During a visit to Jessica Harrington’s yard earlier yesterday, Leopardstown Racecourse announced the impressive entries for the seven Grade 1 races at the Leopardstown Christmas Festival.
Cheltenham Gold Cup winners Lord Windermere and Bobs Worth may well clash in the Lexus Chase, while the Ryanair Hurdle could bring together the remarkable Hurricane Fly and reigning champion hurdler Jezki who brought the house down when finishing first and second in the Grade 1 Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown last month.
Exciting novices Nichols Canyon, Shaneshill and Free Expression head the entries for the Paddy Power Future Champions Novice Hurdle while the mighty Vautour, Valseur Lido, The Tullow Tank and Shanahan’s Turn top the list in the Topaz Novice Chase.
There are strong entries from the UK once again and Uxizandre and Simply Ned, trained by Alan King and Nicky Richards respectively, look leading contenders for the Paddy Power Dial-A-Bet Chase while Jonjo O’Neill’s More Of That would be of interest if he travelling over for the Squared Financial Christmas Hurdle.
Grade 1 winning half-brothers Jezki and Jetson were among Jessica Harrington’s Leopardstown Christmas Festival contenders on view at her yard in Moone, County Kildare yesterday.
In all, 21 horses were turned out with the Ryanair Hurdle and Squared Financial Christmas Hurdle hopes leading the way.
Jessica Harrington feels Jezki will be spot on by the time of the Ryanair Hurdle at Leopardstown on December 29.
The champion hurdler was beaten by Hurricane Fly on his comeback in the Morgiana Hurdle, but Harrington felt she could have had her stable star fitter.
That defeat tipped the balance in the favour of Willie Mullins' veteran in the overall tally of meetings, but Harrington hopes Jezki can level the score once more.
Both appear among 13 entries for the Grade One.
"It's three-two to Hurricane Fly and hopefully at Christmas he can make it three-all," she said.
"He's in great order. He's had an easy time since the Morgiana and we'll build him up now for Christmas and the Ryanair Hurdle.
"You are always disappointed when they get beaten and I walked down off the stand thinking I could have done things a bit different.
"He was probably just short one piece of work but he's really bouncing now.
"The main thing is that he came back from that run in one piece. We'll probably take him to the Curragh a couple of times, hopefully we can work him on grass as he's got very cute and goes through the motions on the all-weather gallop."
Hurricane Fly will be going for his fourth win in the last five years in the race while current champion hurdle favourite Faugheen is also a possible for Mullins, along with Arctic Fire and Diakali. Annie Power has been entered but is currently on the sidelines. Tiger Roll and Purple Bay are other interesting possibles.
Nichols Canyon, Lieutenant Colonel and Valseur Lido could all bid to add to their Fairyhouse Grade 1 successes at the Leopardstown Christmas Festival which boasts a total prize fund of over €1m.
Pat Keogh, CEO at Leopardstown Racecourse, said, “We are delighted with the quality of entries. In addition to all the best Irish horses, it is great to see so many entries from the top English trainers. It is shaping up to be a very special Festival.”