2019 Savills Chase tips – Who will prevail in Leopardstown’s Christmas highlight?

Jon Vine takes a look through the ante-post betting for the 2019 Savills Chase and highlights two horses he feels are worth backing at Leopardstown on Saturday 28th December.

The crown jewel of Leopardstown’s Christmas Festival is the Savills Chase, a three-mile chase which features many Gold Cup winners on it’s roll of honour. Irish legends like Beef Or Salmon, Doran’s Pride and Imperial Call all claimed Savills Chase glory during their illustrious careers. British raider have enjoyed plenty of success in this Grade One too, with greats like Best Mate, Synchronised and Denman standing out on the famous trophy.

It’s been a difficult summer for returning champion Kemboy (2/1 William Hill), who has been unable to race so far this term after his owner, the Supreme Racing Club were banned. Thankfully, those issues now seem to be behind Willie Mullins star and Kemboy looks set to defend his crown at Leopardstown.

Kemboy bolts up under Ruby Walsh to win the Aintree Bowl.

Danny Mullins’ gave his exuberant mount an excellent ride 12 months ago, allowing Kemboy to cart his way to the front after the first circuit before staying on gamely to secure a convincing win. I felt Kemboy got an easy time of things in last year’s renewal and was keen to take him on during the summer. Mullins’ charge went on to prove me completely wrong, securing superb victories in the Aintree Bowl and the Punchestown Gold Cup to end the season as the best stayer in the business.

Sitting closest to Kemboy in the betting we find Presenting Percy (10/3 Betfred), who endured a problem-packed campaign last term. Despite just one run over hurdles prior to arriving at Cheltenham, Pat Kelly’s star remained the favourite for the Gold Cup right up until the off. Presenting Percy clearly wasn’t in good enough shape to contend, crossing the line a distant eighth, but the former RSA winner looked much more like his old self in the John Durkan, powering down the home-straight to finish three lengths behind Min in third.

Road To Respect (9/2 Unibet) endured some bad luck as he attempted to defend his Savills Chase crown last term, slipping when going into, and coming out of the final bend, and it was a testament to this horse’s ability that he managed to cross the line third. Jumping errors the plagued the second half of Road To Respect’s campaign, with Noel Meade’s stable star losing out in the Irish Gold Cup, the Ryanair at Cheltenham and the Bowl at Aintree.

Meade looked to have his mount back on the straight and narrow at Down Royal, as Road To Respect held Clan Des Obeaux at arm’s length to defend his Ladbroke’s Chase crown and Sean Flanagan’s mount will pose the mark leaders a big danger should he enjoy a trouble-free trip at Leopardstown.

Gordon Elliott’s Delta Work (6/1 William Hill) established himself as the top novice chaser in Ireland last season, thanks to strong victories in the Drinmore, Neville Hotels and the Champion Novice Chase at the end of the campaign.

Delta Work powers home to win the Champion Novice Chase at Punchestown.

Many fancied Delta Work to get the win at Down Royal, but Elliott’s charge never looked comfortable, trailing over the line a well-beaten fourth. Delta Work is sure to come on from that run, but has a little to prove on his second start in open company and he doesn’t really appeal to me.

Bellshill (14/1 Ladbrokes) ran nicely to finish fourth on his reappearance in this Grade One 12 months ago. A sound round of jumping helped Bellshill edge out Road To Respect in the Irish Gold Cup, but that run seemed to take it’s toll on Mullins’ charge for the rest of the season, as Bellshill was pulled up at Cheltenham before a limp defence of his crown at Punchestown.

Monalee (16/1 Unibet) was strong enough to follow Kemboy home in this race 12 months ago, and went on to beat Anibale Fly in the Red Mills Chase on his first outing of 2019. Henry De Bromhead’s charge then jumped poorly on his way to a fourth-place finish in the Ryanair, before being pulled up a long way from home at Punchestown after falling rapidly through the field. On his reappearance, Monalee was trounced by Douvan in the Clonmel Oil Chase and I’d be quite surprised if Rachael Blackmore’s mount was able to reproduce the result he registered in last year’s renewal.

Over the last two seasons, Kemboy has improved as the season has played out. That’s not to say this classy stayer isn’t good enough to win this first time out, because he is, but after a summer of indecision and delay, I don’t mind siding against the market leader.

The fact that Presenting Percy is out so early indicates Pat Kelly and his team enjoyed a trouble-free off-season and last year’s Gold Cup favourite shaped with plenty of promise in the John Durkan. Stepping up to three miles will certainly suit and Presenting Percy remains one of the top staying chasers in the business. His only previous visit to Leopardstown, however, ended in a fifth-place finish over hurdles and Kelly hasn’t had a single winner in 62 attempts this season.

So, with question marks against the top two, I’m going in again on ROAD TO RESPECT, as a truly believe this horse is amongst the best chasers National Hunt racing has to offer.

Road To Respect (right) outjumps Clan Des Obeaux to retain his Down Royal crown.

Regular readers will know how much I love Road To Respect. I think I’ve backed and tipped him every time he’s run since knocking me out with his superb victory in the 2017 Brown Advisory Plate. If it wasn’t for those timely slips, Road To Respect would have had an excellent chance of reeling in Kemboy 12 months ago, and Noel Meade’s charge could easily have won both the Irish Gold Cup and the Ryanair last season, had his jumping been up to scratch.

The only performance that worried me last season was at Aintree, where Road To Respect jumped terribly and was unable to get involved in the race. I was slightly apprehensive as my favourite horse took on Delta Work and Clan Des Obeaux at Down Royal. As it turned out, I needn’t have worried. Road To Respect jumped straight as an arrow, powering into contention two from home before comfortably holding Clan Des Obeaux at bay to retain his Ladbrokes Chase crown.

Road To Respect won the 2017 renewal of the Savills Chase, so he has the course-and-distance form in the bag. He comes into the race on the back of an excellent performance, goes on all kinds of ground and his current price of 5/1 is too good for me to resist.

As well as my punt on Road To Respect, I think there’s plenty of scope for an each-way bet here too. Although the top three in last year’s race carried single-figure prices, there have been placers at 14/1, 16/1 and even 66/1 in the last few years, and even an 11/1 winner in Outlander three years ago.

Of those sitting at lengthy prices, the only one who really appeals to me is ANIBALE FLY (25/1 BetFred). AJ Martin’s flag-bearer was terrible on his reappearance in the John Durkan, but Anibale Fly is usually given a pipe-opener at the start of each season. Anibale Fly has been good enough to place in both the Gold Cup and the Grand National in both of the previous two seasons and he has previous at this meeting, having hacked up to win the three-mile handicap chase back in 2017. At 25/1, he’s certainly the best each-way bet in this wonderful race.

2019 Savills Chase Tips