Side with Sir at Leopardstown
Man On The Spot previews the third day of action from Leopardstown's Christmas Festival.
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Willie Mullins has won the last two renewals so Shamar, a dual winner on the Flat in France, has to be respected though he's jumped poorly on both starts over timber. Foxrock is an expensive purchase from the point-to-point field who started odds-on when making a winning debut at Loughrea in October while Sizing Solution, who made a promising start over timber at Wexford in June, won a point at Ballydarragh by 15l three weeks ago.
Thunder And Roses easily landed a Naas bumper before starting odds-on on his hurdling debut at Cork but found Tennis Cap too strong. He'll be thereabouts but MALA BEACH ran so well in a very strong Fairyhouse maiden won by Bright New Dawn that he's handed the vote in a race that should produce plenty of future winners.
If Per Chance hasn't had much experience over hurdles but has been going well on the Flat and can go well from his lowly spot in the handicap.
Flying Light was a bit disappointing at Galway after easily landing a maiden there earlier but several of these arrive in top form including Grange, who is improving fast and was a very convincing winner at Punchestown last month. He's been handed an 11lb rise but should still get involved and can hold hat-trick seeking Doc Hollywood, who has been raised a massive 13lb for a narrow success at Fairyhouse.
TREAT YOURSELF may have been slightly fortunate to score at Gowran last time as his nearest rival stumbled after the last. However, he may have hit the front too soon that day and a 7lb rise is completely negated by Gareth Malone's claim so he's handed the vote.
A tremendous line up here, easily worthy of Grade 1 status. Voler La Vedette won this a year ago but hasn't looked at her best in her two runs this season. Beaten by Whatuthink when long odds-on at Navan, she had no answer to ZAIDPOUR and Monksland in the Hatton's Grace at Fairyhouse though a moderate gallop wouldn't have aided her cause.
The winner had beaten her narrowly in the Galmoy Hurdle over this trip at Gowran in January and it's difficult to see a reversal of that form. Monksland hasn't had the experience of those rivals and there's probably more to come over today's trip, which he races over for the first time under Rules.
So Young set the pace in the Hatton's Grace but couldn't find a finishing burst so this longer trip may be in his favour while it's good to see the 2010 RSA Chase winner Weapon's Amnesty back in action and he's still young enough to make his presence felt when reverting to fences.
Quiscover Fontaine won this for Willie Mullins and AP McCoy last year in a tremendous battle with PIRES and Wilde Wit Pleasure. The winner hasn't run since falling in the Grand National and the runner-up gets the nod as he arrives in excellent shape having won twice over fences recently.
Mullins is also represented by Supreme Carolina, who won a maiden at Kilbeggan in May before a poor run there the following month. She doesn't look good enough at this stage but El Fontan, who is better known as a chaser these days, has to be respected back over hurdles. Dont Tell Pa has been going well in handicaps but has a bit to find on official ratings as does Sizing Italy, though he's a progressive type who can do better.
A very high quality renewal of a race that amazingly Willie Mullins hasn't won. The champion trainer is represented by Aupcharlie and BACK IN FOCUS and though the former is a very promising chaser it's the latter who looks the one to be on.
A winning point-to-pointer and Grade 2 winning hurdler, he's taken to fences in tremendous style and looked a future champion stayer when galloping today's rival Lyreen Legend into the ground at Punchestown last month. Benefficient had no answer to Arvika Ligeoniere here on Wednesday but will have found the trip much too short though Dedigout, who was beaten 11l by that winner at Fairyhouse earlier this month, looks more of a threat.
Tofino Bay battled to victory in a tough handicap at Navan last month and will be suited by a thorough test of stamina while there are plenty more options in what should be a tremendous and informative contest.
The highlight of a brilliant day's racing. UK raiders have won six of the last nine with Paul Nicholls successful twice. He's represented this time by Tidal Bay, already the winner of 13 of his 37 races though surprisingly having his first start outside of the UK.
He remains in outstanding form and could hardly have run any better when attempting to concede Bobs Worth 6lb in the Hennessy last time and Ruby Walsh will certainly ensure his stamina comes into play, especially as Flemenstar is untried over the trip. Peter Casey's stable star has been absolutely brilliant in winning his last seven starts on all types of ground.
His trainer believes he could be even better over this trip and he won a point-to-point as a youngster but his impressive victory over SIR DES CHAMPS in the John Durkan left some questions unanswered.
Willie Mullins' charge was never able to get in a blow that day but that was his first start since he won the Champion Novice Chase at Punchestown in April.
He'll be much better suited by the longer trip here and is taken to reverse the form and jump to the head of the Gold Cup betting. Midnight Chase holds a verdict over Tidal Bay though that was at Cheltenham where he has an outstanding record. Hidden Cyclone wasn't beaten far by the selection here in January and could prove best of the remainder.
TANGLED WEB was unfortunate to come up against a heavily-backed newcomer when runner-up to Drumlee at Thurles. Charlie Swan's charge travelled nicely for much of the way but had no answer to the winner, who was obviously strongly fancied. Compensation awaits here though Bally Longford will provide a threat.
He looks more of a staying type after failing to find a finishing burst at Downpatrick though he should still have enough in the locker to see off Gabriel Brandy, who has looked one-paced in both starts to date. Colm Murphy's newcomer Hurt is a half-brother to a winning miler and could prove the pick of the remainder.