Author: Alan Kelly
Published: 14:30 08/02/2014
Leopardstown stage a fantastic card on Sunday afternoon featuring three Grade 1 contests and despite the Dr P.J. Moriarty Novice Chase at 2.45 attracting only three runners the race is likely to provide plenty of clues with a view to the RSA Chase at the Festival with all runners high up in the ante-post market for Cheltenham's ' Novices' Gold Cup ' including the Willie Mullins-trained Ballycasey who currently disputes favouritism with most bookmakers at 8-1 with Morning Assembly for the big one in March.
Another Mullins' runner Vautour looks to have The Tullow Tank to beat in the Deloitte Novices' Hurdle at 2.15 but it is the Hennessy Gold Cup at 3.50 which takes centre stage and while unlikely to have any significant bearing on the outcome of the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup next month is a fascinating contest in which all seven runners can be given a chance on various pieces of form.
First Lieutenant heads the betting on 2-1 and is a deserved favourite based on several cracking efforts including a close second to reigning champion Bobs Worth in the Lexus Chase over course and distance at christmas and a reproduction of that run should see the 9-year-old go close but the son of Presenting has won only once in his last fourteen starts and is worth opposing at a short price. Tidal Bay is becoming a bit of a mini-legend but at thirteen Paul Nicholls charge may be better off giving weight away in handicaps now and the Crabbie's Grand National could be his best chance of landing a big prize this season.
Lord Windermere, Lyreen Legend and Texas Jack were all leading novices from last season but all three have question marks regarding the distance of three miles or current form, and while Last Installment ran a cracker on his first start back for almost two years when a close third in the Kinloch Brae Chase at Thurles last month but after such a long lay-off there is always the ' bounce ' factor to take into account leaving 20-1 rank outsider Roi Du Mee as potentially the value to cause a massive upset. Those odds are available with most bookmakers including Bet365, Coral and William Hill and with the Gordon Elliott-trained 9-year-old likely to get an easy lead up front the use of similar tactics to when thrashing Sizing Europe in Down Royal's Champion Chase last November may be good enough to beat some better fancied rivals.
The Lavirco gelding probably needed the run behind Marito at Tramore on New Years Day and despite the big price should not be underestimated under conditions which look sure to suit the mount of Davy Condon.
Roi Du Mee - 20/1 E/W (Generally)