Tony Keenan looks ahead to a terrific day of racing in Ireland and provides his best bets from the meetings at Leopardstown and Limerick...
Tony Keenan on Mr Diablo;
"Upped to two and half miles last time, he seemed not to get home after travelling well and the drop back in trip should be ideal."
I've covered the Leopardstown Grade 1s elsewhere on the site and am happy to stick with my selections Road To Riches in the Lexus and Jetson on the Christmas Hurdle.
My confidence in the former has ebbed with the softening ground and the declaration of both Sam Winner and On His Own who could take him on up front, but even so he is worth backing around 8.07/1.
Jetson remains overpriced as one of the few reliable horses in his race; with a field of eight and three places on offer he'll be hard to knock out of the frame. Aside from the Grade 1s, the better betting races today appear to be the maidens at both Leopardstown and Limerick.
The opening maiden hurdle looks a two-cornered affair between Snow Falcon and Identity Thief but while the Noel Meade horse has the experience, he has nothing like the scope of Henry De Bromhead's Fairyhouse debut bumper winner.
Indeed, Identity Thief looked a potential star that day in a race where many of the field had big reputations. He raced behind all the well-regarded ones as Tully Easy got a soft lead, yet still won going away as the reputation horses were left toiling. His lack of hurdling experience is a concern but connections were toying with going straight over hurdles with him before Fairyhouse so it's fair to assume he's done plenty of schooling and he should be clear favourite here.
Un Atout heads the market for this 2m3f maiden chase but there are plenty of negatives with him; he returned from an injury with a lacklustre display and his jumping was poor while he also looks overrated off his 2013 Supreme form, a race he was ultimately beaten 18 lengths in. At the prices, he has to be opposed until he shows more. Both Le Vent D'Antan and Sizing Codelco have their chances but preference is for Balbir Du Mathan.
As referenced in my preview article for this meeting, his trainer Gordon Elliott is building a fine record at this Festival and the owner angle could also be important, Leopardstown being Barry Connell's local track. His chase debut at Fairyhouse was highly promising, going as well as both Adriana Des Mottes and Rule The World until falling two out, and it's likely that pair will prove graded class over fences as they were over hurdles. Softer ground here should also suit.
There are a few in this field that could be on lenient marks - notably the likes of A Grey Matter, Modem and Shabra's Bertolini - but nothing has the class of the top-weight Mr Diablo who creeps into the race with a mark of 123. He shaped well in a bumper at this meeting last year when forcing the issue too soon but he's been a different horse since fitted with a hood in his last three starts.
When first tried in the headgear, he bolted up in a Punchestown Festival bumper before winning his maiden hurdle back at the same track where he had subsequent winner Wrath Of Titans in second. Upped to two and half miles last time, he seemed not to get home after travelling well and the drop back in trip should be ideal. Really soft ground is a concern but he's an improving horse worthy of support.
Up For Review should be hard to beat in this bumper - his point form with Pulled Mussel reads well - but aside from him the race lacks depth and Peter The Mayo Man can upset some of the bigger yards and get into the frame from Sabrina Harty.
The performance of Identity Thief in the opener will give some view to the merit of his Fairyhouse form but I'm inclined to take a positive view of it, especially as the selection shaped better then the result, coming from well off the pace in a race that the leaders seemed to get away. Deep ground is a worry but he is still worth backing for a place.
I've barely had a bet in a juvenile hurdle this winter but Social Riser makes plenty of appeal in this weak maiden. He shaped with promise on his first start over obstacles at Fairyhouse against winners and while the Grade 3 form hasn't worked out particularly well, that level of ability looks good in this context especially with improvement to come.
Vercingetorix might not be too bad as he was a 90 plus flat horse but it is slightly disconcerting his trainer starts him off here and not Leopardstown and the rest of the field are limited with the other form pick Lady Clitico hard to win with. Social Riser looks a win and place back.
1 point Back Identity Thief @ 2.767/4 or bigger in the Leopardstown 12.20
1 point Back Balbir Du Mathan @ 4.57/2 or bigger in the Leopardstown 13.20
1 point Back Mr Diablo @ 12.011/1 or bigger in the Leopardstown 14.20
1 point Place Peter The Mayo Man @ 4.03/1 or bigger in the Leopardstown 15.25
1 point Back Social Riser @ 8.07/1 or bigger in the Limerick 12.35
1 point Place Social Riser @ 2.26/5 or bigger in the Limerick 12.35