Leopardstown Saturday Nap: Huge shock awaits in Champion…

All eyes on the inaugural day of Leopardstown’s new racing festival will be on the Irish Champion Hurdle, and more specifically on the mighty machine, Faugheen.

A  lifetime record of 13 wins from 15, including a Cheltenham Champion Hurdle and an Irish Champion Hurdle describe how, at his imperious best, he would be long odds on to win here.  Well he isn’t.  Now a 10yo, and having recently returned from a near 2yr injury break, the initial euphoria of a good-as-ever crushing of inferior rivals in the Morgiana Hurdle quickly evaporated with a listless effort here over Christmas that saw him pulled up 4f from home when simply not going well at all.

Disturbingly for backers here, nothing has come to light to explain that poor effort.  The all-conquering Mullins yard had a few upsets that week, but the most logical conclusion is that somewhere, at age 10, something is just not quite working right, and hence the expectation should be for a similar disappointment here.

There has been plenty of support for stablemate and second favourite Melon.  He ran well to be second in the Supreme novices last year, and is probably better than he showed when running a little too freely last time.  With all respect to gallant old-timers My Tent Or Yours and The New One, Melon will need to improve as a repeat of that third place to those old codgers is unlikely to prevail here, but if he settles well then he is the clear pick of those near the front of the market.

Defi Du Seuil probably should be watched after a poor seasonal debut back in November, whilst Mick Jazz was the lucky recipient after Faugheen’s flop here last time, but this race has much more strength in depth.

We see the best value in two horses who fought it out over 3 miles here last time.  Supasundae was second that day narrowly to the top class Apple’s Jade (she’d be close to favourite for this).  He is a fine looking horse who won at 2m4f at Cheltenham last year.  This looks like a prep race for the World Hurdle, he is a bit overpriced, but may come up short of pace.

The same may not apply to Bapaume.  This 5yo was a fair 3rd to Defi Du Seuil in the Triumph Hurdle last year when arguably not getting the best of runs.  He was making a seasonal debut when 3rd behind Supasundae over 3 miles here last time.  We were very impressed by his slick jumping and smooth travelling style, and he wasn’t really getting the benefit of that in that slowly run 3 miles.

This race at a strong pace should suit his strengths a lot more.  He may ultimately be at his best at 2m4f, but this should be a good test, and it looks significant that the connections, who also have Faugheen, should choose to run Bapaume as an added string to their bow.  He looks a huge price.

Recommendation:  Bapaume, (1530 Leopardstown), 1pt each way, 25/1 generally available

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