Friday 20 September 2019

Our experts give their top tips as Christmas festivals in Limerick and Leopardstown continue

A general view of the runners and riders during The Paddy Power Steeplechase. Credit ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy
A general view of the runners and riders during The Paddy Power Steeplechase. Credit ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy
Ruby Walsh: Hope on Faugheen. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile Newsdesk Newsdesk

It's been a tough few days for favourite backers but there are a number of horses who are heavily fancied to score at both Limerick and Leopardstown today.

Michael Verney's race-by-race guide to the action in Leopardstown

12.10 Sky Sports Racing Maiden Hurdle (4yo) 2m4f35yds

French recruit Elite Charboniere is an eye-catching debutant for champion trainer Willie Mullins after being purchased for €170,000 following his cosy Bumper victory when in the care of Patrice Quinton.

The grey will take some beating under Ruby Walsh having switched to the Closutton powerhouse but Jessica Harrington's Charmed Life will be no pushover and has the best hurdles form on offer.

Foxy Jacks was sticking to his task well when fourth on his hurdling debut over 2m at Thurles and should enjoy the step up in trip at a big price for Mouse Morris.

Verdict: Elite Charboniere can justify his expensive price tag.

12.45 Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle (Qualifier) 3m

Favourites have an appalling record with no hotpot obliging in its seven runnings - 11/1 is the lowest-price winner - and owner JP McManus sends seven into battle.

Denis Cullen's A Great View looks the best of them based on his Punchestown Festival success in a similar event while Pleasant Company switches back to hurdles on his first run since being edged out in the Aintree Grand National.

The spoils may go the way of Joseph O'Brien's Thermistocles, however.

The unexposed six-year-old is an improving sort which scored on his handicap debut and there should be more to come in the hands of Irish National-winning jockey JJ Slevin.

Verdict: The progressive Thermistocles will enjoy this test.

1.20 Ballymaloe Foods Beginners Chase 2m5f

Tower Bridge and Bacardys were both Grade One-winning novice hurdlers but neither impressed on their fencing bows while Borderline Chatho makes his fencing debut for Alan Fleming having taken his maiden hurdle in decent style at Naas last month.

The safest selection in a tricky heat is Gordon Elliott's Gun Digger and the Gigginstown runner has done nothing wrong in his two chase starts - he finished a good second to Chris's Dream earlier this month - and holds leading claims for Jack Kennedy.

Verdict: Gun Digger is a likeable sort and can get his head in front.

1.50 Grade One Squared Financial Christmas Hurdle 3m

The betting suggests this is a one-horse race with Elliott's Apple's Jade trading at odds-on, but the ratings suggest a mouth-watering duel should be in store between two top-class hurdlers.

Last year's winner Apple's Jade produced a scintillating display when making Supasundae look ordinary to land her third Hatton's Grace in succession at Fairyhouse.

Apple's Jade is in receipt of a 7lbs mares allowance from Mullins' brilliant Faugheen but on official ratings, the two are running off level weights and Walsh's mount is the obvious value if producing his best.

The 2015 Champion Hurdle winner disappointed in the Morgiana over 2m but the step up to 3m looks to be needed at this stage of the 10-year-old's career. If Faugheen reproduces the form of his dazzling Champion Stayers Hurdle victory at the Punchestown Festival in April, he could lower the favourite's colours, while stablemate Bapaume is likely to be best of the rest under Noel Fehily.

Verdict: If Faugheen bounces back to his best he'll take all the beating.

2.25 Christmas Handicap Hurdle 2m4f35yds

A lottery for punters with 23 runners but Mighty Stowaway is an interesting runner for 'Shark' Hanlon.

Still a maiden over hurdles after eight runs, Rachael Blackmore's mount has shown lots of ability over fences with back-to-back wins at Thurles and Punchestown and deserves a second look.

The Church Gate is preferred, however, after an excellent effort to land a Fairyhouse handicap last month following a break and Meath trainer Matthew Smith may get his day in the sun.

Verdict: Robbie Power can steer The Church Gate home in front.

3.0 Grade One Savills Chase 3m

The absence of current Gold Cup favourite Presenting Percy due to unsuitable ground takes some gloss off but this is an intriguing renewal as Road To Respect goes in search of back-to-back victories.

Noel Meade's charge looked better than ever in the Champion Chase at Down Royal last month while exciting stable companion Disko also makes his much-anticipated return from injury but may be best watched on this occasion.

Mullins' Bellshill had many of these behind when taking the Punchestown Gold Cup in April and commands respect but Elliott's improving mare Shattered Love is the selection.

She beat the boys at Christmas 12 months ago to land a Grade One over 3m so this track and trip should be up her street. She produced another sterling effort behind Min in the John Durkan and rarely puts in a bad effort.

Verdict: Kennedy can break some hearts on Shattered Love.

3.35 Midland Legal Solicitors INH flat race 2m

The betting will likely suggest a straight shoot-out between the Mullins newcomer General Counsel and Elliott's debutant Hell On Earth but Ash Hill may spring a minor surprise for Joseph O'Brien.

Derek O'Connor's mount couldn't match the very useful Battleoverdoyen when fourth at Punchestown last month but showed enough to suggest that there was much better to come and that may be today.

Verdict: Experience may prove the difference for Ash Hill.

Today's top tips

Patrick Mullins

12.10 Leopardstown - Elite Charboniere

1.05 Limerick - Undressed

1.40 Limerick - Stormy Ireland

Robbie Power

12.10 Leopardstown - Charmed Life (e/w)

12.45 Leopardstown - Walk To Freedom

1.20 Leopardstown  - Whisperinthebreeze

1.50 Leopardstown  - Apple’s Jade

2.25 Leopardstown  - The Church Gate (e/w)

3.00 Leopardstown - Road To Respect

3.35 Leopardstown  - General Counsel

Niall Cronin

Leopardstown today

12.10 Elite Charboniere

12.45 Cuneo

1.20 Gun Digger

1.50 Apple’s Jade

2.25 Smithscorner 

3.05 Road To Respect

3.35 General Counsel



12.00 Melly And Me

12.30 Redhotfillypeppers

1.05 Undressed

1.40 Stormy Ireland

2.10 Annamix

2.45 Madaboy Cross

3.20 Cappuccino Man

3.50 Assemble

Katie Walsh


12.10 Elite Charboniere

12.45 Pleasant Company

1.20 Gun Digger

1.50 Faugheen

2.25 Mighty Stowaway

3.00 Road To Respect

3.35 General Counsel

Ian Gaughran


12.10 Elite Charboniere

12.45 Pleasant Company

1.20 Gun Digger

1.50 Faugheen

2.25 Mighty Stowaway

3.05 Road To Respect

3.35 General Counsel

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