Brendan Duke: I’ve 2 bankers and 2 nicely priced fancies for Leopardstown on Sunday

Leopardstown brings some reason for cheer on Sunday.

Brendan Duke Poker Party

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It’s hard to feel optimistic at the moment. The coronavirus haunts the imagination of all sports fans. Friday brought the news of Un De Sceaux’s retirement. This got me thinking about the perils of predicting the future. I well remember him winning novice hurdles in Thurles and Navan by huge margins. I said at the time that a horse with such free going tendencies couldn’t last. Shooting stars burn out quickly after all. Those two races were part of the 2013/14 N.H season. He has lit up every subsequent season. A smashing steed.

There are reasons for cheer. Leopardstown begins a two-day fixture on Sunday. I will be there. Lots of rain about on Saturday. Heavy ground all over would be my guess. Here’s my latest crack at predicting the future.

3.05pm – Charli Parcs @ 7/1

The hurdle race at 3.05 pm may well be the dictionary definition of a tricky race. Mengli Khan sets the standard but is a hard horse to trust at short prices. Listen Dear would have strong claims based on her Limerick romp last October. Subsequent efforts suggest there was a reason she won at 14/1 that day.

Jetz will never be mistaken for a warrior of the turf. His stablemate Got Trump is disadvantaged by race conditions. Could all these questions mean that Charli Parcs is the answer? He’s another horse few punters will speak kindly of. His juvenile hurdle campaign promised much but ultimately petered out. Mind you, his Triumph Hurdle sixth still reads well in the context of this race.

He also ran a solid fourth in the Scottish Champion Hurdle the following season. That wasn’t enough to convince Nicky Henderson to keep him though. Aidan Anthony Howard did well with a similar type in Winter Escape. Charli hasn’t run since November 2018 but is only a seven-year-old. He has gone well fresh in the past. The obvious worry that he’s a busted flush means we should get a decent price. I’ll chance him win only in the hope his new trainer can work the oracle.

3.35pm – Faugernon @ 14/1

The handicap hurdle at 3.35 pm offers Faugernon a decent chance to take advantage of some largesse from the handicapper. This horse won a course and distance handicap over Christmas. That race looks like solid form. He last ran in a very hot handicap on Dublin Racing Festival weekend. He endured a tough trip that day, racing six wide for most of the race. He folded somewhat up the straight but was only beaten 11 lengths.

The handicapper has dropped him four pounds on the back of that effort. He will race on Sunday off a mark just six pounds higher than his Christmas win. He also gets a significant drop in grade. With just seven runs over obstacles to his name, this horse still has plenty of upside.

4.10pm – Batcio @ 6/4

A fairly obvious selection here but winners always welcome. Batcio should win this novice chase. This horse has run well in a couple of course and distance handicaps of late. He was still leading when falling two out in a valuable handicap on DRF weekend. He had made a couple of errors before that, and my hunch is he would have struggled to hold on. That’s not certain though, and Sunday’s race is an easier assignment.

The opposition all have some well being or ground questions hanging over them. Batcio’s tendency to make jumping errors is a worry but he can probably get away with one or two in this company. He looks the day’s banker.

4.40pm – Poker Party @ 7/4

Finally to the valuable handicap chase. Anibale Fly leaps off the page here. You could argue, in these extra place times, that he has hit the board in both the Gold Cup and Grand National in consecutive years. The worry is that those efforts have left a mark.

The horse has barely raised a gallop this season. He could obviously be pitched in off 158. I’m going to oppose him though. Solid form is thin on the ground in this race. Poker Party is the obvious exception. Since announcing himself with a runner up finish at this track in 2018, he has run in six good handicaps. He has won three of them and placed in two others. The only blip was an early mishap in the Galway Plate.

It’s probable that a mark of 148 is getting to the ceiling of the horse’s ability. That may not be a big issue on Sunday though. He’s in form, ground versatile, and knows how to win. That combination should prove irresistible here.

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