Leopardstown Tuesday Preview – The Christmas Hurdle
Analysis of the Christmas Hurdle
Won last year by Flooring Porter on the way to Stayers’ Hurdle success at the Cheltenham Festival, the Grade 1 Christmas Hurdle is one of two top level prizes on offer at Leopardstown on Tuesday. Our experts have gone through the 11 runners to pick out our selection below.
For a horse who had always looked an out-and-out two miler up until March, his career trajectory has taken a sharp turn as ABACADABRAS is set to run over three miles for the first time.
Every run over the minimum trip last season proved him inferior to the imperious Honeysuckle, but he still took home two Grade 1s due to his quality. One of those was the Aintree Hurdle over 2m 4f at the end of the season and he also reappeared over that distance at Fairyhouse in the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle.
Although once again well beaten by Honeysuckle, Abacadabras, did stay on better than some who were unable to keep up with the pace, finishing third. If he can maintain his best level of form over this staying trip, he will be in with a very sound chance.
Commander Of Fleet
Only one horse has been favourite for a Cheltenham Festival race in which Allaho has run that wasn’t the Ryanair winner himself.
That horse is COMMANDER OF FLEET, who led the market in the 2019 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle won by Minella Indo. He finished second in that contest and could well have been destined for the very top.
As it is, injuries have disrupted his career, but a handicap victory over this trip last time came as a surprise and suddenly have him back in the reckoning in Graded company. This may be a step too far for now, but he is on the right track again.
Last year’s Stayers’ Hurdle hero at the Festival, FLOORING PORTER racked up such an impressive and unexpected hat-trick that he almost convinced his audience that he had no quirks.
A handicap victory at Navan was followed by victory in this race last season as well as that Cheltenham triumph, but he always had the tendency to hang left and wander around. That has been seen to more obvious effect in his last two runs, when uncontrollably erratic at Punchestown before he fell at the last in the Lismullen Hurdle last month.
He looked like winning the latter race, however and this track will suit his flaws. He is worthy of strong consideration.
GRAND ROI is not easy to place in this field, but probably looks up against it in his first run in a Grade 1.
He has carried a penalty for winning a Limerick Grade 2 at this time last year against his own age group and has subsequently found it tough conceding weight to more experienced rivals.
He has run with credit, but a mark of 147 accurately reflects the ability he has shown so far and it is a long way off the quality required in this race.
It was one of the greatest training performances in recent seasons when Willie Mullins won the Punchestown Stayers’ Hurdle last season.
That’s because his former Supreme Novices’ winner, KLASSICAL DREAM, had been off the track for 487 days before clearing away to win by nine lengths.
Evidently getting this horse fit after a break is no barrier to success and so coming here first time out was probably the plan all along. He confirmed his wellbeing, jumping and stamina were all suited to this trip in that Punchestown race and he is now the horse to beat in this division.
Klassical Dream’s layoff was one thing, but MR ADJUDICATOR will be running over hurdles for the first time in 933 days when he runs on Tuesday.
It’s still well over two years since we’ve seen him race under any code. He was a Grade 1 winning juvenile and made a successful foray to France in June 2019 to win a Grade 2 as well.
However, the absence is simply far too much of a concern in this company, but it will be interesting to see how he fares.
His list of runner-up finishes will include a number of big races, but it now seems like RONALD PUMP is destined to fall short at the highest level.
He has been second twice to Honeysuckle in the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle, as well as to Lisnagar Oscar in the 2020 Stayers Hurdle. He does have the stamina for this trip, but was disappointing in the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot when racing too keenly.
That leaves him with questions to answer in what looks a more competitive field here, especially after a short break of only ten days. He would be on the premises if he could settle better and prove that he retains his race fitness.
By the time 2021 comes to an end, SALDIER would have raced more this year than in his three previous years combined with Willie Mullins.
Like stablemate Klassical Dream, there was a sense of frustration that injuries curtailed a substantial part of his career, as he won the 2019 Morgiana Hurdle, but struggled to meet a racecourse far too often.
He was eighth in the Punchestown Stayers earlier this year and really seemed to regain his fitness over the summer, scoring again in Grade 3 company in October thereafter. However, that was over two miles, which still seems to be more his trip.
Mouse Morris’ charge now seems almost certain to remain over hurdles after a second disappointing foray over fences at Galway in October.
After being a useful enough novice hurdler, SAMS PROFILE endured a spell on the sidelines, but was well below his best in two starts over fences last term. That was no barrier to Graded success over timber for him though, as he won Gowran’s Grade 2 Galmoy Hurdle in January.
He clearly sees out three miles very well, as that came on desperately heavy ground. Any rain would aid his cause further, but he’s among the more alluring each-way options, especially as it should be run to suit a staying test.
Sire Du Berlais
Clearly at his best at Cheltenham, it is unusual that the topography of Leopardstown hasn’t suited SIRE DU BERLAIS in the past.
He has won at two Festivals, both in the Pertemps Final, and was runner-up to Flooring Porter in the Stayers’ back in March. However, he was soundly beaten twice in handicap company at this track while also unable to challenge in this race last year.
That third-placed effort was his best at the course, but he probably needs a career best at any track to win her and given it has not always performed to 100% here, he is not a tempting option.
After a very promising second on the flat in the Cesarewitch, BURNING VICTORY looked on course to have a more successful spell over hurdles.
She won her first two in this sphere for Willie Mullins, including the Triumph Hurdle in 2020, but has been well beaten on all three starts since. Her first attempt at three miles went extremely poorly at Navan earlier this month when she went off favourite in handicap company.
That is form miles below the standard required in this race.
Big Race Verdict
One race was enough to confirm KLASSICAL DREAM as top dog in this division when he won impressively at Punchestown in April. That was after a long spell off the track and he should be fighting fit to go again here. Abacadabras and Flooring Porter are feared most while Sams Profile is a contender for the places at longer odds.