A feast of top quality Graded action was served up to Irish National Hunt fans on Sunday afternoon and in our Jumping Over The Irish Sea section we review a stunning Leopardstown card that has certainly propelled some horses into the Cheltenham Festival picture, with the likes of Carlingford Lough and Apache Stronghold taking centre stage.
Vintage McCoy Strikes Late On Lough To Bag Irish Hennessy
AP McCoy had merely announced his imminent retirement from the saddle before showing why he is regarded as the greatest jockey of all time, as the perennial UK champion jockey produced a perfectly-timed ride aboard Carlinford Lough to land his first Irish Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown.
Biding his time from the outset, McCoy stalked his rivals for most of the contest and when reigning Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Lord Windermere and the progressive Foxrock kicked to the front, McCoy just edged his former Galway Plate winner into contention and he picked up in stunning fashion to land the prize by three-quarters-of-a-length.
The John Kiely-trained gelding is now a best-priced 12/1 with Ladbrokes for the Gold Cup on March 13, whilst the aforementioned Lord Windermere is available at 14/1 with the same firm, in what is shaping up into an intriguing renewal, where there will be some notable runners taking their chance from the Emerald Isle.
Stronghold Downs Lido To Enhance JLT Claims
Noel Meade's Apache Stronghold was slashed in the betting for the JLT Novices' Chase at next month's Cheltenham Festival, as after a sublime ride from Paul Carberry, the exciting seven-year-old saw off the gutsy Valseur Lido in what was a terrific renewal of the Grade 1 Flogas Novice Chase.
The latter had been heavily supported as Valseur Lido aimed to hand Willie Mullins more top class success, but Apache Stronghold had his own army of backers and the 9/2 shot showed a terrific turn of pace to edge out his rival by half-a-length and Meade's charge is now 7/1 with most firms for the JLT, whilst you can't write off Valseur Lido, who is merely a few points bigger at 10/1 for the 2m 4f race.
Canyon Bursts Ville Bubble And Is Premier Neptune Player
All the money in the lead-up to Sunday's Deloitte Novice Hurdle had been for Willie Mullins's Alvisio Ville, who had also been highly supported in the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle, but it was another County Carlow inmate that took centre stage as Nichols Canyon stormed to victory and he is now a 7/1 ante-post favourite for the Neptune on March 11.
Alvisio Ville, who is now 20/1 for the Neptune, disputed for a few strides, but was then left in the wake of Nichols Canyon, who stormed clear of Windsor Park and whilst his stamina maybe tested when stepped up to 2m 5f at the Cheltenham Festival, he oozes class having been a fine Flat horse for John Gosden, and he's certainly one for the Neptune notebook.
Kalkir Foiled By Stablemate Parisienne In Spring Juvenile
One of the premier trials for the JCB Triumph Hurdle, Sunday's Spring Juvenile Hurdle saw another exciting Willie Mullins-trained four-year-old launch into the limelight, as Petite Parisienne saw off his stablemate Kalkir in the Grade 1 contest at Leopardstown.
The betting had suggested that Kalkir was Mullins' premier player, but it was Bryan Cooper on the 6/1 second string that took the honours, as after joining Kalkir at the head of affairs a flight from home, he duly jumped with aplomb and quickened to land the victory.
Peace And Co is a dominant figure in the Triumph Hurdle betting, but Petite Parisienne is still very lightly raced and could offer some terrific value at 12/1 for the Triumph, whilst Kalkir was eased to 16/1 for the Friday curtain-raiser, which will ignite the final day of the 'Greatest Show On Turf'