Leading Light_Horse Racing

Jetson A Late Gift For Christmas Hurdle

For punters who missed out finding the winner of Kempton’s Christmas Hurdle for the two-milers on Boxing Day, then a second chance awaits courtesy of Leopardstown’s Christmas Hurdle over 3m this Sunday (1.50).

Always an event that tests stamina, this prestigious Grade 1 event has been won by some tough classy sorts down the years, two of whom were trained by Willie Mullins since 2010…

Trends Summary
Of the last 10 Christmas Hurdle winners…

10 were 5-9yo’s
9 ran during the previous 45 days
8 had 1-3 previous runs at Leopardstown
8 returned 4/1 or shorter (25%) – others were 2-50 (4%)
8 made the top two last time out
N Meade and W Mullins won it twice each

Mullins could once again be well represented on Sunday via the likes of Briar Hil and Zaidpour, who won it 12 months ago.

Zaidpour never let down backers when winning this race by over 4l at 5/4 on that occasion, and while he won just one of his six subsequent outings – a Grade 2 over 2m4f in November – he clearly likes this venue, having recorded form figures of 2221. This will be more competitive than last year’s four-runner renewal, however, and Zaidpou will have to be at his best having fallen a month ago in first-time blinkers.

Briar Hill also fell when last seen in the Albert Bartlett last March, and while a 3m points winner, he still has a bit to prove on this reappearance.

Noel Meade also knows what it takes to win this race, and it will be interesting to see what the betting says ahead of Monksland’s long-awaited return following a 730-day absence. The 7yo won this event in 2012, defeating Zaidpour by over 2l, and will be a player if ready for this assignment.

It’s worth noting that 8 of the last 10 winners of this made the top two last time, a positive perhaps for Jessica Harrington’s, Jetson.

Although a 9yo, he has made progress late during his career, including when landing Punchestown’s World Hurdle in May, beating none other than Quevega. He returned with a 4l second to Lieutenant Colonel in the Hatton’s Grace over 2m4f, but will enjoy Sunday’s step back up in trip.

Lieutenant Colonel meanwhile, is also respected as an improving Grade 1 winner, but will be going into the unknown beyond 2m5f – for the record, 8 of the last 10 Christmas Hurdle victors had previously run over 3m.

Two runners with a bit more to prove having been pulled up last time are Bog Warrior and Tiger Roll. The former won a Grade 2 over this trip almost two years ago and will have to defy history if winning as a 10yo, while the latter also has the stats against him as a 4yo, despite winning last season’s Triumph at Cheltenham (2m, good to soft). He is also unproven 2m1f.

British Challenge
At Fishers Cross hasn’t won since landing back-to-back Grade 1’s in March/April 2013, although he has run creditably with numerous placed efforts at the highest level, including both World Hurdles at Cheltenham and Punchestown last spring. The only concern is his 10l defeat at odds-on when reappearing last month.

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Recent fitness has proven a big advantage in this race down the years, and one who passes on that score is Jetson.

He made a satisfactory reappearance over 2m4f last month and will relish the return to 3m.