The highlight of what hopefully will be a brilliant Leopardstown Festival is the Irish Gold Cup on Sunday. With some mouth watering contests over the two days, the feature will no doubt cap off a great weekend.
The race itself is not usually a great trial for the big one in Cheltenham but Sizing John did buck the trend last by winning this on his way to glory in March. This year’s renewal has a few contenders on a recovery mission due to some poor outings and others trying to get once promising careers, back on track. So, come Sunday evening we may have a new Gold Cup contender.
Our Duke heads the betting and is one of those on a recovery mission. Having won the Irish National last April, the sky looked the limit for the Jessica Harrington trained 8-year-old, however, his only run this season was a disaster having finished last and then scoping badly post-race. Normally a bad scope would be welcome to explain such a poor performance and maybe it will be if he hoses up but the fact that he finished the race and wasn’t pulled up would have you wondering just how much it took out of him. At the skimpy odds he’s at now I’m willing to let him run and see if he’s back to his best.
Killultagh Vic is a very interesting runner for the brilliant Willie Mullins having not been seen for 714 days prior to his run over hurdles in Punchestown on New Year’s Eve. He won that day despite not jumping fluently so it will have done his confidence the world of good. Probably best known for all but falling at Leopardstown on his last run over fences but still managing to win due to a magnificent rodeo style recovery from Ruby Walsh. This race will be an acid test for the once highly thought of bay gelding and having only had two runs over fences, neither of which were over three miles, this will be a watching brief only for me.
Others of note are Anibale Fly, Outlander, Minella Rocco and Djakadam. The first of these, Anibale Fly, was back in the headlines when winning the Paddy Power chase in December, which looked like a typical Tony Martin plot job having ran poorly over inadequate trips prior to this race. I anticipate a good showing, but he does tend to come up short at the top level. Outlander has some top-class form to his name this season and he probably deserves to be closer to the head of the betting than he is. In gathering this seasons form he has endured some tough races, so a fresher horse might just be a better option. Minella Rocco is a horse most fans would be happy to see get his head in front having put in some great efforts in his career while always coming up a little short. Finishing 2nd in last year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup epitomises this. A horse forever going in to notebooks for “running on well,” he is a good each way bet. Djakadam pulled up at Christmas, which is unusual for this very reliable horse, so you could be forgiven for putting a line through that run. It does however make you wonder if all the exploits throughout his career have finally started to catch up with him. One would think he should be going straight to Cheltenham but maybe connections feel his ability is wavering and are trying to win one more big pot with him.
All these ramblings and notions have lead us to Valseur Lido. Probably best known for coming up against the incredible Vautour for a big part of his career. He ran a blinder on his reappearance over course and distance in December. He jumped beautifully and travelled well into the straight but got tired on the run-in, which was expected on his first run back. With expected improvements from that race he could be a real contender here, ideally suiting better ground he should still handle the going. Hopefully he can get redemption for 2016 when he was running first, before unseating Ruby Walsh at the last. At the time of writing he’s our selection at 9/1 and looks a cracking each way bet.
We will have plenty tips over weekend so head over to our twitter @BigJoeHorseTips and hopefully we’ll point in the way of a few winners!