The Sportsbook have priced up how many Grade 1 winners Willie Mullins will train at the Leopardstown Christmas Festival. There are seven such races over the four days and even though Mullins seems unlikely to play much part in two of them - the three mile hurdle and novice chase - three and four winners are still joint favourites at 15/8. That looks about right as combining the odds of his likely runners in the other races points to him having 3.42 winners.
Douvan is the first Mullins-trained favourite on St. Stephen's Day in the Racing Post Novice Chase. He'll be hard to beat, but didn't achieve much on chase debut in a race where nothing wanted to take him on. Often the key to finding value in these good novice chases is to look for the horse that has improved for fences rather than the best hurdler in the field.
Ttebbob can lay claim to that role here after a pair of facile successes but he's been able to knock lesser opposition out of his races early the last twice and won't find it so easy against a classier type of horse. Sizing John is a fair price but I suspect his best big performances will come on better ground in spring. At a big price, I like Velvet Maker who impressed on chase debut and looks to have improved markedly for fences. His trainer reports his absence since is down to meetings being abandoned rather than any problem and is worth a small bet at 15.014/1.
Of the favourites at the meeting that aren't silly short, Alpha Des Obeaux looks solid at 2.77/4 in the Christmas Hurdle on December 27. His overall form might suggest a twicer but in fact he's run into some of the best hurdlers around like Arctic Fire and Thistlecrack and there was a lot to like about his second on his seasonal return in the Hatton's Grace. That run suggested he would be better over three miles too.
Martello Tower is a horse I'm interested in for the World Hurdle and his trainer Mags Mullins has a fine record at this meeting from few runners which isn't the greatest surprise given Barry Connell is her main patron. She has reported he will need the run badly, however, and given he's around the same price as Alpha Des Obeaux there can only be one bet.
In the Lexus Chase, last year's winner Road To Riches makes plenty of appeal. He seems to be the forgotten horse of the Gold Cup picture but has put up four 170+ efforts on his last four runs over three miles, something the favourite Don Poli has yet to achieve, allowing that he hasn't had the same opportunities. Road To Riches impressed on his return over an insufficient trip at Clonmel and that form has worked out well, the second and third fighting out the Hilly Way afterwards while the fourth was in the frame in the Hennessy.
His Gold Cup third is the best single piece of form on offer in this race, and by a big margin too, and it might be worth seeking out some Cheltenham prices before he runs here. You have to respect Don Poli but his RSA form looks ordinary and I would have him much closer in price to Road To Riches.
Timeform have Nichols Canyon rated 10lbs inferior to Arctic Fire in Tuesday's Ryanair Hurdle and with the prices the other way around, Arctic Fire is a bet at 2.89/5. The Morgiana form looks dubious to me. Not only could Willie Mullins not believe the result (though one could argue that he would say that) but Faugheen also had a valid excuse, a cut mouth causing his hanging. Furthermore, the close third Wicklow Brave let the form down in the Fighting Fifth and nothing he had done previously suggested he was Grade 1 class over hurdles.
Arctic Fire is a high-class horse who had the misfortune of running against Hurricane Fly and Faugheen over the past year. Any doubts about his temperament have been erased with a brace of wins this season and his second in the Champion Hurdle is the best form on offer here and he would have finished closer that day with a stronger gallop.
Back Velvet Maker @ 15.014/1 in the Racing Post Novice Chase
Back Alpha Des Obeaux @ 2.77/4 in the Christmas Hurdle
Back Road To Riches @ 4.1 in the Lexus Chase
Back Arctic Fire @ 2.89/5 in the Ryanair Hurdle