Leopardstown Christmas Festival tips – Selections for the third day of the Irish feature fixture

Get Brian Healy's race-by-race selections for the third day of the Leopardstown Christmas Festival meeting, featuring the Grade One Savills Chase.

The third day of the Leopardstown Christmas Festival meeting goes to post on Saturday where there is further Grade One action spearheading the racecard with the Savills Chase the highlight of the day.

In all, seven races go to post for Saturday’s card at the premier Irish venue, and in addition to the day’s feature there is further Grade One action with the Frank Ward Memorial Hurdle as well as competitive handicap action.

12:15 – Tote Supporting Leopardstown Maiden Hurdle (4yo) 2m4½f
12:50 – Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle (Qualifier) (4yo+) 3m
1:25 – Ballymaloe Foods Beginners Chase (4yo+) 2m5f
2:00 – Frank Ward Memorial Hurdle (Grade 1) (4yo+) 3m
2:35 – Irish Daily Star Christmas Handicap Hurdle (4yo+ 80-116) 2m4½f
3:10 – Savills Chase (Grade 1) (5yo+) 3m
3:40 – Midland Legal Solicitors INH Flat Race (4-7yo) 2m

Brian Healy gives his race-by-race selections for all seven of the day’s contests on the third day of the Fesive feature meeting in Ireland.

12:15 – Tote Supporting Leopardstown Maiden Hurdle (4yo) 2m4½f

Thurles bumper winner THE BOSSES OSCAR (SP) shaped really well on his hurdles debut at Punchestown last month where he was only beaten a half-length behind Blue Sari, and with that experience under his belt the Oscar gelding can open his win account over hurdles at the second attempt.

Twice placed between the flags, he was stepping up in trip for that last outing where he kept on well for the silver medal without quite managing to match the winner’s effort.

That form doesn’t look too bad with the fourth horse home running well in defeat since, while the sixth horse won next time out, and there could be better to come from here where he can show the benefit of that first experience of hurdles to go one better than on his debut.

12:50 – Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle (Qualifier) (4yo+) 3m

THE STORYTELLER (10/1, William Hill) got back on the scoresheet when successful back over hurdles at Clonmel earlier in the month, and Gordon Elliott’s charge might be able to follow up here.

The Shantou gelding won the 2018 Brown Advisory Plate at the Cheltenham Festival before adding Grade One success to his CV with a win at Punchestown in the April of that year when claiming the Growise Champion Novice Chase.

Things didn’t go to plan last term, but he was highly tried throughout and did post come very creditable efforts including when finishing third to Kemboy in the Punchestown Gold Cup back in May. Although disappointing on his reappearance at Gowran Park in the PWC Champion Chase, he ran well in defeat when sent Stateside for the Grand National Hurdle at Far Hills, and he latterly ran out a ready winner over Mary Frances latest where he scored by just over one length.

The likes of Total Recall and Rathvinden were both behind him, and he escapes a penalty for that win so can turn out here from the same mark, and he is still unexposed over this longer trip so may well have more to offer here where conditions will be no problem.

The Storyteller can strike another success at Leopardstown.

1:25 – Ballymaloe Foods Beginners Chase (4yo+) 2m5f

ALLAHO (SP) showed good form last term following his switch to Willie Mullins from France, finishing fourth in a bumper last Boxing Day before beating Minella Indo at Clonmel on his hurdles debut in a Grade Three contest.

The No Risk At All gelding wasn’t able to uphold that form in two subsequent clashes with that rival, finishing third in the Albert Bartlett before going one better but still beaten two lengths into the runner-up berth at Punchestown back in May.

Now switched to chasing, the Mullins runner could be worth chancing on his debut over the larger obstacles where he has the size to do well in this discipline, and he will likely prove a tough nut to crack if able to translate his classy hurdles form over fences.

Assuming he is fit enough on his reappearance then it wouldn’t come as a big shock to see a bold effort on his first attempt over the larger obstacles.

2:00 – Frank Ward Memorial Hurdle (Grade 1) (4yo+) 3m

PENHILL (9/2, Ladbrokes) probably needed his reappearance behind Honeysuckle in the recent Hatton’s Grace Hurdle, but with that outing under his belt the former Stayers’ Hurdle champion could leave that performance behind and prove much more competitive this time around.

The Mount Nelson gelding has proven to be a top-class and prolific winner throughout his career, but he’s been hard to keep sound with his last couple of seasons punctuated with lengthy absences. However, he returned from the thick end of a year off the track to beat Supasundae in the 2018 Stayers’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival before bumping into stablemate Faugheen on his next outing at Punchestown.

Subsequently absent following that run for almost 600 days, he trailed home last of six runners behind the ever-improving Honeysuckle last time, but he should strip a lot fitter for that return and might prove a different proposition now with underfoot conditions no problem.

While he does have to prove his well-being following that disappointing run in the wake of his long absence, he nevertheless could prove the answer here.

Trainer Willie Mullins can land a Grade One double on Saturday.

2:35 – Irish Daily Star Christmas Handicap Hurdle (4yo+ 80-116) 2m4½f

ENCORE LUI (SP) has hit the crossbar in two competitive handicap contests since returning from a break, finding only Dolly’s Destination and Bythesametoken too strong in respective outings at Navan last month, and Elizabeth Doyle’s charge could be worth chancing to go one better here.

The Al Namix gelding has only had a handful of starts over timber, and he was only beaten four lengths last time out having only been able to muster up one pace and he could be better served by this step up in trip.

He is only 2lbs higher in the weights here than for his last outing, and still relatively unexposed after only six starts over obstacles there is some reason to believe he might have more to offer still, and he could post a big effort here from a mark which remains workable.

3:10 – Savills Chase (Grade 1) (5yo+) 3m

KEMBOY (2/1, Coral) won this contest twelve months ago, and Willie Mullins’ charge can repeat the dose to make it back-to-back successes in this Grade One.

The Voix Du Nord gelding proved to be a top-class performer last term, only tasting defeat once when unseating his rider in the Cheltenham Gold Cup at the first fence; but he readily bounced back to beat dual-King George VI Chase winner Clan Des Obeaux when taking the Aintree Bowl, and he rounded off his campaign with another win, beating the Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Al Boum Photo by two lengths to take the Punchestown Gold Cup.

This is his seasonal reappearance, and so he gives up race-fitness to a very strong field of rivals; but he has gone well fresh in the past and these conditions will present no issues so if he’s fit enough to do himself justice then he ought to go close as he bids to successfully defend his crown.

Kemboy can win back-to-back Savills Chase titles.

3:40 – Midland Legal Solicitors INH Flat Race (4-7yo) 2m

FERNEY HOLLOW (SP) was very highly regarded ahead of his Rules debut in a bumper at Fairyhouse at the beginning of December, eventually finishing runner-up and bumping into a potentially high-class rival in Eric Bloodaxe who scored readily over Willie Mullins’ charge.

The Westerner gelding ran well in defeat, finishing six lengths clear of the third, and given that it was his first run then he could strip fitter and come on for the experience where he can prove an altogether different proposition in this latest outing.

He was a winner between the flags for Colin Bowe prior to joining the Closutton trainer, and he ought to go close here with that run under his belt.


12:50 – THE STORYTELLER (10/1, William Hill)
1:25 – ALLAHO (SP)
2:00 – PENHILL (9/2, Ladbrokes)
2:35 – ENCORE LUI (SP)
3:10 – KEMBOY (2/1, Coral)