Some mouthwatering prospects running over the festive period
A look forward to the likely performers over the festive racing programme.
Alpha Des Obeaux
Likely to run in Thursday's Neville Hotels Novice Steeplechase at Leopardstown, the jury remains out a little on last year's World Hurdle second as a chaser. So comprehensive was his defeat to Coney Island in the Drinmore, it is difficult in theory to envisage a form reversal.
However, this horse is crying out for this step-up in distance and, if the ground continues to soften, the stamina of Coney Island may be stretched. Generally, Alpha Des Obeaux jumped superbly at Fairyhouse, after which rider Mark Enright commented: "This fellow could go around again."
Those who backed him then can go in again.
Having annihilated the favourite, Min, in the Supreme last season, the Nicky Henderson-trained son of High Chaparral - which has sired hardly any chasers of note - might have stayed hurdling.
However, the decision to pursue the bigger barriers seemed justified when he leapt like a gazelle on his chasing debut.
Even though that was a glorified schooling session, it had a 'wow' factor, which was not the case when he justified favouritism at Sandown since in workmanlike fashion.
His two options are at Kempton on Tuesday: the 32Red.com Wayward Lad Novices' Chase or the 32Red Desert Orchid Chase against the seniors. Whichever, it will tell us more about the Arkle favourite.
Second to Coney Island in the Drinmore, both are JP McManus-owned. Barry Geraghty picked Anibale Fly but the result proved him wrong.
That said, Anibale Fly produced a strong performance, hammering everything else, and his stamina will be tested in Kempton's 32Red Kauto Star Novices' Chase tomorrow. If the tank has a little left come the last flight, he can take the beating for Tony Martin.
I believe this is the best chaser I have ever seen, though the bare form fails as yet to justify such a remark. With the characteristics of a pet when in his stable, he becomes another species at the track, and has yet to face defeat for Willie Mullins.
Every horse can fall and perhaps one day Douvan will, but his Cork jumping performance was nothing short of spectacular. He can make it another success at the shortest odds of any horse running over the four days at Leopardstown in Tuesday's Paddy Power Cashcard Chase.
He has the same daddy, the same trainer and the same owner as Douvan. Moreover, they both kicked off in the same Navan maiden on chasing debut and both of them collected.
There was little wrong with Min on that afternoon. He is no Douvan but he deserves contextualised recognition. His joust with Identity Thief tomorrow is undoubtedly the highlight at Foxrock and he can make the step up.
No less than 46 years have gone by since a novice won a King George VI Chase, to be staged tomorrow - Thistlecrack bidding to defy such a statistic. The winner then, Captain Christie, followed up in the Gold Cup in the same season.
Thistlecrack's clash with stablemate Cue Card tomorrow will be the highlight of the four days for many people.
It will offer a genuine test of jumping for a novice and he takes on last year's winner but I'd be amazed if Cue Card has his engine, and he's one of the bets of the Christmas.
Rather than take on the Colin Tizzard-trained pair at Kempton, Valseur Lido goes for Wednesday's Lexus Steeplechase against Djakadam, with bookmakers making the Gigginstown runner slight favourite.
Eddie O'Leary's comments that this horse's jumping has improved no end since he left Willie Mullins for Henry De Bromhead were quite intriguing, if debatable.
However, his Down Royal victory was pretty faultless and he makes plenty of appeal in this race, in which Don Poli will bid to illustrate that all is not lost after his own flop at the same Ulster venue in November.
Should he stay or should he go . . . down the two-mile route? Tomorrow's 32Red.com Christmas Hurdle will be revealing with regard to the sophomore hurdler's readiness for such a test, though a muddling pace would not suit, and he may also be better going left-handed, as will be the case at Cheltenham.
A clash against Vroum Vroum Mag, who probably was unlucky in her Royal Bond defeat, will not occur after she was not declared.
Sunday Indo Sport