LEOPARDSTOWN CHRISTMAS FESTIVAL DAY 1
Alvisio Ville (WIN)
The next race on the card is another maiden hurdle, this time over the slightly longer trip of two miles and two furlong.
The hugely anticipated hurdles debut of the exciting bumper performer Joshua Lane. He is one of the horses wh was in my to follow list for the season and I did say it would not surprise to see him run in the Jp Macmanus silks and he has been bought since his last run by JP. Now while he is at a slight disadvantage to a few of these who have had a run, I think this horse could very well be a force to be reckoned with over hurdles this season. With a clear round I think he will take all the beating here as he should be capable of a mark in the 140+ bracket.
Next in betting here is the John Queally trained Uncle Danny who comes here after an encouraging hurdles debut 48 days ago. He shaped that day as if he needed farther so should appreciate the two furlong step up in trip here. While he does have race fitness on his side, I am not sure if he is going to be up to the same level as the jolly here and his future may lay in handicaps.
A bigger danger to the favourite could come in the shape of the Barry Connell owned Velvet Maker who has been unfortunate to bump in to two very smart performers on his last two starts. The thing is, he faces the same problem here as I think that Joshua Lane is another who looks potentially very smart too.
It would be a small bit of a surprise if the winner does not come from one of the three at the head of the market, but someone like Rock on the Moor could be the each way value. The half brother to the very useful Get me out of Here should appreciate the step up in trip and may be capable of running in to a place at a decent enough price.
Joshua Lane (WIN)
Dai Bando (E/W)
Next race on the cards is a competitive handicap hurdle run over two miles and two furlongs.
Heading the betting is the Tony Martin trained Spacious Sky who looks well ahead of the handicapper and I think it is just a case of when connections decide to let the hand break off. The biggest problem with a horse like Spacious Sky is that he likes to be dropped out at the back and you need a race to work out perfectly to win. The price of 7/2 looks fair enough but there are a few in this at a bigger price that look like each way punts. I think he looks the likely winner but I would be prepared to look for some each way value.
One that I like in this at a price is Westerners Son who could potentially be the best handicapped runner in the lineup on paper. He runs off a mark of 102 but twice faced Getoutwhenyoucan last season that would suggest a mark in the mid to high 120’s could be well within his scope. A slight worry here is that he returns from a 286 day absence and he may just be in need of the run on return.
My main fancy in this the Sandra Hughes trained four year old Vote of Confidence who looks on a lenient mark. Forget his last two runs, but his win at Cork is really eye catching as he had a very good horse in the shape of Alpha Des Obeaux in second. The horse in 3rd also gives the form some strength and a mark of 112 could be extremely lenient, as a mark in the 130 bracket looks within his scope. The cheek pieces also go on for the first time and this would suggest that a possible return to form is imminent, in his first foray in to handicap company.
The complete outsider of the party is Rocky Wednesday who has looked out of form for a considerable time. He did however win a race at this venue 12 months ago off a 10lbs higher mark. The cheek-pieces also go back on and this is the aid that he used to good effect when last successful. He is a quirky sort but he could make a return to form here and oblige at a decent price.
Westerners Son (E/W)
Vote of Confidence (E/W)
The Shepard King (E/W)
The feature race of the day is the Grade 1 Racing Post Novice Chase where Vautour is the warm favourite.
It is impossible to get away from Vautour in this who looked an absolute natural over fences on chasing debut but at a current price of 2/7, he is not a price for the casual punter to back. There is nothing really in this race that you could oppose him with and he renews rivalry with Clarcam who he comfortably held last time out.
Clarcam was well beaten by Vautour on chasing debut but he himself ran out an impressive winner on his next start. On the evidence of his chasing debut, you would think that he might struggle to turn form around with Vautour but he does look the most likely horse to follow him home.
The potential fly in the ointment is the Jp Mcmanus owned Chancol who has improved with every start and looks open to more improvement. Through collateral bumper form with Western Boy, I think he looks to have a good bit to find with Vautour though. Saying that, chasing was always going to be his game given his size so it is hard to know how high in climb up the ladder.
I think the only other runner you could give a serious chance to in this is the second Gigginstown runner, Real Steel. I think he fell just short of Grade 1 level last season and will have to show big improvement to get past Vautour. The remaining two runners look up against it.
If forced to have a bet in this it would probably be a punt on Clarcam in the betting without market as only a fall should stop Vautour from winning.
Space Cadet (WIN)