Faugheen has drifted to 6/5 with BetVictor for Saturday’s Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown with stablemate Melon 13/8 (from 2s) and British raider Defi Du Seuil 7/2 (from 9/2) attracting support as the former Champion Hurdle drifts.
The latter has not been seen since flopping at odds on at Ascot back in November at a time when the Philip Hobbs’ yard were under a cloud. The stable are in slightly better form of late, but could do with a big Saturday winner to kick-start their season. I have no idea what happened to Faugheen at Leopardstown over Christmas, but I would not be rushing to back him at short odds until he has put that desperate run behind him.
Leicester must pass a precautionary inspection at 7.45 on race-day but if the track passes the inspection I hope to see Du Soleil (1.45) improve for the step back up to two-and-a-half-miles despite having taken a 4lbs rise for finishing runner up over two miles here earlier in the month. James Bowen takes off 3lbs, which largely negates the rise, however, and he gets the nod although the Venetia Williams yard – similar to Philip Hobbs – have had a fitful campaign to date.
If Ballyarthur (2.50) could brush up his jumping, he would be a confident selection in the 2m 6f novices’ handicap chase for the Twiston-Davies team. This step up in trip should suit the 8-y-old who gave subsequent winner Acting Lass plenty to think about here earlier in the month over a slightly shorter trip. I thought Enola Gay jumped well on his chase debut behind the well-handicapped Vocaliser at Taunton, but his stamina has to be taken on trust and he might be one for better ground over a slightly shorter trip.
Heavy ground at Ayr and I hope to see Strong Economy (3.10) improve past Buffalo Ballet for the step up to three miles for the first time. The selection has only had the two chase starts and needs to improve his fencing, but he is a horse I thought would make a decent staying chaser when winning a novice hurdle over two-and-three-quarter-miles at this corresponding meeting 12 months ago.
Hills Of Dubai (3.45) jumped very well on his chase debut when making all here over C&D earlier in the month and a 7lbs rise looks fair for Donald McCain’s nine-year-old. The selection was a winner of his sole point in his native Ireland and has only had six starts under rules. I will be disappointed if he is not able to defy his rise.
It is hard for any Bumper horse to defy a penalty but I was very impressed with Sao Maxence’s (4.20) C&D win last month and he can give weight to his six rivals for James Ewart and Conor O’Farrell. The selection was fitted with a hood for his debut and beat an experienced filly of Nicky Richards and it should be noted that the third horse home (Belle Amis) was beaten nearly fifteen lengths here over Christmas but she improved to finish third in a Market Rasen listed contest earlier in the month.
Goose Man (1.05) steps back to the minimum trip at Down Royal but I think Tom Taafe’s six-year-old will be up to it with Inis Meain likely to take them along at a fair clip. The selection is potentially smart and connections are likely to take a low-key approach this season before stepping him up in grade next term.