Don Poli is odds-on favourite for the Lexus Chase, but we're taking him on.
The Leopardstown Christmas meeting continues this afternoon with the feature being the Grade 1 Lexus Chase over 3m (due off 3.05pm), for which Don Poli is a 1/2 chance.
His trainer Willie Mullins is responsible for half the six-runner field as he bids for his first Lexus and the six-year-old is the obvious pick of the stable trio after his victory in last season’s RSA Chase and at Aintree on his comeback, showing seemingly bottomless stamina on each occasion. That trait will stand him in good stead here as conditions look set to be testing, but he might not have things all his own way with stablemate SIR DES CHAMPS in opposition. A smart novice who look destined for the top of the chasing tree, he had to miss the best part of two years through injury but looked on good terms with himself when scoring over 2m6f on his comeback run at Thurles last month. This is more his trip and providing he can avoid the ‘bounce factor’ on his second run back from a layoff, he could well make up for lost time and put himself in the Cheltenham Gold Cup picture.
The two British jumps cards are fairly ordinary in comparison, but the 2m4f novices’ hurdle at Leicester (2.35pm) is being contested by some decent types and Dan Skelton’s CHURCHTOWN CHAMP is perhaps the most interesting of all. The winner of his sole start in an Irish point, he showed distinct promise in two starts for Michael Winters, before coming across the Irish Sea. The fact Skelton had him entered in the Grade 1 Challow Hurdle later this week suggests he’s been showing up well at home, and this is far easier pickings. A strong travelling sort who will be suited by 3m in time, I’d expect Harry Skelton to make plenty use of him and hopefully he can make all.
UPDATE – Churchtown Champ is a big drifter this morning (out to as big as 13/2 with Betway) and that tempers confidence.
Dan Skelton also saddles Great Link in the proceeding 2m4f handicap chase (2.00pm) and the six-year-old should go well. However, he’s no great value at around 3/1, whereas Pat Murphy’s CLOUDY BOB looks a shade too big at 7/1. He hasn’t won for a year but has got himself well handicapped as a result and was well backed to take advantage over 2m6f here last time. His backers must have been rubbing their hands as he was motoring turning in, only to see him weaken approaching the last and fade into third. Today’s shorter trip and a further drop in the weights – his new mark is 7lb lower than his last winning one – could be just what he needs to get his head back in front.