Belfast Telegraph

Friday 18 April 2014

Bobs at mercy of super Lord

Winner all the way: Tony McCoy on way to victory on board Plinth yesterday in the Paddy Power Maiden Hurdle at Leopardstown's Christmas Festival

Leopardstown's Christmas Festival enters its weekend phase with a stellar spread that is spearheaded by a fascinating Lexus Chase rematch between the first two home in this year's Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Nicky Henderson has endured some mixed results so far this term, with Ulster-bred Bobs Worth's tame defeat in the Betfair Chase the most alarming reversal prior to Sprinter Sacre's bizarre flop yesterday.

Barry Geraghty's talented mount faces another stern test as he bids to get his season back on track in the €150,000 feature.

Sir Des Champs, his closest pursuer at Cheltenham, is among those charged with preventing the prestigious three-miler going for export for a seventh time since 2006.

Intriguingly, Willie Mullins' Gigginstown Stud-owned seven-year-old also has a reputation to repair after his recent Punchestown spill, as does the same owner's out-of-form First Lieutenant, gallingly outfoxed by Tidal Bay here last year.

Tidal Bay's handler Paul Nicholls relies on Unioniste in his quest for a fourth Lexus win, while the latter's RSA conqueror Lord Windermere – today's selection – is also on duty.

Jim Culloty's stable star landed this card's beginners chase 12 months ago, but he faces a far more definitive assignment under Galway-born Dougie Costello now.

Invariably, this is a race in which the prospect of bringing Ireland's Gold Cup drought to an end the following March has expired in recent times. This year, as ever, the hope would be that one of the home team might be able to make a real statement of intent in what is an unusually open edition given the doubts surrounding the main protagonists.

Meanwhile, Ulsterman Tony McCoy was at his brilliant best as Plinth claimed a last-gasp victory in yesterday's Paddy Power Maiden Hurdle at Leopardstown.

Trainer Aidan O'Brien said: "We're delighted with that. It was a great ride by AP to get him rolling again, but he showed a good turn of foot.

"It's nice to have a winner for (owner) JP (McManus) here. It's been a long time since I've had one for him at this track and the lads at home have done a great job.

"Future plans depend on how he comes out of this race and we'll leave it to JP and (racing manager) Frank (Berry)."

The winner has been priced up at 25-1 for the Triumph Hurdle.

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