Katie Walsh: My head says State Man for the Irish Champion Hurdle
The Betway ambassador previews the Sunday action at Leopardstown, including the Irish Champion Hurdle
Sunday at Leopardstown
The Mares’ Handicap (13:10) has been won by some really smart horses in the past three years, so I hope we get to see another good one from it. Banntown Girl is yet to finish out of the first four in her career. She is consistent and gives everything, so she’s hard to look away from at a double figure price.
I also like the look of Ballybawn Belter for Liz Doyle. She ran well last time and is still well handicapped. She’s getting the hang of things now and could improve again.
Mighty Potter has done nothing wrong and might just have too much pace for the others in the Grade 1 Novice Chase (13:40). Jack Kennedy loves him and was really animated about him when we spoke about this horse. I’ve been impressed with him over fences. He’s clearly improved for the larger obstacles. He’s still only six and will have plenty of improvement in him yet.
Connections of Blue Lord will have been watching the Clarence House Chase last weekend and will have no doubt been excited to see this horse stake a claim for the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase with a good performance this weekend. He was brilliant here over Christmas and this race (14:10) looks another good opportunity for him.
The Bulmers Handicap Chase (14:40) is another competitive handicap. You’ll need to throw a few darts at this, but I do like two.
Ilikedwayurthinkin was pulled up last time but I’m happy to put a line through that. His form in the spring last year was good and if he comes back to anything like that over fences, he could be well handicapped.
Foxy Jacks fell at Cheltenham in the Cross-Country last weekend, but he’s got a race in him. He ran well here at Christmas, and I think he’ll do well in a race like this one day.
The Irish Champion Hurdle (15:10) is a real battle between my heart and my head. It’s such an exciting race between State Man and Honeysuckle and that’s not discounting the chances of Vauban either. It’s going to be a cracker of a race.
My heart is with Honeysuckle, who was beaten by a very good and improving horse in the Hatton’s Grace last time.
My head says State Man is improving and was very good last time. Whatever happens, it’s going to shape the Champion Hurdle picture. Constitution Hill fans will be watching on.
Facile Vega is hard to oppose at 15:40, isn’t he? He’s done nothing wrong, ever. Obviously, like most racehorses, they do get beaten at some point, so it should never be a shock, but he’s done little to suggest he could get beaten if everything went to plan. I imagine Paul will see if there is any pace on before deciding what to do. He can go on or he can sit in behind. Either way, he’ll be hard to beat.
Gaelic Warrior has top weight to shoulder in this handicap (16:10), but I think he’s graded class and if he’s going to the Ballymore after this, he’s going to be needing to win this handicap. I think he’s been outstanding in two runs, albeit in lesser company this season. He’s clearly very good, but he’s short enough in the betting in such a big field handicap.
The last race of the weekend is the Mares’ Bumper (16:40). I thought Jessie Harrington's Marie Philippe did well on her debut and looked a horse full of promise.
I couldn't split her and Fun Fun Fun on what they have done so far, so I think they’ll battle it out between them.
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