Beef can still cut it
Joe has had more than his share of great days with Beef or Salmon and although he didn't win this race last year, he came back and took the Hennessy Irish Gold Cup when flattening The Listener in the final strides at the February meeting. The Lexus last December was won by The Listener who put in a powerful performance, leaving Beef or Salmon well behind but Beef or Salmon is never a horse you can rule out of a contest at Leopardstown and his owner feels he can run yet another big race next weekend. "We're taking on the best and I would love to see the Beef winning yet again which would be his 11th Grade One race. "But I know he is getting no younger and I suppose I would have to be happy if he is second or third for this is a terrific contest with not only Denman in action, but The Listener as well." Craig is absolutely correct for this contest oozes class and there's no doubt that Denman's performance in carrying top weight to an easy victory in the Hennessy Gold Cup Handicap Chase at Newbury was still the performance of the season so far. "It's hard to ignore his claims," said Craig. "But then you never know. He may not travel well and all sorts of things can happen in a horserace. "As far as we are concerned Beef or Salmon is at his best at present and the fact that he likes the course so much is a pointer in his favour." Beef or Salmon is likely to be joined by stablemate Mossbank who is highly regarded by trainer Michael Hourigan and it could be that Mossbank will also figure in what looks like being an epic climax. It's hard to see Denman being beaten if he runs the way he did at Newbury, but the old factor of a course winner in Beef or Salmon, is bound to come into it and I would be loathed to pass him over. The Listener ran a terrific race when winning last year and has since taken the Durkan Chase at Punchestown earlier this month to prove his wellbeing. It's hard to say at this stage what else will be in the Lexus but it should draw a tremendous crowd if only for the fact that the opposition to Beef or Salmon is of the highest class. Also at this Leopardstown Christmas meeting, we have the December Hurdle next Saturday and here it looks as though Noel Meade will have the answer with Aitmatov who has already won the Morgiana Hurdle and looks very much as though he is a hurdler who will come on a lot for the run. Meade's thoughts will be elsewhere in midweek for Jazz Messenger and Harchibald should be at Kempton on Boxing Day for the Christmas Hurdle which Jazz Messenger won last year and showed he was in good form by winning recently at Navan. In addition to Meade who is in tremendous form these days, Jessica Harrington will be hoping for some luck at Leopardstown and runs Cork All Star at Leopardstown in a novice hurdle. Harrington lost her consistent hurdler Macs Joy who had to be put down at Cheltenham last weekend. But she looks forward now with Cork Cork All Star at Leopardstown in a novice hurdle. Cork All Star was beaten in the Royal Bond Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse but a slip up near the finish probably allowed Muirhead to win. Muirhead won't be back this time for he has been set to one side in order to wait for the Deloitte Hurdle at Leopardstown at the end of January. As Mrs Harrington said: "Hopefully we will eventually go to Cheltenham with Cork All Star but let's take one thing at a time."