Timeform's Ben Fearnley takes an ante-post look at Wednesday's Lexus Chase at Leopardstown.
"Djakadam didn’t need to be at his best to land a second successive John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase at Punchestown earlier this month (from Outlander), but he did well to come out on top in a relative test of speed and it was a pleasing return overall."
Ante-post betting is fraught with danger and complications, as this morning demonstrated once again when Vroum Vroum Mag - one of six runners still entered in the Christmas Hurdle at the five-day stage - was not declared, having been around a 5/2 chance at the time. Vroum Vroum Mag will stay at home this Christmas, but it is still unclear which race she will turn up in, given that she has three entries at Leopardstown over the Christmas period. Those entries include the Lexus, though she could easily be kept over hurdles for the likes of the Christmas Hurdle (Leopardstown's version) or the Ryanair Hurdle, especially given that the same connections also have Djakadam entered in the Lexus.
Djakadam is no certain runner, either, with the Cotswold Chase at the end of January (which he used for his Gold Cup prep run last year, though he fell) a possibility for him. He would be clear of the field on Timeform ratings if he did run here, however, and the fact that Willie Mullins no longer has the likes of Don Poli - who gave him his first win in the race in 2015 - in his yard could mean that Djakadam takes his chance in the Lexus this time around. Djakadam didn't need to be at his best to land a second successive John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase at Punchestown earlier this month (from Outlander), but he did well to come out on top in a relative test of speed and it was a pleasing return overall.
It is certainly worth mentioning Don Poli, who went on to place in the Gold Cup (behind Djakadam) and in the Aintree Bowl after his win in the Lexus last year. On that sort of form, he seems a big price at present, but his reappearance in the Jnwine.com Champion Chase at Down Royal last time was really poor. He jumped ponderously and went with no encouragement in first-time cheekpieces (has looked as though he'd be suited by headgear in the past) and it is hard to back him here after that sort of performance, though Gordon Elliott has reportedly attempted to sweeten him up by sending him hunting in recent weeks.
The winner of the Jnwine.com Champion Chase was Valseur Lido, who didn't strictly need to improve on his best form from last season to get off the mark on his first start for Henry de Bromhead, but made a fine reappearance all the same. He has had little racing at three miles (looked booked for at least second in the Irish Gold Cup when unseating at the last) and could be more to come from him, though his price for this doesn't leave much to the imagination.
Other Gigginstown horses that may run include Outlander, who has plenty of form at this sort of grade but may well just fall short of the very highest level, and Road To Riches, who would have claims on his best form (third in both the Gold Cup and the Ryanair Chase at the last two Cheltenham Festivals) but missed the JNwine after being operated on for kissing spines.
The three British-trained horses in the race at this stage are all big prices, though it would not be inconceivable for BetVictor Gold Cup winner Taquin du Seuil to sneak into the places were he to run (not beaten far in the Ryanair last season and is clearly in top form at present).
It may be worth waiting for declarations just in case (given recent events!), but Djakadam should probably be outright favourite for this race if he runs, and though Valseur Lido could have more to offer now getting a proper run at this sort of trip, the former makes most appeal for betting purposes, with the other major players on form - the likes of Don Poli and Road To Riches - having something to prove at present.
Back Djakadam in the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown on December 28th