With the Cheltenham festival less than six weeks away we get a real insight to the Irish challenge this weekend as Leopardstown takes centre stage. Seven grade ones and competitive handicaps, surely we will see clues a plenty for March.
Ivanovich Gorbatov – Saturday 16.05 Coral Hurdle
The former Triumph winner will be aimed at Cheltenham again after finishing sixth in the County Hurdle last year. This may well be where he ends up again. This time he will be rated in the mid-140s and should have a lovely racing weight in what is quickly becoming a much classier handicap.
He runs in the Grade B Coral Hurdle off top weight and currently priced around 20/1, but this will be a prep run towards Cheltenham as everyone knows he will hate the soft ground and thrive on spring festival ground. Donnie McInerney is a very talented claimer and will relish the opportunity to familiarise himself with the Grade One winner.
1pt win Ivanovich Gorbatov County Hurdle 25/1 NRNB Bet365
Debuchet – Sunday 13.50 Deloitte Novices Hurdle
Mags Mullins Champion Bumper runner up has had a torrid time this season. Missing a number of days work via little setbacks. I had fully expected this grey gelding to win at Christmas time when finishing fourth in a course and distance maiden. The form of that race looks relatively moderate; however I am willing to forgive.
Debuchet was mugged by Jamie Codd and the ill-fated potential superstar Fayonagh at the festival last year, showing a likeness of the course and spring ground. The champion bumper looks strong form, with the third, fourth and fifth (to a lesser extent) all enhancing the appeal.
This Grade One on Sunday will make or break for Debuchet season. If he runs well will likely go to the festival, if not will be put away, so while not a betting proposition for this weekend with NRNB in place his price for the Supremes looks big.
1pt win Debuchet Supreme Novices 33/1 NRNB Bet365
Killultagh Vic – Sunday 15.35 Irish Gold Cup
Hopefully some of you will have read my preview of this race with the recommendation of Outlander at 14/1. That price has well and truly gone, so fingers crossed we get the run expected.
While I strongly fancy Outlander here it is interesting that Killultagh Vic will take his place in the line-up. The once smart novice chaser and winner of the Martin Pipe hurdle returned showing no ill feelings towards the game after a horror mistake this time two years ago. He came back with an impressive win over hurdles, he is entitled to have needed that run and should strip fitter a tilt at the Irish Gold Cup.
Willie Mullins main target however is likely to be the Cheltenham Gold Cup. The other horses from his yard talked about running have fallen by the wayside. Acappella Bourgeois and Yorkhill will now be re-routed leaving the admirable Djakadam and Killultagh Vic. While the latter is a nine year old he has little mileage on the clock and could still progress.
1pt win Killultagh Vic Cheltenham Gold Cup 20/1 NRNB Bet365