Leopardstown plays host a feast of top-class racing next week, with just one of the many highlights being the ultra-competitive Paddy Power Chase, which sees €110,000 going to the winner.
Run over a distance of three miles – with seventeen fences to be jumped – the race has proved a good trial for the Aintree Grand National, with recent winners Oscar Time, Colbert Station, Noble Endeavor and Anibale Fly all going on to contest the race – two of those horses occupying the places.
The racing action comes thick and fast over the festive period, but our free horse racing tips will cover all the big races – providing free runner-by-runner previews and selections.
Our man Joe Eccles has his King George VI ante-post preview currently live onsite, and alongside that, his preview for the Welsh Grand National is also available. Looking further ahead, however, read his views on the upcoming Paddy Power Chase below.
Leading owner JP McManus has farmed this race in recent years, with three of the last four winners wearing his famous green and gold silks.
It is perhaps no surprise, therefore, to see his No Comment head most ante-post markets.
The Philip Hobbs-trained eight-year-old is winless from his six starts over fences, but he has run some fine races in defeat – with his fifth in the Kim Muir at the Cheltenham Festival earlier this year a notable highlight.
He is now two pounds below that mark and should find this trip far more suitable than the extended two miles he raced over at Newbury last month.
The fact that he remains a maiden in this sphere has to be a concern for his backers though, and I feel McManus has stronger claims of landing this valuable prize with the admirable Fitzhenry.
This seven-year-old is trained by Paul Nolan, who has had an excellent campaign thus far, landing a Grade 2 at Navan just last weekend.
Fitzhenry is no stranger to these sort of races, with his form figures in handicaps over fences currently reading an impressive 3211233452 – which includes a third-place finish in the preceding renewal of this race.
He is now four pounds higher, but only found the well-treated Chris’s Dream too strong in last month’s Troytown Chase, and he would have given that rival more to think about had he not made a blunder at the final fence.
With that in mind, he still appears to have some room for manoeuvre off his current rating – so looks a solid each-way betting proposition at around the 14/1 mark.
Looking back at last year’s renewal of this contest, another horse to catch my eye was the fellow JP McManus-owned Blazer, and the eight-year-old is the second of my two ante-post selections.
The son of Network has long been something of a hype horse in Ireland, and that support has not been unjustified, with certain pieces of form – including his second behind stablemate Sharjah in the 2018 Galway Hurdle – showing him to be a high-class operator on his day.
His sixth-place finish in this race last year can be upgraded, as he made a shuddering error at the eleventh fence when just beginning to make a challenge.
He is yet to win beyond an extended 2m2f, but the way that he stayed on for pressure last year suggests he stays this far, and with his form figures on the back of an absence of 100-days or more currently reading a notable 32142 – this could be the time to catch him.
Recently seen doing a piece of work at Punchestown with stablemates Chacun Pour Soi, Kemboy, Al Boum Photo and Cadmium – that should have brought him along nicely for this contest.