A case of watch, look and Listener at Leopardstown
So that’s why they call it the Turf. The thaw may have arrived just too late for the big holiday fixture at Kempton, but yesterday it disclosed a mysterious green surface at several other venues.
Ffos Las is all set to restore jump racing to Britain this afternoon, and there is a decent chance that Leopardstown's Christmas meeting — a critical crossroads in the Irish season — will finally get off the ground, as well.
In fact, the problem for the Dublin track is that nearly 10 inches of snow melted so quickly that there is now a concern about waterlogging. Assuming it goes ahead, after a 7.30am inspection, the going is guaranteed to be heavy.
That is a pity, when the meeting would otherwise set up some very legible signposts to Cheltenham. You have to doubt quite how relevant a slog in hock-deep ground will prove, come spring conditions at the Festival, but beggars can't be choosers.
Many Irish trainers are becoming anxious that their novices, in particular, will remain perilously short of experience if they don't gain some now.
That is hardly an issue for most of those contesting the day's most valuable prize, however, the Lexus Chase being largely contested by familiar names — none more so, despite a year's absence with tendon injury, than The Listener.
The veteran of many successful raids to Ireland, he adores this ground and his trainer is adamant that he retains all his old gusto as he nears his 12th birthday. “He has only run 28 times in his life and there's plenty of petrol left in the tank,” Nick Mitchell said.
Few among the home defence retain any pretensions to troubling the likes of Kauto Star and Imperial Commander, at Cheltenham in March, but keep a close eye on Cooldine.
He shaped nicely enough over an inadequate trip on his reappearance and, should he fail to cut the mustard today, there could well be a silver lining at Aintree in April.
Cooldine does look an ideal sort for the John Smith's Grand National, but could somewhat fall between stools if running well enough here to warrant another Gold Cup preparation.
The arrival of milder weather could yet reprieve a high-class card at Newbury tomorrow, where Big Buck's will be expected to outclass just five rivals in the rescheduled Long Walk Hurdle.