Leopardstown racing preview: ‘Gala’ can put on debut show while Fil Dor is primed for Grade One glory

Aside from everything that goes with the Cheltenham Festival in March, there is no better time of the year for racing disciples than Christmas with the finest of equine action everywhere you look.

he cream of the Irish crop is certainly at Leopardstown over the next four days, although the opening show is a bit of a slow-burner at the Foxrock track. The Brand New Racing Post App Novice Chase (2.20) is today’s highlight and Gordon Elliott looks to have this Grade One prize well within his grasp.

You have to go all the way back to Clarcam in 2014 for Elliott’s only win in this contest but he saddles the red-hot favourite Fil Dor this time around with receipt of the four-year allowance also of great assistance to Jack Kennedy’s mount.

Fil Dor was a Grade Two-winning juvenile hurdler – and next best to the brilliant Vauban on three occasions last season, including the Triumph Hurdle at the Festival – but he looks even better over the larger obstacles and had four lengths to spare over the re-opposing Saint Roi on his fencing debut.

The pair pulled miles clear of the rest that day at Naas and although Willie Mullins has landed this contest on eight occasions, it’s hard to make a case for how the form could be reversed between the duo and Fil Dor’s biggest challenge looks set to come from Cullentra stablemate Hollow Games.

The six-year-old got the job done in good style on his chasing debut at Navan last month and is a danger under Denis O’Regan, but Fil Dor can get his first Grade One success in this weak-looking affair where only five go to post.

On the flip side, the Grade Two Knight Frank Juvenile Hurdle (1.10) is as competitive as they come. Lossiemouth could hardly have been any more impressive when scoring at Grade Three level at Fairyhouse earlier this month on her first start for Team Mullins.

​There was plenty of hype beforehand and the Triumph Hurdle favourite duly backed it up to fend off stablemate Zarak The Brave, but her prohibitive odds are not in any way tempting in a top-class renewal which also sees stablemate Gala Marceau make her Irish debut.

Now sporting the famous light blue and white Honeysuckle colours, Gala Marceau was unbeaten in two starts over hurdles in France – including when taking a Listed event in fine style at Auteuil in April – and she may be the each-way play under the ever-reliable Danny Mullins.

McTigue is already a Grade Two winner in France this season before disappointing on his next start in Auteuil but Emmet Mullins’ charge must give away a minimum of 6lbs to his rivals for that success, and a whopping 13lbs to Gala Marceau, and that may be too much of a burden for Donagh Meyler’s mount.

Cougar is a 92-rated Flat performer – formerly trained by Aidan O’Brien and now sporting the JP McManus silks for Pádraig Roche – and has done nothing wrong on his two hurdling wins at Gowran Park and Down Royal but Gala Marceau looks the value selection to make a memorable start for the Closutton maestro.

The presence of High Definition in the opening All About Sunday Maiden Hurdle (12.0) is fascinating.

The Galileo colt, partnered by JJ Slevin, was favourite for last year’s Epsom Derby before the Flat season commenced after an impressive juvenile season and he is now in the hands of Joseph O’Brien while still donning those famous navy silks of Mrs John Magnier.

How he takes to jumping hurdles will be intriguing while Willie Mullins has unleashed some exciting types here in the past – Klassical Dream won this in 2018 while State Man was favourite for it last year before falling two out. 

French recruit Parmenion, owned by Joe Donnelly, make his first start on Irish soil in the hands of Paul Townend and will no doubt be short in the betting after scoring on his only career start in France 557 days ago but the Festival opener is as open as ever.

All of the big hitters are represented and Jetara looks one to stay on the right side of over hurdles having landed a Listed bumper on her last start. There were some good types in arrears and Jessica Harrington’s charge may reward her supporters to score over obstacles at the first attempt under Jack Kennedy.

Keith Donoghue will have had a particularly light Christmas dinner in order to make the 11-1 weight carried by the Gavin Cromwell-trained Final Orders in the later handicap chase (2.55). The six-year-old has already provided the Meath rider with four wins in the past four months and that run may continue.

Final Orders has won over a variety of trips and he will show his versatility once again as he drops back seven furlongs from his Down Royal success last month to tackle this 2m1f contest. This will be his toughest test yet, but front-running tactics may just see him land a fourth successive win and make Donoghue’s festive sacrifices worthwhile.


12.0 Jetara

12.35 Doctor Bravo

1.10 Gala Marceau (e/w)

1.45 Rock Ya Boy Ya

2.20 Fil Dor (Nap)

2.55 Final Orders

3.30 Did I Ask You That

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