is no walk in the park. Henry de Bromhead appears to have a really nice prospect in Captain Force which, despite having never run before, was too strong for the Mullins-trained Castello Sforza when second, beaten a head, on debut at Fairyhouse.

Another to note is Art Of Security. A bumper winner for Sandra Hughes, he did not go on from that, but new trainer Noel Meade may be able to tap into that patent ability.

Verdict: Bacardys can get the better of the promising Captain Force.

1.20 Grade One Paddy Power Cashcard Steeplechase 2m1f

Douvan is the horse that those who marvel in virtuosity will want to see most at Foxrock today.

A field of five is almost better than expected, considering that Douvan appears to be pretty much unbeatable over two miles, and he was put in at 1/5 in the wagering yesterday.

Douvan, breathtaking as a novice last season, carried on from where he left off at Cork, and Ruby Walsh resumes his alliance now. He cannot be opposed and the main scrap looks to be for second, with €20,000 on offer for that.

Black Hercules would probably be the pick but he flopped on his return, so perhaps the frustrating Simply Ned can fill that spot, as he did when throwing away victory in this 12 months ago.

Verdict: Douvan should win handsomely, with Simply Ned to chase him home.

1.55 Paddy Power Future Champions Novice Hurdle 2m

This looks an average edition and it is hard to see any of these winning the Supreme Novices' at Cheltenham - for all that there may be one with its story yet to tell. Perhaps Riven Light fits that bill and he is a token pick.

A four-year-old son of Ravens Pass, he was bought for a lot of money out of France and appeared a pretty professional jumper on his Irish/hurdling debut at Thurles, though the form is far from extraordinary.

Ruby Walsh picks him over Saturnas, which laboured in the Royal Bond, a race in which Peace News fell when attempting to get competitive.

Peace News accounts for a quarter of the Gigginstown runners, with Bryan Cooper now deserting in favour of Avenuir D'Une Vie, which did the job in great style at Fairyhouse.

Verdict: Riven Light may score in an ordinary renewal at Peace News's expense.

2.30 Paddy Power 'You Beauty' Handicap Hurdle 2m

Veinard might prove the answer under Jack Kennedy. A remarkably strong traveller, he has only won once, but that was after cantering through his Irish debut at Clonmel, and his subsequent Fairyhouse bid was perfectly solid.

He gives the impression that reverting to a big-field two-mile combat will suit; moreover, he has not done much racing.

Stablemate Desoto County has to be respected, too, while Elishpour and Gladiator King may be ones to note at a bigger price.

Verdict: Veinard (nap) looks liable to appreciate this test.

3.00 Paddy Power Steeplechase 3m 100yds

The Crafty Butcher, part-owned by rugby stars Ian Madigan and Dominic Ryan, sneaks in and Ruby Walsh will have avoided any calorie-laden food to sneak down to 10st 1lb here. He could yet prove a shrewd buy by another part-owner, Paul Byrne, and his Navan hurdling prep was encouraging.

He is competitively weighed and the vibes are that his work has improved since Navan. He appears to lack a gear but he ticks quite a few boxes.

So many are in with chances here. Killer Miller is a dark one, should his jumping hold up, while Gordon Elliott's main pair appear to be Ucello Conti and Noble Endeavor. Ucello Conti is deeply interesting on his Thyestes form from last season.

Verdict: The Crafty Butcher can score at the expense of Ucello Conti.

3.35 Paddy Power Games 'One For The Road' Flat Race 2m4f

This is a bumper for embryo staying chasers in some respects, with stamina key.

Minella Fair probably bumped into a tartar at Navan and he gives the impression that a race that demands a little less speed will be in his favour.

Ballyward will be popular by virtue of connections. He finished second in a point-to-point at Tyrella for Colin McKeever, who has been a source of many good horses for Graham Wylie and Willie Mullins.

Verdict: Perhaps Minella Fair can make the step up here.

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