Bacardys and Sutton Place clash has the potential to be explosive
Away from the Grade 1 races, there are some intriguing contests on offer at Leopardstown, none more so than the beginners’ chase (3.35) that will see the Willie Mullins-trained Bacardys take on Gordon Elliott’s Sutton Place.
It’s par for the course that a beginners’ chase run slap bang in the middle of winter is going to be strong, but this has the potential to be explosive.
Bacardys, a dual Grade 1 winner over hurdles, including in the Deloitte Novices Hurdle run at this track back in February, has already had an outing over the larger obstacles at Naas last month.
Despite not jumping efficiently, Bacardys was beaten only ten lengths back in third on that occasion and Willie Mullins is expecting an improved performance from the six-year-old today.
The champion handler said: “Bacardys jumped very slowly at Naas and we’re hoping that the step up in trip to 2m5f will help him get into a better rhythm.”
Sutton Place also has the scope to improve for the switch to fences. A winner of two Grade 2s and a Grade 3 over hurdles last season, the JP McManus-owned gelding was sent off a 4-1 shot for the Grade 1 Champion Stayers Hurdle at Punchestown but was pulled up before two out.
Initial fears were that somethings serious had just occurred but Elliott later revealed that Sutton Place was absolutely fine.
Ahead of the gelding’s first start since that scare – and his debut over fences – the handler said: “He’s ready to start off and he’s in very good form. This looks like a good starting point for him and we will learn a bit more about him, but he’s always been a horse who we’ve liked a lot.”
Watch out Uncle Willie
One of the most difficult puzzles for punters to figure out across the entire four days at the Foxrock venue comes in the second race (12.50), the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle.
The champion handler is again well-represented by Voix Du Reve, Chateau Conti, Isleofhopendreams and Didero Vallis but could face stiffest opposition from his nephew Emmet Mullins, who sends impressive Navan winner Red Devil Lads into battle.
The rookie trainer said: “He was impressive at Navan when he showed a very brave attitude and if he keeps up that level of form he'd have a good chance of winning more races.
“This is a very competitive contest and you could never be confident, but we're hopeful of a good run.”
The restructured card sees the bumper run at 2.25 and Voix Des Tiep, touted as a Champion Bumper prospect, will make his first appearance since finishing a narrow second in a bumper at the track in February for Willie Mullins and his son Patrick.
Mullins in positive mood about Devie
Meri Devie looks to have been given a good opportunity to get back to winning ways in the feature Grade 3 Irish Independent Hurdle (2.10) at Limerick.
The Willie Mullins-trained filly was a good second in a €100,000 handicap at Fairyhouse this month and looks well treated by the race conditions.
Owned by Andrea and Graham Wylie, Meri Devie will be ridden for the first time by Danny Mullins, and the trainer is expecting a good performance from the pair.
He said: "She looks to be very well treated by the race conditions and she comes here in good form.
“It was a good effort from her the last day when she came second in a big handicap hurdle at Fairyhouse and I’d be very positive about her chances of going one better.”
Gavin Cromwell, who struck in the big Grade 2 juvenile hurdle at Leopardstown two days ago with Espoir D’Allen, is more hopeful than confident that his charge Prospectus can land a blow and rates Meri Devie the one to beat.
He said: “Willie’s mare looks well in but Prospectus will love that ground and he's entitled to have a go.”
Us And Them, unbeaten in two starts over hurdles, represents Joseph O’Brien, and the trainer said: “He's really stepped up since he's gone hurdling and he's won his last two starts well.
“He's been busy of late and I'm hopeful he's still improving. The fact he's won on heavy ground will be help as well. He seems to be in very good form and we’re happy with him.”
Tom Taaffe, who will forever be associated for his handling of 2005 Gold Cup winner Kicking King, looks to have a decent chance of recording a festive winner with Riders Onthe Storm in the opening maiden hurdle (12.35).
Montana Belle has solid claims in the rated novice chase (1.10) for the in-form stable of Henry de Bromhead while Epicuris looks a very interesting recruit to hurdling for Mullins (2.45).
A Group 1-winning two-year-old, who was fifth behind Golden Horn in the Derby two seasons ago, Epicuris was snapped up by Rich Ricci for 140,000gns at the sales and will be well fancied to make a winning start to his new career.
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