Irish racing expert Tony Keenan switches to Saturday this week to cover Leopardstown's traditional pre-Cheltenham fixture. Here are his best bets...
"Odds the right side of even money to finish in the first two look big about Dysios."
Fort Smith is ungenuine and failed in a worse race than this at Naas in January; sent off a BSP of 1.141/7, he was done at the floor price in the run. He has to be opposed as favourite. Heck Thomas is the obvious alternative but his recent second was a in a poor race and Robin Des People could well have achieved as much on his hurdling debut.
That race has worked out with the second winning since and the winner running third in a Grade 2. Robin Des People will need to jump a bit better now but improvement seems likely as it was his first run over obstacles and he worth backing win and place.
The 157-rated chaser Felix Yonger is the class act but there are negatives; the lack of Festival entries from a yard that enters everything there suggests problems, he prefers nice ground and might need the outing. At odds-on or close to it, he makes no appeal, nor does Golantilla who has likely had issues of his own (off the last two months, the hood and tongue-tie now applied) and seems to be finding ever less at the finish of his races.
Western Boy is a solid win and place play. He might well have won last time but for a mistake two out but it was a good effort in any case and he could improve from that, his first run in two months; the mid-season mini-break an underrated angle. The slight drop in distance is another plus and it's worth remembering he was one of the better Irish novice hurdlers last season.
A mark of 125 could underestimate Blue Hell but he appears an empty sort and while a recent run may have brought him on, he will hardly like deep ground. One could take a chance at double-figure prices but at 6.05/1 I can look elsewhere.
One of the most progressive handicappers of the season, Shabras Bertolini should again go well. He holds his head high but it doesn't stop him going forward and a 7lbs hike for his last win is fair. It's hard to see him not getting involved though decent runs from rags Kylestyle and Sailors Warn wouldn't be the greatest shock.
Sizing Granite is the most likely winner but odds-on is short; Dysios should be closer to him in the betting having gradually improved with each chase run. Even so, the best way to play this race could be the place market as he's the clear second best ahead of One Cool Shabra. Odds the right side of even money to finish in the first two look big about Dysios; he's a horse that is underrated because of his small yard and this is the weakest he's run in so far.
Robert Tyner has cooled a little after a hot start but overall he has had an excellent season and Madfuninthewest was an eye-catcher last time over hurdles. Despite racing keenly, he looked set to take third behind a pair of 120 types at Gowran before falling two. That level of form would put him right there in a race where those that have run hardly set the pulse racing.
2 Points Back Robin Des People @ 8.07/1 or bigger in the Leopardstown 13:35
2 Points Place Back Robin Des People @ 2.47/5 or bigger in the Leopardstown 13:55
2 Points Back Western Boy @ 6.611/2 or bigger in the Leopardstown 14:05
2 Points Place Back Western Boy @ 2.01/1 or bigger in the Leopardstown 14:05
1 Point Back Shabras Bertolini @ 8.07/1 or bigger in the Leopardstown 14:40
1 Point Place Back Shabras Bertolini @ 2.56/4 or bigger in the Leopardstown 14:40
1 Point Back Madfuninthewest @ 9.08/1 or bigger in the Leopardstown 14:40
1 Point Place Back Madfuninthewest @ 2.68/5 or bigger in the Leopardstown 14:40
2 Points Place Back Dysios @ 2.26/5 or bigger in the Leopardstown 15:15