Leopardstown Christmas Festival tips – Five horses to follow during Ireland’s premier December meeting

Jon Vine takes a look through the entries for the major races during this year’s Christmas Festival at Leopardstown and highlights five horses for punters to watch in December.

While racing fans in England will have their eyes on Kempton and Chepstow from Boxing Day onwards, throngs of passionate Irish supporters will flock to Leopardstown to enjoy their stunning four-day Christmas Festival. During the meeting, seven Grade One prizes will be handed out, as stars look to lay down a marker ahead of the second half of the season.

I’ve taken a look through the entries for five of the big races at Leopardstown this Christmas and picked out five horses I’ll be keen to back when the final fields are revealed.

Leopardstown Christmas Festival Tips

26/12/19 2:25pm Leopardstown Racing Post Novice Chase (Grade 1) 2m1f

The betting for this Grade One will likely revolve around either Laurina or Fakir D’Oudairies. I doubt we will see a showdown between these superstars before the Arkle at the Cheltenham Festival, but there’s a strong chance one of them will be entered and they will likely carry an odds-on price to post.

This should enable punters to catch NOTEBOOK at a good price and Henry De Bromhead’s six-year-old will certainly give his backers a real run for their money.

Notebook has been superb on both of his starts over fences, jumping like a stag during a pair of victories at Punchestown. On his second start, Rachel Blackmore’s mount comfortably saw off 151-rated stablemate, Moon Over Germany to seal a maiden Graded prize over fences. The only real worry here is the fact he hasn’t run on a left-handed track since his hurdles debut last autumn, but I don’t see the switch to Leopardstown posing this talented, composed novice any problems.

Reserve Tank (left) narrowly holds off Sam’s Profile (right) at Punchestown.

28/12/19 1:55pm Leopardstown Christmas Hurdle (Grade 1) 3m

It would be wonderful to see Benie Des Dieux make her triumphant reappearance in this three-miler and a victory might encourage Willie Mullins to thrown his mare into the Stayers’ Hurdle, instead of the Mares’ Hurdle at Cheltenham. Behind the market leader, this race looks wide-open and a chance can be taken on SAM’S PROFILE (10/1 Paddy Power).

As a novice hurdler last season, Mouse Morris’ charge caught the eye with a number of strong placed efforts in Grade One company, following Battleoverdoyen home in the Lawlor’s Of Naas over Christmas, before crossing the line just half-a-length behind Reserve Tank in the two-and-a-half miler at Punchestown. Morris described his charge as a “next year job” in the build-up to Cheltenham last season and he clearly feels Sam’s Profile has the ability to win Grade Ones over hurdles during the coming campaign.

28/12/19 3:05pm Savills Chase (Grade 1) 3m

Despite the trials and tribulations the Supreme Racing Club has suffered during the early months of the season, Willie Mullins will have Kemboy primed to retain his Savills Chase crown. Kemboy ended last season as the top dog in the staying chasing ranks and it would take a brave punter to bet against the market leader.

I’m fully prepared to take that risk though and, while Presenting Percy appeals after a pleasing reappearance in the John Durkan, I’m not going to desert one of my favourite horses in training, ROAD TO RESPECT (5/1 Unibet).

Despite jumping terribly on all of his outings during the second-half of last season, Road To Respect only lost by a nose in the Irish Gold Cup and finished a staying-on third behind Frodon in the Ryanair. Noel Meade’s charge looked to have ironed out those kinks when comfortably beating Clan Des Obeaux and Delta Work in the Ladbrokes Chase on his reappearance at Down Royal and I think there’s every chance Road To Respect can recapture the crown he won two years ago.

Minella Indo and Rachael Blackmore winning the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham.

1:55pm Leopardstown Neville Hotels Novice Chase (Grade 1) 3m

Gordon Elliott has a tough choice to make as to which of Battleoverdoyen, Samcro or Champagne Classic will contest this prestigious three-miler. There’s also a strong chance Faugheen will take his chance in this Grade One – having rallied gamely to win on his first start over the larger obstacles at Punchestown – along with stablemate, Carefully Selected.

I’ll be hoping that the bookies focus their attention on Gordon Elliott’s and Willie Mullins’ runners – when their respective representatives are confirmed – allowing MINELLA INDO to slip to an even more attractive price and I remain confident he will turn out to be the best three-mile novice in Ireland this season.

Not only did Henry De Bromhead’s charge carry odds of 50/1 to victory in the Albert Bartlett, but he built on that gruelling win with a second Grade One triumph at Punchestown three weeks later. Rachael Blackmore’s mount was no match for Laurina on his chasing debut, but that race turned into a half-mile sprint and stepping up to three miles is only going to bring out the best in Minella Indo.

29/12/19 2:30pm Leopardstown December Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m

KLASSICAL DREAM (5/4 William Hill) was expected to comfortably win the Morgiana Hurdle on his reappearance. Yet, Willie Mullins’ three-time Grade One-winning novice was comfortably beaten by stablemate Saldier, and couldn’t even get past the pace-setting Petit Mouchoir in finishing an underwhelming third.

Some seem to have completely written Klassical Dream off following the end of his unbeaten run. I, however, have not. Far from it, in-fact.

Mullins’ charge looked in need of the run that day and the good ground that day was never likely to suit. He also made a terribly off-putting blunder at the very first obstacle, which could have contributed to several uneconomical leaps later in the race. I have complete confidence that Klassical Dream will prove himself the best two-miler in the business over the coming weeks and months, and his road to redemption starts with victory in this historic Grade One at Leopardstown.