Big two share Lexus favouritism

CASHMANS have installed totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup hero War Of Attrition and race specialist Beef Or Salmon as the 6-4 joint-favourites for the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown on December 28.

The former found Michael Hourigan’s charge, three times a winner of the Grade One feature, just too strong when the pair last clashed at Down Royal back in November before finishing second to In Compliance over two and a half miles last time.

Former classy hurdler Back In Front stands his ground along with Sher Beau, Southern Vic and Noel Meade’s Wild Passion, who would be having his first attempt over three miles if lining up at the Dublin venue.

The JP McManus-owned L’Ami is set to represent Francois Doumen, while British hopes rest solely on the shoulders of Robert Alner’s grey The Listener, who returned to the fray with an encouraging second to a race-fit Star De Mohaison in a graduation event at the start of the month.

Alner is hopeful of a bold show but holds a great deal of respect for the big two.

“Beef Or Salmon has won the race three times and he’s obviously shown himself to be in great form as he won a hurdle race last week,” he continued.

“War Of Attrition has just been getting fit. He possibly wouldn’t like the soft going but he’d be fitter now than on his previous run and I’m sure they’re aiming to get him spot-on for March rather than December.”

Cashmans bet: 6-4 Beef Or Salmon, War Of Attrition, 6-1 The Listener, 7-1 L’Ami, 12-1 Back In Front, 20-1 Sher Beau, 25-1 Southern Vic, Wild Passion.

Meanwhile, Brave Inca will face a maximum of six rivals in the December Festival Hurdle at Leopardstown on December 29.

The champion hurdler, who bounced back to winning ways in gritty fashion in the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle on his last start over two and a half miles, will revert back to the minimum distance.

“Everything has been fine with him, it’s so far so good,” said trainer Colm Murphy. “There was not a bother on him after Fairyhouse, I was delighted with how he came out of that race.

“It looked a gruelling race last time but he was idling in front. Tony (McCoy) knows him so well now that he only does enough in front and as he is only as good as the horse beside him, he’s always been the same.

“I don’t think we’ll put any blinkers on him but it is something I might discuss with the owners and Tony. If he keeps winning though there is no need.”

Brave Inca is unlikely to face an easy task, however, as Noel Meade’s Iktitaf, who lowered his colours in the Morgiana Hurdle, is also scheduled to run.

Asian Maze, a close second in the Morgiana but disappointing in the Hatton’s Grace is a possible, although she also has an entry in the Christmas Hurdle over three miles a day earlier.

Queen Mother Champion Chase hero Newmill could also continue his preparation for a repeat victory in that race with another spin over timber.

Al Eile, Jazz Messenger, a possible runner in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton, and Silent Oscar complete the line-up.

Hardy Eustace, Macs Joy and Harchibald are among the notable absentees.

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