Connell: we've really targeted our horses for Christmas this year
Leading owner Barry Connell is hoping for a rich festive harvest at his local Leopardstown track and is expected to have at least ten runners over the Christmas period.
Recent Fairyhouse winner Martello Tower, who took the 2015 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle, is the Christmas gift Connell is most excited about unwrapping at a meeting close to his heart.
He said: “Leopardstown is special for me as it’s my local track and we've really targeted our horses for Christmas this year.
“I’m most looking forward to Martello Tower. The form of his two chase starts have worked out well and he’s on course to run in the Grade 1 Neville Hotels Novice Chase on December 29.
“With a bit of juice in the ground and over three miles, I think he'll be very hard to beat. I would be disappointed if he wasn't jumping the last with a big chance.”
East to hold his own in Racing Post Novice
Tully East emerged from the fog at Thurles last month as a horse with considerable scope for improvement over fences after shedding his maiden tag in stylish fashion.
Trained by Alan Fleming from Connell’s Curragh-based yard, the six-year-old is set for the Grade 1 Racing Post Novice Chase on December 26.
“He's a very classy horse and finished fourth in the Martin Pipe at Cheltenham, but he's going to make a far better chaser,” Connell said.
“He's very quick over his fences and has loads of speed. The Racing Post Novice has been the plan for him ever since he won at Thurles.
“I know Min and Identity Thief will be tough to beat, but I wouldn't be worried about taking them on and he's well up to holding his own in that grade.”
Connell is also excited by the prospects of maiden hurdlers Harold Peto and Loughaderra Prince.
"We have a horse called Harold Peto that we are looking forward to running in a maiden hurdle at Leopardstown," he added.
"Loughaderra Prince is another horse we would like to run in a maiden hurdle and we'll have a couple of nice bumper horses to run too."
Also during Leopardstown's four-day Christmas meeting, Balbir Du Mathan is a lively outsider for the Paddy Power Chase and Bridgets Pet has the Pertemps Qualifier as a target, while Gwencily Berbas will run in a beginners' chase.
Away from the bright lights of Leopardstown, last year's Lexus Chase third Foxrock looks set to carry Connell's famous yellow and navy silks in a hunters chase at Down Royal on December 26.