A high class card at Leopardstown - including Jezki against Hurricane Fly - is today's Irish racing offering, and our man Tony Keenan has provided some recommended bets for you to consider...
"The ground, soft but yielding in places and drying out, is the key. Jezki's record on yielding or faster is: 1181111 while Hurricane Fly is 11113142 on it."
The consensus appears that Champagne James was asked for his effort too late at Fairyhouse but to me he looked temperamental in the finish (not for the first time either) and the drop in trip is against him. As favourite, he should be opposed. Golden Ticket should go well but won with nothing in hand last time while the ground is a bit quick for One Cool Shabra. Caolaneoin could outrun his odds for a new yard but Third Opinion is the bet.
Admittedly, his overall form case is thin but he did beat Curley Bill in his maiden hurdle and went with distinct promise here over Christmas, racing keenly over a trip too far and making a big mid-race move into a pace that was strong, the eventual winner coming from an impossible position. In a race where few are solid, he is a fair price around 9.08/1.
I suggested backing Jezki for the Champion Hurdle midweek and having looked at the Irish equivalent again since, he is worth supporting for a few reasons. He got closer to Hurricane Fly last time yet is a bigger price now and seems to be improving as the season goes on unlike the favourite who has to drop off a some point.
The ground, soft but yielding in places and drying out, is the key. Jezki's record on yielding or faster is: 1181111 while Hurricane Fly is 11113142 on it. Those last four figures are key as the Fly seems less capable on decent ground as he has gotten older and even his win, a length defeat of Marito, was well below his best. Though the call is marginal, I would have Jezki shorter though a big run from Fiscal Focus wouldn't be the greatest shock, Jim Bolger having a history of 4yos running well here.
No More Heroes looks the best of Irish staying novices, his form with Shaneshill (currently second favourite for the Neptune) rock-solid, the third having run well in a Grade 1 since. Drying ground is a slight concern here but it's about the only one; I would have him close to even money for this so his current price of 2.47/5 is acceptable though he could hit bigger in running before coming home well.
Windsor Park won his maiden hurdle well and should improve as his trainer said his prep was less than ideal but that form hasn't worked out on balance; he is very short for what he has achieved. Killultagh Vic hardly ranks in the top five Willie Mullins' novices so is unlikely to be good enough; he looks a yardstick horse for the yard just as he was when he ran at Ascot. The likeable Martello Tower may prove the biggest danger to the favourite for all that he may prefer three miles.
Plenty of this field have holes; Bishops Road looks a plodder and hasn't jumped well to date, Kilcrea was gifted a win last time while Down Under had the race run to suit here over Christmas. Heathfield doesn't convince either; he has been running bad races in England and this drop in trip looks a negative.
There may not be a well-handicapped horse in this and if so More Madness is interesting on a class angle. His Paddy Power Chase form could hardly be working out better and this shorter trip is a plus while the handicapper has been generous in dropping him 2lbs for that run. This is the worst chase he's run in for some time and is unlikely to get taken on up front so is worth backing for a place at least.
1 point Back Third Opinion @ 9.08/1 or bigger - Leopardstown 14:10
1 point Back Jezki @ 2.56/4 or bigger - Leopardstown 14:45
1 point Back No More Heroes @ 2.47/5 or bigger - Leopardstown 15:15
1 point Back More Madness @ 12.011/1 or bigger - Leopardstown 15.50
1 point Place Back More Madness @ 3.185/40 or bigger in the Leopardstown 15:50