Citizenship one to note at Leopardstown

VERY little will change for us on Christmas Day given the chaotic week that is ahead. All the horses will be exercised as normal with racing coming up in Leopardstown, Down Royal and Limerick.

We will relax in the afternoon alright. The whole family will be in Commonstown this year, including my son James, who lives in France, so it will be a packed house, with seven grand-children included to make sure everyone remains alert.

I am really looking forward to having them all around but before long, it will be back to business. There are a few opportunities to get a win on the board for the first time in more than a month but make no mistake, it’s very competitive racing all around.

For example, I entered Saville Row for the beginners’ chase at Down Royal on Monday thinking it might be an easier prospect but there were a few others who thought the same as Cadogan, Gran Torino and High Desert are amongst those taking their chances. However, Saville Row has taken to chasing very well, he jumps well and I think that he has improved enough to go close.

Chasing Cars runs in the hunters’ chase before that and while it’s a hot race, he is slowly returning to himself. Remember, this is a horse that won a good novice chase by ten lengths at the Punchestown festival 20 months ago before injury intervened. After almost a year’s absence from the track, he struggled to make any impact but point-to-pointing seems to have reinvigorated him and I think he’s primed for a very big run now.

The Grade 1s are the big pots of course and Bostons Angel will wear blinkers in the Lexus Chase on Wednesday because he didn’t concentrate at Sandown last time out. It was hard work for Robert all the way through and yet, he was less than seven lengths off the winner at the end. He actually wore blinkers in his last hurdle victory so hopefully the effect will be similar.

While the Lexus is competitive, it is not as strong a renewal as other years when you had a Gold Cup winner or something like that taking part. Joncol and Rubi Light are amongst the favourites but if the blinkers do the trick on Bostons Angel, he is a multiple Grade 1 winner who is tough as nails and must have a big chance. He will be coming in under the radar and we won’t mind that at all.

Oscars Well is in very good form ahead of the Istabraq Hurdle. At the moment, it’s all a bit unclear as to whether or not Willie is going to run Hurricane Fly, but even if he doesn’t, we know how good Thousand Stars is. He beat Oscars by just under six lengths in the Morgiana. Readers will recall that I nominated Leopardstown as the target in my very next column though, because I knew there was more improvement in what is essentially still a fairly inexperienced horse over hurdles.

Gimli’s Rock takes his chance too. He has been out for a while after having a wind operation. It’s a big ask, given that he hasn’t run since October, but it’s either that or lump around top weight in a handicap hurdle.

The same applies to Saludos, who runs in the Paddy Power Dial-A-Bet Chase on Tuesday. He will take in some 2½ mile contests when the ground improves but he would just be carrying too much weight in handicaps, so we decided he’d be better off competing off levels in a Grade 1 event.

Citizenship is in with a good chance in the handicap hurdle that day while I would also be hopeful of a good run from Espresso Lady in the maiden hurdle. Citizenship didn’t enjoy the all-weather surface at Dundalk two weeks ago, when I thought there was a good opportunity, but he has been very good in his two handicaps to date, beating Starling Lady by nine lengths in Punchestown last month before finishing third to Staying Article and Montan at Fairyhouse. I am very happy with him.

I said last week that Born To Benefit should go very close in her next race and she has certainly come along nicely from finishing sixth in Gowran Park nine days ago. She was much improved that day from her debut and should be in the mix at the end.

Spanish Auriga runs in a beginners’ chase at Limerick on Wednesday and I was delighted with his run at Fairyhouse last Saturday when he was third to Perfect Smile on his first outing for 18 months. I was particularly thrilled with his jumping as he hadn’t schooled all that brilliantly. He also got through the ground well, something he hadn’t done prior to his injury. He’s stronger now though and is a good prospect to win a beginners’ chase before going on from there.

I wasn’t all that disappointed by Jenari, even though he was turned over as an odds-on favourite at Navan last Monday. Lyreen Legend is a good horse and they were 19 lengths clear of the third. Jenari did everything right but he just couldn’t pick up as quickly as he needed to in the ground, so he’ll go on a break and come back in the spring.

Jetson picked up his prize money when fourth of four in the Grade 1 hurdle at Navan and ran well. He’s not quite up to that class so we’ll run him in the Pertemps Qualifier at Leopardstown on Thursday with a view to going to Cheltenham after a break.

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