The feature at Leopardstown is the Grade 1 Lexus Chase and the vote goes to Cooldine, who has yet to totally fulfil his undoubted potential over fences.
A brilliant winner of the RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in 2009, it just didn’t pan out for the eight-year-old last season, although he almost won the Hennessy on this track in February, on the back of a less than satisfactory preparation.
The selection made his reappearance, over an inadequate two and a half miles, in the John Durkan at Fairyhouse earlier in the month. He tried to make all of the running, but could not raise his tempo in the straight, eventually finishing three and a half lengths fifth behind Tranquil Sea.
Strictly on the book, he shouldn’t cope with stable companion, J’y Vole, who was runner-up in that race, beaten three parts of a lengths.
J’y Vole, however, has often looked happier travelling right-handed.
There are a number of others with chances, but Cooldine is the one to beat.
Willie Mullins trains Cooldine and also supplies the nap in the shape of Mourad in the Grade 2 woodies.com Christmas Hurdle. Testing conditions hold no fears for this progressive gelding, who will surely be all the better for his fourth to Hurricane Fly in the Hatton’s Grace at Fairyhouse.
A third Mullins possibility is the ex-French horse, So Young, against no less than 24 opponents, in the Madigans’ Maiden Hurdle.
The wide-open Grade 1 Fort Leney Novice Chase is best left to Noel Meade’s Thegreatjohnbrowne, who has been a revelation in his two outings over fences.
Charles Byrnes’ Knockfierna, seeking a hat-trick, seems to be rapidly on the upgrade and can land the Grade 3 Dorans Pride Novice Hurdle at Limerick.