By Barry McEneaney
It's Day 3 of the Leopardstown Christmas Festival and RTÉ Sport's Barry McEneaney has cast his eye over the best value on the Dublin card.
Mala Beach (12:25 Leopardstown)
Mala Beach improved out of all recognition earlier this month to finish a close third in what has turned out to be a hot maiden hurdle at Fairyhouse and should go close in the Madigans Maiden Hurdle if replicating that level of form.
Bright New Dawn proved there was no fluke about his defeat of Ned Buntline in that contest when running third in yesterday’s Paddy Power Future Champions Novice Hurdle.
Indeed, he would have almost certainly have finished in second if he had have proven more amenable to restraint in the early stages. Ned Buntline and Courtly Conduct have also scored in the past few days, emphasising just what a good race it was.
Sir Des Champs (3:00 Leopardstown)
Flemenstar’s fortunes on the racecourse are inextricably linked to his trainer’s success in the boudoir if you believe the gregarious Peter Casey.
But after several days (and nights) to remember, and a few cringeworthy interviews, Casey could be set for an unremarkable evening if Sir Des Champs has progressed sufficiently for his seasonal pipe opener.
The selection finished five lengths behind Flemenstar on his reappearance but Casey’s stable star enjoyed a significant fitness edge, having already run this season.
The ground at Punchestown was heavy that day and Sir Des Champs should improve on this better ground.
Much speculation has surrounded Flemenstar’s stamina for his first race over three miles, but it may be best to disregard this imponderable from the equation.
On breeding, he should have no problem getting the trip, but it’s unusual for horses to show truly top class form over distances ranging from two to three miles.
That’s the preserve of the greats like the recently retired Kauto Star, but maybe we have another great in our midst.
The exploits of Sea The Stars and Frankel on the Flat in recent seasons illustrates the fact that the greats aren’t shackled by “once in a generation” tags and that we shouldn’t expect wonderhorses at regular intervals.
But what we can say for certain, well almost, is that Sir Des Champs will handle, and improve for, the hike up in trip.
He was being niggled along behind Flemenstar from a long way out at Punchestown, but stuck to the task well.
He won’t be cherry ripe today – 14 March is a long way away – but he is a good price to reverse form with the favourite and claim a first Lexus Chase for his trainer.