Leopardstown Wednesday Preview – The Matheson Hurdle

Sharjah could make history with a fourth victory in the Matheson Hurdle on Wednesday.Sharjah could make history with a fourth victory in the Matheson Hurdle on Wednesday.

Analysis of the Matheson Hurdle

Of all the Grade 1 races over the Christmas period, the Matheson Hurdle is the one in which history may be made this year. Find out why below, alongside our big race tip.


Felix Desjy

Though he is routinely seen in Graded races throughout the season, both over hurdles and fences, FELIX DESJY has not made a mark at the top level since his novice days over the former.

He was actually favourite for the Racing Post Novice Chase at Leopardstown’s Christmas meeting last season, but his third placed finish is reflective of the level of ability he is able to show.

Ultimately, he needs a massive career best to be able to win this.


Petit Mouchoir

There is an often quoted statistic regarding PETIT MOUCHOIR and it is perhaps unfair given how consistent he has been for connections.

It is nevertheless worth stating again in the context of his chances here: he has not won a race of any kind for over four years.

He has been second in now fewer than four Grade 1s since then, as well as in the County Hurdle at last year’s Cheltenham Festival. However, though he was a respectable third in this race last year, he requires far more even than that day.

Petit Mouchoir (grey) will look to end a long losing streak.

Petit Mouchoir (grey) will look to end a long losing streak.


Saint Roi

Much was expected of SAINT ROI at the start of last season, but he swiftly underwhelmed in Grade 1 company.

He had been one of the easiest winners of the 2020 Cheltenham Festival when sprinting clear in the County Hurdle off a very favourable mark. He also took a Grade 3 in Ireland on his return last term, but after a narrow defeat in the Morgiana Hurdle, he was only fourth in this and also in the Irish Champion Hurdle.

That he hasn’t run since may actually be to his benefit, as he has gone well fresh for two of his victories. He is also still only six and this is not a strong renewal, so he may well pinch a place.


Sharjah

Much maligned, but richly talented, SHARJAH will gain a place in history if victorious on Wednesday.

That is because it will be his fourth successive win in the Matheson Hurdle, something only Hurricane Fly and Istabraq, two legends of the game, have managed. Remarkably, Sharjah’s SPs in the previous three renewals have been 6/1, 9/2 and 11/2.

He has never even been close to favouritism, but he certainly will be this year. He arrives off a comprehensive win in the Morgiana Hurdle and he looks to have improved season upon season. He is a clear second best to Honeysuckle in this division and it would be a shock if he were to lose his unbeaten record in this race.


Zanahiyr

ZANAHIYR was very disappointing in the Triumph Hurdle at last year’s Festival, there is nevertheless a good chance that he is the best of last season’s juveniles.

He looked like a future star at the beginning of last season, winning the Knight Frank Juvenile Hurdle at this meeting a year ago before surprise defeats at Cheltenham and Punchestown, but neither of those runs were awful and he cruised to a Grade 2 success on his reappearance.

He found Sharjah too strong at the finish in the Morgiana Hurdle, but could come on for that and has plenty of time to improve.


Echoes In Rain

The only mare in this field, ECHOES IN RAIN represents that demographic which has been so successful in this division in recent years.

That and her reputation as an improver last term possibly led to some overestimation in her abilities as far as the antepost markets were concerned. She was second favourite for the Champion Hurdle before putting in a below par effort in the Morgiana Hurdle to finish last of three.

She could strip fitter here, but she will need to improve at least a stone to challenge her stablemate.


Big Race Verdict

There’s no opposing SHARJAH, a winner of this for the last three years and this will be arguably the weakest renewal he has run in. He may even still be improving at the age of eight and looks a clear second best in this division to Honeysuckle. Zanahiyr and Saint Roi could make a race of it.