It’s a terrific weekend’s racing at Leopardstown and it’s very, very competitive.
This weekend should be celebrated for what they are in the Irish racing calendar and not just seen as ‘trials’ for Cheltenham, even though the logical step for many of the graded winners will be next month’s Festival.
Either way, I hope I’m on a couple of them.
Willie Mullins has a lot of chances in the opener, where I ride Relegate. She won at this meeting last year and then won the Festival bumper. The step up in trip to 2m 6f should really suit her.
On form I could have picked, Salsaretta who Patrick Mullins rides as she beat Felix Desjy at Limerick over Christmas. If you were willing to overlook Come to Me’s last run at Naas when seventh to Battleoverdoyen, then he could have a chance also.
Keith Donoghue rides Getareason, while Denis O’Regan is on Dorrells Pierji who was disappointing at Limerick – but we think he’s a fair horse on his day.
There’s more than just the Mullins’ runners in it though, as Dunvegan was a very good bumper horse last year and looks to have a massive chance for Pat Fahy’s yard.
I could only pick one though, so I’ve gone for Relegate.
I’m not being dismissive when I say this race revolves around the big three of Apple’s Jade, Melon and Supersundae – and there’s plenty will tell you it only revolves about Apple’s Jade.
The others, like last year’s Triumph Hurdle winner Farclas, plus Petit Mouchoir and Tombstone will have to bounce back to their best to be in the reckoning.
Apple’s Jade’s wins at Navan, Fairyhouse and Leopardstown have been brilliant,she’ll be a tough nut to crack. The only worry with her is dropping back to 2m at this level. Supasundae was beaten over 3m by Apple’s Jade at Christmas, but did win this contest last year.
Melon will need to re-produce his run in last year’s Cheltenham Champion Hurdle when a neck second to Buveur D’Air.
He should improved a hell of a lot from his run here at Christmas.
However, he has too if he’s going to give Apple’s Jade a race of it.
Paul Townend rides Sayar who could go well at a nice price but it’s an ultra-competitive handicap as you’d expect, with Charles Byrnes’ Wonderleish looking to follow up a nice win at Fairyhouse in a valuable prize.
I ride Uradel, but I’d love if the race was over a fraction further than 2m. He won the big amateur race at Galway on the Flat and also ran a blinder in the English Cesarewitch when second to stable-mate Low Sun.
He’s looks to have a nice weight, appears in really good form at home, so we’re hoping for a good run.
Patrick Mullins rides Mt Leinster in the Grade 2 bumper who ran keenly and disappointed at Christmas. Gordon Elliott’s Malone Road beat Mt Leinster earlier in the season and his stablemate Envoi Allen had a similar reputation before duly winning on debut at Fairyhouse and following up at Navan.
He could prove hard to beat.
I said earlier in the week that I’d a big decision to make between Min and Footpad, but luckily for me Footpad doesn’t run.
We’re very happy with Min, who won this race last year and tuned up nicely when winning the John Durkan Memorial over 2m 4f in December.
He looks to be my standout ride of the meeting.
I’ve no ride in the novice chase where Paul Townend rides Voix De Reve and David Mullins rides Articulum, who could out-run his odds.
There are some smart performers in here like Henry De Bromhead’s Paloma Blue and Gordon Elliott’s Mengli Khan.
However, I’ve been really taken with Joseph O’Brien’s Le Richebourg all season and he looked very good here at Christmas. The ground will probably ride good at Leopardstown and that seems to bring out the best in him.
Willie Mullins has no runner in the finale, so I ride Kildorrery for my dad, Ted.
He ran too keen at Fairyhouse and needs other horses to set a decent pace, so I can get him to settle better and finish out his race.
He’s a nice weight on his back. I just hope I can get him to switch off early and then get motoring at the business end.