Rising Star can shine brightest
Our horse-by-horse guide to Friday's Lexus Chase at Leopardstown.
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Scored a surprise victory in the Punchestown Gold Cup when last sighted to put to bed doubts about his ability to see out three miles on testing ground. Wore a tongue strap that day and may be able to go on from that victory with that aide retained. This race is stronger though and he could have his work cut out on his belated return following an early season setback.
Smart performer over both hurdles and fences although his fencing in the latter discipline hasn't always been up to scratch. Creditable efforts in defeat in the JNwine.com Champion Chase and Newbury's Hennessy Gold Cup this season but more's required in this company on ground that he handles but is far from his ideal.
Hugely exciting chaser who jumps, travels and has a change of gear. Landed his third Grade One victory and took his chase record to seven wins from eight starts when readily accounting for Sir Des Champs in the John Durkan Memorial at Punchestown. This is his first Rules start beyond two and a half miles but he's bred to get a trip and there's no reason to believe that he'll fail for a lack of stamina.
Has been beaten just twice in 11 races but they came at the hands of First Lieutenant (over hurdles) on his only previous attempt at a Grade One and when a close-up third to Sir Des Champs last January. Has impressed on both starts this season and has often given the impression that he was crying out for a step up to this trip (has won over two miles seven). Connections have always believed that he could be a Gold Cup horse and this is his first opportunity to prove that he can cut it in this company.
Something of a Cheltenham specialist but he has won at Prestbury Park and in testing conditions. He did give Tidal Bay 6lbs and a beating just under 12 months ago but has come up short on his three runs at the top level (fifth and seventh in the Gold Cup and held when falling in the JNwine.com Champion Chase) and it's hard to see why that should be any different today.
Won this race in 2010 but has been off the track since picking up an injury in the Gold Cup at Cheltenham later that season. A high-class performer at his best, reportedly in good order at home, has gone well fresh and relishes testing conditions but it remains to be seen how much ability he retains following his setback.
Quito De La Roque
More than a shade fortunate to make a winning reappearance last term and was then not sighted after finishing a well-beaten third in this contest. Has filled the same position on both starts this term - a beaten favourite on both occasions - and looks to be biting off more than he can chew in this company although he will relish the testing conditions.
Sir Des Champs
Tasted defeat for the first time since joining Willie Mullins when no match for Flemenstar in the John Durkan. That was his first run of the season, however, so he's entitled to improve for that while connections have been looking forward to stepping him back up to three miles which could unlock further progress. Unwise, therefore, to think that the form of his latest start is as good as he is and he'll be fancied to give the favourite plenty to think about.
Talented but enigmatic chaser who hasn't always consented to give his all. His second in the Hennessy Gold Cup was as good a run as he's produced, however, and he's had relatively few chances for his current connections. Conditions will prove no problem for him and it would be no great surprise to see him on the premises but he hasn't won a Grade One contest since the spring of 2008 suggesting a minor role is on the cards once more.
An absolutely wonderful contest full of future promise with the majority of the attention being focused on Sir Des Champs and Flemenstar.
That pair are hugely exciting but there's a temptation to focus on the 'new shiny toys' and that would be a huge disservice to Pandorama, China Rock and First Lieutenant.
The former, in particular, looks a big price as he's a hugely talented individual granted his conditions and Noel Meade will surely have him straight enough given the company he's being asked to keep.
He makes some each-way appeal in excess of 20/1 while there should be more to come from Hidden Cyclone and he's also interesting at close to a double figure price but there don't appear to be any chinks in Flemenstar's armour and he's taken to continue his relentless march towards the top of the chasing tree.