Leopardstown Christmas Festival tips – Selections for day one of the Irish festive feature

Brian Healy takes a race-by-race look at the day one racecard for the Leopardstown Christmas Festival meeting and gives his selections for a cracking card.

There will be plenty of attention on Kempton’s Boxing Day racecard on Thursday, but the King George VI Chase racecard shouldn’t detract from the first of four days’ top-class horse racing action in Ireland where the opening day of the Leopardstown Christmas Festival gets underway.

A classy seven-race card is dominated by Grade One action with the Racing Post Novice Chase, while there is also Grade Two action in the shape of the Knight Frank Juvenile Hurdle.

12:10 – Bet With Tote Maiden Hurdle (4yo) 2m
12:40 – Thorntons Recycling Maiden Hurdle (5yo+) 2m
1:10 – Knight Frank Juvenile Hurdle (Grade 2) (3yo) 2m
1:45 – Holden Plant Rentals Novice Handicap Hurdle (4yo+) 2m
2:20 – Racing Post Novice Chase (Grade 1) (4yo+) 2m1f
2:55 – “Bet Through The Free Racing Post App” Handicap Chase (4yo+) 2m1f
3:30 – Meetings That Matter On Racing TV Flat Race (4yo) 2m

With competitive handicap action also on the card, it is a not-to-be-missed Boxing Day treat at the premier Irish jumps venue, and Brian Healy looks through the day one racecard where he gives his race-by-race selections on a cracking day of jumps racing action.

12:10 – Bet With Tote Maiden Hurdle (4yo) 2m

Klassical Dream won this race twelve months ago, and it could well be the same combination of Paul Townend and Willie Mullins who come out on top again with FILS SPIRITUEL (4/1, Coral) who can get off teh mark.

A French bumper winner, the Presenting gelding caught the eye finishing fifth on his first outing for the County Carlow handler at Punchestown in November, although there is a strong suspicion that run was needed in finishing fifth behind Cavalry Master where he was beaten the thick end of twenty lengths.

That form could prove to be decent in time, and he is open to improvement on the back of that initial experience which was his first run in seven months, so he is entitled to strip fitter with that run under his belt where it would be no surprise to see him step up on that effort and prove a different proposition now for his top connections.

Jockey Paul Townend can get Leopardstown off to a winning start.

12:40 – Thorntons Recycling Maiden Hurdle (5yo+) 2m

THE VERY MAN (8/1, Bet365) had looked set to go close on his hurdles debut at Punchestown in October, holding every chance over the last hurdle when falling; but Gordon Elliott’s charge ran well on his next outing at Fairyhouse when finishing just over four lengths’ third behind Unexcepted where he perhaps just found the conditions too testing.

The Jeremy gelding was a winner between the flags before joining this yard, and he struck at the first time of asking switched to the Meath handler when winning a Navan bumper last December where he was an impressive winner over Neptune.

He was absent for more than four months following that run, returning in a Fairyhouse contest in April where he shaped as if amiss, and he was subsequently absent again until that reappearance in October.

He looks one who could still have further progress to come over hurdles, and the winner of his last outing looked a very smart prospect so he perhaps shouldn’t be judged too harshly on that evidence. With the potential for better still, he could be worth chancing to get off the mark over hurdles at the third attempt with Davy Russell in the saddle.

1:10 – Knight Frank Juvenile Hurdle (Grade 2) (3yo) 2m

A WAVE OF THE SEA (5/1, Coral) has already shown a good level of ability over hurdles, winning at Punchestown and Down Royal before finding only a similarly smart rival in Cerberus too strong in a Grade Three at Fairyhouse earlier in the month.

The Born To Sea gelding had beaten the same rival at Punchestown previously off level weights, but he wasn’t quite up to the task of confirming that form giving Cerberus 4lbs on their latest encounter.

Although he proved no match for the winner in that last outing, he still pulled clear of the third in what was another useful effort by the youngster, and he can get back to winning ways here where he remains with promise.

Trainer Joseph O’Brien equips him with cheekpieces now which may help to elicit some improvement, and he could find further progress in the headgear to get back on the scoresheet in this Grade Two contest.

1:45 – Holden Plant Rentals Novice Handicap Hurdle (4yo+) 2m

FATHER AILBE (12/1, Bet365) has looked steadily progressive since joining Gavin Cromwell, getting off the mark at Limerick late last month when beating .Killa colla by just over six lengths.

The Excelebration gelding had previously shown some useful form both on the flat and over hurdles prior to that breakthrough success for his current yard, and there is every chance that there could be better still to come from him given he remains relatively unexposed in this sphere.

The handicapper certainly appears to have taken few chances with the youngster, hitting him with a 10lbs rise in the weights which looks harsh on the face of the bare form of that winning run latest; but he could still be improving, and it wouldn’t come as a surprise in an open contest to see him competitive again.

If he can find another jolt of improvement then he can get involved at the business end with Johnathan Moore taking over from a claimer for this latest outing.

Gavin Cromwell can saddle a winner at Leopardstown on Boxing Day.

2:20 – Racing Post Novice Chase (Grade 1) (4yo+) 2m1f

Fakir D’oudairies was perhaps fortunate to capitalise on the fall of Samcro last time, while Laurina made a good switch to chasing but perhaps just needs to brush up a little in that department.

It could then be worth taking a chance on NOTEBOOK (9/1, Unibet) to dent a couple of lofty reputations, and the Samum gelding has made a solid switch to chasing of his own where he is 2-2 since switching to the larger obstacles.

Henry de Bromhead’s charge was a useful hurdler, winning at Tramore last New Years’ Day, after which he finished runner-up in a Grade Three before struggling in the Ballymore Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

However, he finished off last season with a solid runner-up effort behind Gardens Of Babylon at Punchestown, and having since switched to the larger obstacles he has collected back-to-back wins at that venue, including the Grade Two Craddockstown Novice Chase latest where he roped to a five lengths’ victory over Moon Over Germany.

This is obviously tougher against some highly-regarded rivals, but he hasn’t put a foot wrong in his two chase starts to date and there every possibility that there could be better still to come. He looks a value shout then against the top two, and he probably wouldn’t need to improve too much on his runs to date to get involved.

2:55 – “Bet Through The Free Racing Post App” Handicap Chase (4yo+) 2m1f

CALLTHEBARMAN (13/2, BetVictor) had looked set to go close at Down Royal latest when unseating his rider after the last where he held a narrow advantage, and Gavin Cromwell’s charge could make amends here with a clear round.

The Lord Shanakill gelding had won over fences at Perth back in July, after which he ran well in defeat over hurdles before resuming winning ways at Navan in September, beating Iamastartoo by four lengths.

He wouldn’t have been far away latest but for that last fence blunder on his last start which saw him get rid of his rider a few strides after the obstacle; but the performance was enough to see the handicapper hit him with a 5lbs rise in the weights.

Nevertheless, he still remains with scope to do better over fences after only a handful of starts in this discipline, and he could be worth chancing to atone for that recent last-flight mistake where he could collect this prize.

Fakir D’Oudairies is one of the stars on show on day one of Leopardstown.

3:30 – Meetings That Matter On Racing TV Flat Race (4yo) 2m

RISK FACTOR (5/1, Paddy Power) makes his return to action from five months off the track, and Joseph O’Brien’s charge sets a decent standard on his two runs to date, and the Duke Of Marmalade gelding can open his account here at the third attempt.

Runner-up on both starts to date, he latterly found only Russian Diamond too strong by one length at Galway back in July, not helped by being hampered late which allowed the winner to get first run on him.

He had the best part of four lengths to spare over the third horse home however, and that race has thrown up several subsequent winners so the form looks solid. While he may ideally want a bit further than this, he has a top amateur in the plate again and there appears no reason why he can’t give another good account so no surprise to see him getting involved again.


12:10 – FILS SPIRITUEL (4/1, Coral)
12:40 – THE VERY MAN (8/1, Bet365)
1:10 – A WAVE OF THE SEA (5/1, Coral)
1:45 – FATHER AILBE (12/1, Bet365)
2:20 – NOTEBOOK (9/1, Unibet)
2:55 – CALLTHEBARMAN (13/2, BetVictor)
3:30 – RISK FACTOR (5/1, Paddy Power)