Betfair Ambassador Gordon Elliott fills us in on his plans for a busy Christmas period, with star runners in action at Leopardstown...
"I’d say we could see Fury Road, Sire Du Berlais and The Storyteller all run in the Christmas Hurdle over three miles at Leopardstown on 28 December."
The four days after Christmas are always hugely important for us and, while this year will be very different in many ways, it will be business as usual in terms of runners.
Over the four days of Leopardstown and Limerick, we will be pretty busy and hopefully we can emerge from those festivals with a reasonable haul of winners. I'd like to think we have strong contenders for some of the big races over the next week.
Leopardstown at Christmas is both an important and special meeting but it won't be the same without fans there this year. It will feel strange as there is always a great buzz around the place which won't be there unfortunately. One thing that will stay the same is the quality of action on the track and we're running plenty of our big names so it's going to be an exciting few days.
Saving Envoi Allen for Punchestown
He is one horse who won't be in action over Christmas. We've made the decision to head to Punchestown on January 17 for a Grade 3 novice chase over two-and-a-half miles and it looks a very suitable race for him before we prepare him for the major spring Festivals.
Felix Desjy to hold his own in top company
The logical race for him is the Racing Post Novice Chase at Leopardstown on Saturday.
I think he has taken well to fences and the form of his Grade 2 win last time suggested that he would be up to holding his own in top company. He's become a lot more settled which is a great help in terms of how we ride him.
Promising duo have Leopardstown in their sights
Zanahiyr could well run in the Grade 2 Knight Frank Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown on December 26. He's in great shape and came out of his last run very well so we're keen to let him take his chance.
Quilixios was under consideration for a trip to Chepstow for the Finale Hurdle but he won't be going there now and I'd say he could be declared for Leopardstown in the morning. He's a lovely horse and you'd like what he has done on his first couple of runs and I'm looking forward to testing him in graded company. I would like to see a bit of rain fall for him though.
Plenty to come from Ballyadam
The plan with Ballyadam was always the Future Champions Novice Hurdle on December 27. He could have jumped better in the Royal Bond last time but I think he will have learnt a lot from that run and he is still a young a raw horse so I'd be hoping there is plenty of improvement to come from him. He is probably the one they have to beat.
Fury Road, Sire Du Berlais and The Storyteller could run in Christmas Hurdle
I'd say we could see run all three of these in the Christmas Hurdle over three miles. Fury Road was a really good staying novice and the form of his Albert Bartlett third at Cheltenham looks strong. I'm hoping he will make up into a strong Stayers Hurdle contender in the spring. He does like some ease in the ground so we will keep an eye on the ground at Leopardstown.
Sire Du Berlais is heading down the Stayers route after winning the last two Pertemps Finals at Cheltenham. I was delighted with his comeback win at Navan and he's improved for that run and the step up to three miles. He is another who wouldn't mind any easing in the ground.
The Storyteller is a great favourite around the yard and has done us proud this season already. I think he's as good over hurdles as he is over fences and we're trying him at this level to see what sort of route we might take him through the second half of the season
Strong three set for Savills Chase
The Savills Chase on December 28 is going to be one of the races of the season and I'd like to think we are fielding three strong candidates.
Delta Work won the race last year and then won the Irish Gold Cup in February. He is a real Leopardstown specialist and I'm very pleased with how he has come forward from his first run of the season at Down Royal.
Presenting Percy was impressive at Thurles last time and looks to be back on track. I think he showed at Thurles that he could still be a Gold Cup player and he is another who has probably improved again since his last run. I'm really looking forward to running him.
It's going to be fascinating to see how Samcro gets on at three miles. I could see him travelling best of all on the run to two out and what happens after that is a bit of an unknown. A big run here would open up new options for him and, while the trip is an unknown, I can say that the better ground will suit him very well.
Weighing up options for Conflated and Pencilfulloflead
We might try Conflated in the Neville Hotels Chase over three miles on the 29th. He won very well over two-and-a-half miles at Navan last time and seems to be a horse who is only coming to himself now that we have moved him up in trip. Three miles is an unknown but he looks to me like he will get that far.
Pencilfulloflead has made a great start to the season with two wins including a Grade 2 at Punchestown. He could go to Leopardstown on the 29th but soft ground is quite important to him I'd say so we might look at bringing him to Limerick on the 26th for the Grade 1 Matchbook Exchange Faugheen Novice Chase.
Abacadabras can produce magic while Petit Mouchoir gets started
The Matheson Hurdle looks a great race to bring down the curtain on Leopardstown's Christmas meeting. Many of the best hurdlers in the country are all entered but I wouldn't swap our horse for anything.
I was really pleased with his Morgiana win at Punchestown last month and I think he can do better again. Saint Roi was unlucky that day but the race didn't go exactly to plan for our horse either. I don't think there will be much between them again.
Petit Mouchoir joined us in the autumn. He's been a regular in these races for a while and is never too far away. He seems to be going well in his work and I'm looking forward to getting him started.