Trump v Hilary. Fury v the drugs tester. Farah v the BBC cameras. 2017 has been a year of big battles and the Leopardstown Christmas Chase (15:00) looks like being another titanic tussle, this time between Sizing John and Yorkhill.
The last-named is entitled to plenty of respect, with the step up to three miles expected to elicit even more improvement, however Sizing John has been there and done it all before. He made history last term when becoming the first horse to win the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown, Gold Cup at Cheltenham and Punchestown Gold Cup (by a short head from Djakadam) in the same season. He looked as good as ever when beating that same rival by seven lengths in the John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase earlier this month and gets the nod. This is a quick turnaround, but he’s shown he can do it before.
However, this isn’t a two-horse race, with a high-class raft of entries including not only Djakadam but last year’s winner Outlander. He’s more disappointing than the Christmas TV schedule when not on a going day, but when at his best – as he was 12 months ago – his talent really comes to the fore. There may be no Disko, but Noel Meade will be hoping to get a good tune from Road To Respect, runner-up to Outlander last time, while Valseur Lido, fourth in the race last year, makes his seasonal reappearance. The market suggests this is a match-up between the big two, but Gigginstown have a good record in the race, winning the last three renewals, and it would be no huge surprise to see another upset.
The other Grade 1 on the card is the Christmas Hurdle at 13:20. Apple’s Jade was supposed to wait until Punchestown for her next start, but, like granny, is being wheeled out again this Christmas. She has leading claims, but the step up to three miles is probably more in Nichols Canyon’s favour and he looks the value call to turn the tables on the Hatton’s Grace winner. Jezki comes up short at this level these days, so a bigger threat could be Coral Cup winner Supasundae who looked a little rusty when third behind Apple’s Jade and Nichols Canyon at Fairyhouse but who will be suited by the step back up in trip here.
Elsewhere on the card, the likes of Hidden Cyclone, Lord Windermere, Djakadam and Zabana have won the beginners’ chase (15:35) and Snow Falcon has a similar level of ability. Snow Falcon shaped well, conceding first run to his rivals, when third at Fairyhouse last time and he looks the type to improve with each start over fences, especially when stamina comes to the fore. Bacardys (a nice change from eggnog) looked a bit of a slow learner at Naas but won over hurdles at this meeting last year and is respected accordingly.
1.20pm – Nichols Canyon
3.00pm – Sizing John
3.35pm – Snow Falcon
*All prices correct at time of posting