The Leopardstown Christmas Meeting continues this afternoon with some more top class action, and here with a trio of bets to consider is Gary O'Brien...
"He has already notched up a couple of easy victories this term, the latest at Wexford in October, and with the ground drying out to good could enjoy an edge over stable-companion Battleoverdoyen and the inexperienced Minella Indo."
Willie Mullins has had to endure his share of high-profile reverses at this year's Leopardstown Christmas meeting but the champion trainer has still sent out four winners and it is highly likely that he will add to that tally on the final day.
In particular the Grade 3 Mares Hurdle at 13:20 looks virtually certain to go to Closutton for the fourth year in a row, with Mullins responsible for the top three in the betting. The diminutive Stormy Ireland is understandably a short-priced favourite after starting the season with a decisive victory at Punchestown last month but I fancy stable-companion Eglantine Du Seuil, who was back in third then, to make much more of a race of it this time and suggest backing her each-way.
A shock 40/1 winner of the Dawn Run Mares Novice Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, providing jockey Noel Fehily with what would prove to be his last winner at the marquee fixture, the daughter of Saddler Maker took her form to another level with her third to Reserve Tank in a Grade 1 at Punchestown on her final start of the season. She travelled with notable zest on her aforementioned reappearance before tiring late on and today's extra quarter-mile gives her a sporting chance of turning the tables on her more exposed conqueror, with whom she is 1lb better off.
Champagne can provide us with a Classic winner
Champagne Classic, who was memorably described by Michael O'Leary as "the worst horse I own" after landing the Martin Pipe Conditionals Hurdle at Cheltenham, might well have been underestimated by the layers for the Grade 1 Neville Hotels Novice Chase at 13:55.
The leading owner, who has enjoyed a tremendous week already, as usual had his tongue firmly in his cheek when making that remark and the horse duly went on to win a Grade 1 at Punchestown that contained the likes of Penhill, Al Boum Photo and Presenting Percy.
Leg trouble meant that he only made it back to the track last January, and thrown in at the deep end for his first two outings over fences he performed well in defeat against Chris's Dream on both occasions. He has already notched up a couple of easy victories this term, the latest at Wexford in October, and with the ground drying out to good could enjoy an edge over stable-companion Battleoverdoyen and the inexperienced Minella Indo.
Lightly-race 6yo hoping to be on Best Behavior
The opening 2m5f Handicap Chase at 12:10 is a potentially warm race for the grade, with several members of the field appealing as potentially having at least a few pounds up their sleeves. Of these the one who makes most appeal is Best Behavior, and this lightly-raced six year-old could be a major player provided a lack of experience doesn't catch him out on his first start outside of novice company.
Useful over hurdles, winning a maiden at Naas before chasing home the smart Uradel in a rated event back there a fortnight later, the Beneficial gelding didn't get off to the best of starts in this discipline when unseating his rider on his first two attempts. However he has since managed a couple of confidence-boosting completions and the latter of them, an eye-catching fifth to the impressive Bapaume back at the County Kildare track earlier this month, suggests he could have got in here on a nice initial mark. The stable was back amongst the winners yesterday too.