Day three of Leopardstown’s Christmas Festival is today’s highlight and the feature race is the Grade 1 Savills Chase over three miles although once again the dual Gold Cup winner Al Boum Photo bypasses the race to wait for a lap of honour at Thurles at New Year.
Last year’s winner Delta Work looks sure to come on for his seasonal reappearance when fifth at Down Royal but last year’s success was gained on good ground and Storm Bella hit the track on Sunday evening and conditions look sure to be soft for today’s feature. Samcro and A Plus Tard will have their supporters stepping up in trip and Presenting Percy bounced back to something like his best when scoring at Thurles last time although runner up Kemboy – who won this race back in 2018 – did not jump with any fluency.
I believe the key to the race is last season’s RSA Chase at Cheltenham which was dominated by Minella Indo (2.25) and Allaho before the pair were mugged on the line by Champ. Minella Indo – 11/4 with BetVictor – will have appreciated every drop of rain that hit the track on St Stephen’s Day, and I feel Rachel Blackmore will emulate Bryony Frost and win the feature race of the meeting.
Minella Indo has jumped superbly in winning two small races so far this term but this is the acid test of his Gold Cup credentials. It is an examination I believe he will pass.
The other Grade 1 on the card is the Christmas Hurdle over three miles. Sire Du Berlais has won the last two editions of the Pertemps Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival including from a mark of 152 back in March. He showed he was up to graded company when landing a Grade 2 at Navan over an inadequate trip on his reappearance and this return to 3m will suit.
Marginal preference, however, is for Ronald Pump (1.15) who gave Honeysuckle a fright over two-and-a-half miles last time and will appreciate the step back up in trip. Second in the Stayers’ Hurdle at the Festival, he fell two out when Sire Du Berlais won on his reappearance, but that race was not run to suit and he would have finished third had he stayed on his feet. The selection is 4s with BetVictor.
At Catterick Goldencard is likely to be all the rage in the opener but I am not convinced he is crying out for a step up in distance and the each way alternative is Loco Coco (11.50) who won a point over this trip last April and was backed into favouritism on his chase debut when he jumped well but went out like a light. He looks sure to come on for the run although he travelled like much the best horse in the race. The Tim Vaughan stable could certainly do with a winner and they have certainly found a weak looking contest. The ew recommendation is 6s with BetVictor.
Tortuga Bay (12.55) improved for the application of cheekpieces over hurdles and a 4lbs rise looks fair as she switches her attention to the larger obstacles. A winner between the flags champion jockey Brian Hughes keeps the ride and the hope is that the headgear works the oracle a second time. The form of the James Ewart stable is a cause for concern, but the mare is taken to follow up in another moderate contest. I am surprised she is not favourite although she is only a best price of 15/8 with 10bet at the time of posting.
Jamie Snowden fits Anythingforlove (2.00) with a first-time tongue-tie in the mares’ hurdle and I feel she will follow up an impressive win at Lingfield last time when she floated over the heavy ground. The mare – 11/8 with Boylesports – carries a 6lbs penalty for that success, but she looked a useful sort when winning both Bumpers last term and she can give the weight to Sashenka who was useful on the flat and made a satisfactory first start over timber when second – beaten 8L – at Wincanton last month.