Samcro and Delta Work might give Gordon Elliott and Gigginstown House Stud a Grade 1 double on the final day of the Christmas Festival at Leopardstown.
Put in his place by Buveur D’air in the ‘Fighting Fifth’ at Newcastle last time, Samcro will be bidding to notch his first Grade 1 success in open company in the Ryanair Hurdle, but faces a tough assignment against the likes of last year’s Champion Hurdle runner-up Melon, Supasundae, Sharjah and British raider Bedrock, which beat the Elliott horse at Down Royal last month.
A dual-winner in Grade 1 company as a novice, Samcro won both the ‘Deloitte’ at this track and the ‘Ballymore’ at Cheltenham before losing his unbeaten record when, along with Melon, he crashed three from home in the Punchestown Gold Cup, won by another of today’s rivals Supasundae.
Samcro disappointed on his seasonal debut in Down Royal when apparently caught flat-footed and beaten a length and a half by Bedrock.
But he did little wrong in the ‘Fighting Fifth’ when, stripping fitter, he just lacked the gears of dual-champion Buveur D’air at the business end and was beaten eight lengths.
Of course, Buveur D’air was turned over by stable-companion Verdana Blue at Kempton on Wednesday, surely just an off-day for Nicky Henderson’s star.
The champion links form-lines with Melon, having beaten that rival by a neck in the ‘Champion’ last March, when Henderson suggested that his charge was below par.
Melon is, undoubtedly, a serious rival today on that Cheltenham form. But he’s making his seasonal debit today, a fact which will help Samcro’s cause.
Winner of the Irish and Punchestown Champion Hurdles last season, Supasundae comes into the race on the back of a distant second to Apple’s Jade in the ‘Hatton’s Grace’ at Fairyhouse last month.
Melon’s stable-companion Sharjah upstaged Faugheen in the ‘Morgiana’ at Punchestown, having finished third behind Bedrock and Samcro in Down Royal. And the Galway Hurdle winner cannot be discounted in a fascinating race.
The earlier Neville Hotels Novice Chase looks more straight-forward, with Delta Work a stand-out, bet, at a short price, in his bid for a second Grade 1 success over the bigger obstacles.
Winner of the Pertemps Final at Cheltenham in March this fellow made a winning start over fences at Down Royal beating Niven and Ben Dundee over an inadequate trip.
Straight into Grade 1 company, he recovered from a last fence mistake and fought back to beat Wednesday’s Grade 1 winner Le Richebourg by a half-length in the ‘Drinmore’ (two and a half miles) at Fairyhouse a month ago.
Sure to prove even more effective over today’s three miles, Delta Work should be very tough to beat in a race in which Gigginstown House Stud is responsible for five of the seven runners.
Dorrells Pierji the pick at Limerick
Dorrells Pierji should make a bold bid to land the Grade 2 Sky Sports Racing Launching January 1st Novice Hurdle on the final day of Limerick’s Christmas meeting.
The five-year-old’s trainer Willie Mullins has won this gruelling, three-mile test with the likes of Faugheen and Penhill in recent season.
And, although Dorrells Pierji has a long way to go to match the achievements of those two stars, his proven stamina and ability to handle testing conditions give him every chance in today’s renewal, in which Philip Dempsey’s Derrinross, a gutsy, Grade 3 winner in Cork last time, must concede weight to his five rivals.
A point-to-point scorer, Dorrells Pierji won two of his four bumper starts, at Wexford and Galway.
And he made a winning start over hurdles when bolting-up, at 4/7, in Listowel in September, before stepping into Grade 3 company at Tipperary in October when, dropping back to two miles, he dropped away tamely to finish a well-beaten fifth of six behind subsequent Grade 1 winner Quick Grabim.
Upped in trip, he returned to winning ways at Galway in late October, grinding it out from the front to beat Petit Tartare.
That bare form is nothing special, on paper. But Mullins had lots of options for this Coastal Path gelding over the Christmas period. And this test of stamina looks the ideal race for him.
He gets the nod to beat late developer Derrinross, conqueror of Sams Profile and Pleasure Dome (also in today’s field) in a three-mile Grade 3 in Cork last time, but conceding 3lb. to the selection.
Gordon Elliott runs both Defi Bleu, third to Easy Game in a Grade 2 at Navan recently, and Monbeg Worldwide, successful twice at Fairyhouse before feeling the pinch in that same Grade 2 at Navan.
Both Eliot horses are owned by Gigginstown, whose colours will also be worn by Noel Meade’s Cap York, successful at Navan after a long absence.
But I’ll side with Dorrells Pierji and Paul Townend to foil Derrinross.
Denis Hogan, already among the winners with Mockovite at this meeting, might strike again with Moyhenna in the Limerick Racecourse vets Mares Beginners Chase.
This Westerner mare shaped with plenty of promise on her chasing bow at Cork when finishing second to Camelia De Cotte in a Grade 3 mares event.
If she builds on that effort, Moyhenna might have the edge over the Mullins runner Pravalaguna, superior to Hogan’s mare over hurdles but well-beaten on her only start over fences, at Killarney back in May and off the track since.
Elsewhere on the card, I like the Mullins-trained Voix Des Tieps, runner-up to recent winner Dunvegan in his final bumper start at Punchestown and set to make a successful start to his hurdling career in the opener, and Noel Meade’s Active Force, third to the very smart Battleoverdoyen at Punchestown, and the mount of Mark O’Hare in the bumper.
12.45.Hotel Du Nord
1.55.Delta Work (Nap)
3.05.The Holy One
12.10.Just Get Cracking
Double: Limini and Delta Work.
O’Hehir’s Longshot: Court Tycoon (3.05).
12.25.Voix Des Tiep
1.35.Take The Cash
2.45.Crack On Corrie
3.20.It’s Only A Number
Double: The Ballyboys and Offshore Oscar.
O’Hehir’s Longshot: Doldido (1.35.)
How to follow the Irish Mirror on social media
You can like our main Facebook page here.
Our Irish Mirror Sports Page – which brings you all your Irish and UK sports news – can be found here.
You can also check out our Irish Mirror GAA sports page.
Our Instagram account can be found here.