Superb racing in Limerick and Leopardstown on St Stephen’s Day as their respective four-day festivals get underway, and there is also a good card in Down Royal.
For those who cannot make it to any of the meetings, all three cards will be shown watch live on Sky channel 435.
In Limerick, the Grade One Matchbook Betting Exchange Novice Chase has attracted a field of seven and Samcro can use the opportunity to get back to winning ways following his late tumble in the Drinmore.
Gordon Elliott’s horse lost his form last season but was deeply impressive on his chasing debut, at Down Royal, and was upsides and apparently travelling better than eventual winner Fakir D’oudairies when falling at the second-last.
It’s impossible to say with any certainty what would have happened had he stayed on his feet, but to that point it was a terrific effort. This race will tell us whether he can fully build on his novice hurdling season.
Former Champion Hurdler Faugheen ran out an easy winner on his chasing debut but he is turning 12 and it will be somewhat disappointing for connections of Samcro if he cannot prove too good for the veteran.
Castlebrook is also worth considering. He was an easy winner on his chasing debut and ran very well pitched in deep for his second start. That should prove great experience for Jimmy Mangan’s six-year-old, and he should also put up a bold show.
There are much better races on the day but the nap in Leopardstown goes to Exceeded Brief, who can earn a long overdue breakthrough victory when he makes his handicap debut in the Holden Plant Rentals Novice Handicap Hurdle.
Last time out, Henry De Bromhead’s horse looked home and hosed in a maiden hurdle but folded late on and was collared by odds-on favourite Fan De Blues.
For much of that race, he looked like a horse worth much more than a mark of 118 and he can prove that today. Davy Russell, who rode him that day and is on board again, is likely to bide his time before delivering his challenge on this occasion. British raider Ena Baie is feared most.
The feature on the card is the Grade 1 Racing Post Novice Chase and Fakir D’oudairies can continue his winning run over fences. Joseph O’Brien’s horse has impressed with his accurate jumping and willing attitude and he can use those attributes to see off four high-class rivals.
He isn’t the biggest of animals, but he really likes to attack his fences and that will put pressure on his rivals from the outset. Laurina was a classier hurdler but she comes here on the back of just one run over fences and, while it was an impressive performance, her jumping was not tested as it will be over today’s shorter trip. The drop back to two miles and a furlong is a bit of a concern and sways the verdict in favour of the four-year-old.
In Down Royal, Alighted can take the opener, a maiden hurdle, for trainer Joseph O’Brien, who can also take the Adam & Ann Armstrong Memorial Irish EBF Beginners’ Chase with Touch Of Oscar.