Weld's Galileo's Choice can rise to Leopardstown Challenge
An intriguing showdown between Galileo's Choice and Steps To Freedom, both well held when strongly fancied in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham in March, is the highlight of this evening's Leopardstown line-up.
The talented pair re-oppose in the six-runner Challenge Stakes that brings proceedings at the Foxrock venue to a close, a 1m 6f Listed race that Galileo's Choice's trainer Dermot Weld is hoping to land for a fifth successive year.
However, unlike Weld's 2011 winner Sense Of Purpose and hat-trick heroine Profound Beauty, Galileo's Choice lines out in the €40,000 contest under Pat Smullen lacking a prep run.
Against a rival of Steps To Freedom's quality -- both are rated the same at 109 -- that might prove critical. A fine third to Fame And Glory at Navan first time up, Steps To Freedom relished the decent going at Dundalk last week to power home under a big weight.
Ultimately, that win did little to refute the perception that he needs a sound surface. As a result, and notwithstanding a healthy respect for John Oxx's improving Aklan, Galileo's Choice is taken to overcome his lay-off since March on testing ground that he handles.
When last seen on the level, the smart six-year-old backed up an easy Killarney triumph over two miles with a cracking Group Three win at Leopardstown over 10f in September. At the time, he certainly looked as though he had more to give and Weld is sure to have him finely tuned.
Weld and Smullen are also well represented in the featured Silver Flash Stakes with the Curragh maiden winner Rawaaq, but this valuable 7f Group Three might go the way of Oxx's Harasiya. The Lady O'Reilly-owned pair Roseraie and Reglisse are others to consider, but Harasiya had the latter back in third when posting an impressive victory on her debut over course and distance a month ago.
In the handicaps, Denis Hogan's Inis Meain, due to go up 22lbs for his rout at Killarney on Monday, stands out in the opener under a 5lb penalty, while Happy Anniversary, successful on the same card, might continue her fine season off a light weight later on.
At this afternoon's Killarney finale, Henry de Bromhead can cap an excellent week at the Kerry venue with Alan and Ann Potts' Absolutlyfantastic in the Dawn Milk Run Handicap Hurdle.
In the preceding equivalent, Jim Dreaper's China Goes Green appeals as nap material.
Successful off a mark of 101 at Navan in March, Davy Russell's mount is thrown in here off 86 and can oblige if he reproduces that level of effort now.
Also worth considering is Apache Gold in the mile Flat handicap for Youghal handler Pat Breen. The last horse to beat the prolific Happy Anniversary at Gowran Park two weeks ago, Apache Gold's form was also boosted when the sixth home, Andalucia Lady, followed up at Roscommon. Seamie Heffernan's partner is up 5lbs now, but that may not stop him.