Irish racing expert Donn McClean previews today's high-class action from Leopardstown and he fancies Outlander to enhance his fine course record.
Donn McClean's selections
It was on this day last year that Sizing John announced himself as a staying chaser of the highest calibre when he won the Unibet Irish Gold Cup. No Sizing John this year, he is busy preparing for Cheltenham, but the race still revolves around his trainer Jessica Harrington.
It will be some training performance by Harrington if she can get Our Duke, the horse who finished seventh in the JNwine.com Champion Chase at Down Royal in November, 50 lengths behind the winner, to bounce back and win the Irish Gold Cup on his next run. But that is well within the compass of the Moone trainer. (Ref. Supasundae yesterday, having his prep run for the Stayers' Hurdle.)
Our Duke is reportedly fit and well and sparkling again after his back operation, and the performance that he put up in winning the Irish Grand National last year, a novice carrying 11st 4lb, was one of the high points of a Himalayan season. But he is short, and OUTLANDER may represent some value against him.
The Gigginstown House runner is one of those horses who probably does not get the recognition that he is due, possibly because his record at the Cheltenham Festival reads 6F0. But his record at Leopardstown reads 11113, and that is obviously much more relevant in the context of today's race.
Three years ago he won the Nathaniel Lacy & Partners novice hurdle, then a Grade 2 contest, that is now a part of this meeting, and two years ago he won the Grade 1 Flogas Chase on today's card. Then last season he won the Lexus Chase in December, over today's course and distance. He battled on bravely up his favourite hill to get the better of Don Poli and Djakadam and Valseur Lido under Jack Kennedy, who was booting home his first Grade 1 winner.
The Gordon Elliott-trained gelding is good away from Leopardstown all right, as he proved when he got the better of Cheltenham Gold Cup aspirant Road To Respect in the JNwine.com Champion Chase at Down Royal in November, the race in which Our Duke disappointed. The runner-up did race a little keenly that day, and he did jump to his left, and he has almost certainly improved since, but Outlander still battled on well to beat him, and the pair of them finished 14 lengths clear of their rivals.
It’s just that Outlander is probably better at Leoparsdstown that he is anywhere else.
It is a fascinating race: Anibale Fly stepping back up into Grade 1 company after running out an impressive winner of the Paddy Power Chase under 11st 8lb, Killultagh Vic running in his first chase since that remarkable recovery at the final fence here over two years ago, Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up Minella Rocco, Cheltenham Gold Cup perennial Djakadam.
In all of that, however, the 11/2 at which Outlander is available, back at Leopardstown, is more than fair.
Total Recall is an obvious standout in the William Fry Handicap Hurdle. He did really well to win the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury, he battled on well to get the better of Whisper, the pair of them clear, and his new chase rating is 31lb higher than the hurdles rating of 125 off which he races here.
His chase rating has been raised by 27lb since he joined Willie Mullins so, if he has improved by that much as a chaser since joining the champion trainer, there is every chance that he has also improved as a hurdler.
That said, A GREAT VIEW is a progressive young staying hurdler who has the potential to go beyond the handicap rating of 131 off which he races today.
Fourth in a handicap hurdle at Fairyhouse on Hatton’s Grace Hurdle weekend in early December, he stepped forward from that last time when he went down by just a short head to Mine Now over today’s course and distance at the Christmas Festival.
He came from a long way back that day, the fact that they by-passed the final flight didn’t help, and he only just failed to catch the winner in a race that is already working out well.
The handicapper raised him by 5lb for that, but he is only seven and he is progressive. The fitting of cheekpieces today for the first time could elicit even further improvement, and Barry Geraghty is set to ride him for the first time this season. Hopefully all 16 remaining runners stand their ground now and, if they do, he is an each-way bet.