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We are at Leopardstown this Sunday and the recent spell of dry weather has had an effect. There’s selective watering on the chase course, as you would expect this close to Cheltenham and there are no stars on show.
French Dynamite could yet prove a top-notcher and he has built on the promise of last season. He has kept the best of company in two starts this term, while 3m on really deep ground probably didn’t see him to best effect at this track over Christmas.
He takes a big drop in class and trip, in the conditions hurdle at 14:45. He’s also conceding over a stone to a peak form Wonder Laish would present a formidable challenge. The chances of Wonder Laish producing his best are slim though. French Dynamite should win and he’ll be a short price.
Klassy Kay is bound to prove a popular choice in this mares handicap hurdle. She has won two of her three starts since joining Willie Mullins and could still be well treated. But, I’ll take a chance on STRANGE NOTIONS at what should be rewarding odds.
The last time this mare visited Leopardstown she ran a massive race in a very hot race and she races off the same mark on Sunday. Her last couple of efforts might suggest the handicapper has a grip on her, but I’m not so sure. She would have finished in the frame on penultimate start but for tipping up at the last. The two horses that fought out the finish that day went on to run really well next time in much higher grade.
Strange Notions was a touch disappointing last time out, but subsequent wins for the third and fourth suggest that was a good race for the grade though. That day, not for the first time, Strange Notions shaped as though a step up in trip would show her in a better light and she gets that on Sunday.
She also gets a slight drop in grade, Hugh Morgan taking off a handy 5lbs and gets the best ground she has run on since that career best effort in Leopardstown. She rates a solid each-way play with the extra place on offer.
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The rated novice chase is a handicap in all but name, and STEER CLEAR appeals at the weights. But, he comes with risks attached. He has gone off favourite on all but one of his last seven starts and his only win during that spell came at odds of 12/1. This game would tame lions!
I suppose JP McManus has seen it all at this stage and that win I mentioned came on penultimate start in Thurles. The third and fourth that day are solid sticks, and suggest it was decent form. I was particularly impressed with how he attacked most of the fences on the second circuit that day.
The punters were also impressed as they made him 5/2 to defy a 6lbs rise and follow up that win the following month. Unfortunately, the horse made a clumsy mistake and fell at the second, he hasn’t run since.
That win came on his seasonal comeback though, so I wouldn’t worry about the absence on Sunday. I, along with connections clearly, believe this horse is capable of much more than he has achieved. My hunch is he’s going to get his act together over fences and he can start by taking care of some underwhelming opposition here.
We get an extra place in this handicap chase and MITCHOUKA looks sure to run well. This horse was a smart juvenile hurdler who lost his way a bit, but Gearoid O’Loughlin has done a good job of rekindling the fire.
The horse has run well in handicaps behind the likes of Imperial Aura, Castlebawn West, and Off You Go. I don’t see any horses on Sunday with the potential to be as well handicapped as that trio. Mitchouka’s latest effort at the Dublin Racing Festival was particularly noteworthy, even if the trip was too sharp for him.
His jumping held up well though, and he was rallying manfully at the line. It would be hard to describe him as well handicapped. As mentioned earlier, I don’t think many are in this race and Mitchouka won’t have to find much improvement to prevail here. He would have to regress to finish worse than fifth.
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