There will be Cheltenham clues a plenty with four Grade One contests at Leopardstown this afternoon
The cream of Irish talent will be on show today at Leopardstown in the Hennessy Gold Cup, Spring Juvenile Hurdle, Delliotte Novice Hurdle and Dr PJ Moriarty Novice Chase.
The Hennessy Gold Cup (3.50) may not be the strongest renewal but it is certain to provide punters with a guide to the Irish challengers for the Gold Cup at the Festival. First Lieutenant has often had to play understudy to others but will be favourite to claim the Grade One this time. In his way will be the highly regarded Last Instalment and the thirteen-year-old legend that is Tidal Bay. Paul Nicholls has decided to take in this race before an attempt at the Grand National for his stable hero. With last season’s Lexus Chase under his belt many will not bet against him adding a final Grade One to his haul. If Tidal Bay does win expect the 25/1 available for the Grand National to tumble. Success for First Lieutenant or Last Instalment will also see their current Gold Cup prices of 12/1 and 33/1 shorten.
Willie Mullins impressive Naas winner Ivan Grozny will look to reverse placings with Aidan O’Brien’s Plinth in the Gala Retail Spring Juvenile Hurdle (1.15). Beaten a head by Plinth when they last met Ivan Grozny appears to have improved since and is currently 8/1 for the Triumph Hurdle. Dessie Hughes will be represented by his consistent Guitar Pete who may well provide a surprise.
Vautour is so highly regarded by connections that if he beats his rival The Tullow Tank in the Delloitte Novice Hurdle (2.15), he is almost certain to be installed as a favourite for the Festival. Vautour is available at 8/1 for the Supreme Novice Hurdle with The Tullow Tank at the same odds.
The quality trio of Ballycasey, Carlingford Lough and Don Cossack will fight out the Dr PJ Moriarty Chase (2.45). All quoted for Cheltenham prizes, the battle-hardened Carlingford Lough looks set to get his revenge on the well regarded Don Cossack.
Some of the most significant Cheltenham clues may come from the Raymond Smith Memorial Hunters Chase (4.20), where the winner is likely to figure heavily in the Foxhunters market. Both Pandorama and Quel Esprit will hope to regain their former glories and hold off the useful On The Fringe and Tammy’s Hill in the hunter chase.
Crockford’s selections at Leopardstown:
Guitar Pete e/w (1.15)
Carlingford Lough (2.45)
Tidal Bay (3.50)
Quel Esprit (4.20)
(Featured Photograph – First Lieutenant at Cheltenham by Stuart Rice)