Martello Has Class To Tower Over Alpha

Monday’s Grade 1 Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown over 3m (1.55pm) is shaping-up to be one of the most thrilling races of the festive season, as it brings together Alpha Des Obeaux and Martello Tower.

Christmas Hurdle
In one corner is Mouse Morris’ 5yo, Alpha Des Obeaux (11/8), who is the narrow favourite, having almost won his first Grade 1 at Fairyhouse last month (2m4f, soft). Keeping on all the way to the line in being beaten 4l by Arctic Fire, Alpha Des Obeaux gives the impression that Monday’s return up to 3m could suit.

Not that this will be Alpha Des Obeaux’s first attempt at 3m, as he was beaten just over 2l when trying the trip in a Grade 3 last December. The only concern is his lack of winning form, having finished runner-up in four of his last five outings, and there is a slight concern his one-pace at the finish may cost him again.

Martello To Tower Over Obeaux?
Punters looking for an alternative may look at Ms Margaret Mullins’ 7yo Martello Tower (13/8), who has been kept under wraps since March’s Grade 1 novices’ victory at Cheltenham (3m, soft). Previously second in a Grade 2 here 11 months ago, he will clearly handle Monday’s conditions (also won a bumper on heavy), and it will be interesting to see if any money arrives for him following a 290-day absence.

The past trends of this race also show that a recent outing was experienced prior to running at Leopardstown.

Christmas Hurdle Trends
Of the last 10 winners…

10 returned 12/1 or shorter
9 were 5-8yo’s
9 ran over 2m4f last time
9 made the top two last time
9 ran during the last 45 days
8 were officially rated 145+
W Mullins and N Meade won it twice apiece

The above trends also show that runners in the top half of the betting came to the fore, offering hope to Gwencily Berbas (7/1).

Berbas Better At Weights
Alan Fleming’s 4yo is given a chance having been only 3/4l behind Alpha Des Obeaux at Fairyhouse last month (Snow Falcon a further 3l back in fifth), especially as he is also 1lb better off with that rival on Monday. The question surrounds the trip, but he wasn’t going backwards over 2m4f and may well improve for the step up.

One who is guaranteed to stay the distance is Gordon Elliott’s Prince Of Scars (8/1).

He arrives on the back of two handicap wins (2m7f/3m, soft/heavy). This progressive 5yo needs to improve once more if looking to figure, but that is quite possible.

Recommended Bets
Alpha Des Obeaux is respected, but Martello Tower could be worth risking on his seasonal return. Already a Grade 1 winner over 3m in the mud, Martello Tower won first time out last season and is a class act.

Lexus Chase
With a record of 4-5 over fences, it’s no wonder Willie Mullins’ Don Poli has been made the Evens favourite for Monday’s Grade 1 Lexus Chase at Leopardstown (3.05pm).

Don Looks On Song
Successful over C&D at this meeting 12 months ago when landing the Grade 1 for novices, Don Poli has gone from strength to strength, including a second Grade 1 in the RSA at Cheltenham in March. It was a performance that marked him down as a future Gold Cup winner (currently the 4/1 favourite), and a convincing victory come Monday could see those odds contract further.

Djakadam To Upset Jolly Poli?
Don Poli showed he was in good form when landing a Listed event at Aintree several weeks ago, but cannot take this race for granted as one of his rivals for the Cheltenham Gold Cup is stablemate, Djakadam, also well backed at 7/2 to win the Lexus.

This 6yo went mighty close to winning last season’s Gold Cup at Cheltenham when just over 1l behind Coneygree, eventually just outstayed near the line.

Djakadam also filled the same spot when 7l behind Don Cossack in the Punchestown Gold Cup, but finally bagged a first Grade 1 on his reappearance three weeks ago in the Punchestown Chase (2m4f, heavy) – Foxrock (20/1) was 40l away in sixth.

That 12l victory in the mud showed that Djakadam has returned in sparkling form. And his chance will increase if the rain continues to fall.

Sir To Be Champ Again?
Mullins also has Sir Des Champs (6/1) entered. This 9yo was runner-up in the 2013 Cheltenham Gold Cup before landing the Punchestown Gold Cup a month later, but has suffered with injuries since.

He returned following a near two-year absence to win a Listed contest at Thurles last month, and cannot be dismissed.

Last year’s Lexus winner Road To Riches (3/1), also enters calculations once more, having finished just 2l behind Djakadam in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. The same rival in the Punchestown Gold Cup then beat him over 6l, so has some work to do with that rival if reversing places.

Lexus Chase Trends
Of the last 10 winners…

10 returned 8/1 or shorter
10 ran over 3m or further last time out
9 ran during the last 26-45 days
8 were non-winners last time out
8 won over 3m
8 arrived via Haydock or Newbury
7 had yet to run at Leopardstown
P Nicholls won it three times, Jonjo O’Neill twice

As for the remainder, then it’s worth noting that all bar two of the last 10 Lexus winners failed to win last time, something Carlingford Lough did last month. While this 9yo was beaten over 34l on his reappearance last month, he may well improve for that outing, and will be looking to repeat the form of his Hennessy Gold Cup win over C&D last February.

Recommended Bets
There was a lot to like about Don Poli’s return when coming clear at Aintree 23 days ago, a victory that would have put him spot-on for this assignment.