THERE'S some outstanding racing in Ireland on Monday. Our man Graeme Johnston (@GraemeJ_83) shares his best bets.
13:55 Leopardstown | At The Races
The Christmas Hurdle has an added bonus this season with Arctic Fire being added to the field and this is a very interesting renewal of this race. This will have a huge reaction on the World Hurdle market with the winner likely to be disputing favouritism come Monday evening.
Let's start with Arctic Fire. The class horse of the race, in a normal year he'd be a Champion Hurdle winner but thanks to Faugheen he's something of a nearly horse.
He stepped up in trip last time and oozed class in a facile victory, but is he going to be as good over 3 miles on heavy ground? No would be my answer to that.
I love Arctic Fire. He runs his heart out every time and bar a last fence fall should have won the Aintree Hurdle last season. But this is going to be a real test. He comes up against thorough stayers and I feel this may not be his day.
So who beats him? Alpha Des Obeaux is a serious rival here and is a hurdler with a huge future. He was beaten by the favourite last time on his seasonal debut and with improvement likely he could reverse the form here.
He will appreciate the extra distance here and I wouldn't put anyone off him. However the heavy ground may go against him and there is another in the field that looks tailor made for this.
Martello Tower won the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham last season and hasn't been seen since. However this doesn't worry me. He has a good record fresh (2 from 2) he relishes soft ground and in a race where his two main rivals are yet to win at the distance he is the logical choice, especially when we can back him each way with our stake back if he comes second.
Paddy Power offer money back on the second if the favourite wins also so he looks a solid each way bet with them. Everything looks in place for a massive run from him and I expect him to be involved in the finish.
15:05 Leopardstown | At The Races
The Lexus Chase is one of the highlights of the Irish season and though it's only attracted a field of five runners all are proven Grade 1 horses and it's a quality renewal. Whoever wins this will be a real contender for the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March but the bookies see it as something of a one horse race.
Don Poli lines up here as an odds on favourite and the RSA winner deserves to be. Bar a flop at Punchestown in April last year he was flawless last season and looked a progressive stayer.
His forte appears to be staying and the heavy ground here should play in to his hands. However it's his first Grade 1 out of novice company and at 1/2 he's not for me. Though the most likely winner, I'm looking for value elsewhere.
Sir Des Champs is his main market rival here and this winner of 11 out of 16 jumps starts comes here on the back of a win after 23 months off. That day he beat Rubi Light but I'm not sure of the form of that race.
He was receiving 7lb from the runner up that day and the rest of the field was way below top class. As encouraging as his return was he still has to show he really maintains his old ability and I'm prepared to take him on here.
I like the look of Carlingford Lough here. He came fifth in this last season, but that was a stronger renewal and also his seasonal debut. He has had the benefit of a recent run this season and he won on his second start last season.
Though he flopped in last seasons Gold Cup he has claims to be Ireland's top staying chaser and at 14/1 he is ridiculously overpriced. He is a three time Grade 1 winner and at nine years old is at his peak.
I think this race is his target for the season and he's a fantastic each way bet here. Neither of the first two in the market look bomb proof so not only does he look like value in the place market I feel he is a very likely winner of this race.
13:55 Leopardstown – Martello Tower each way (4/1 Ladbrokes)
15:05 Leopardstown – Carlingford Lough each way (14/1 Paddy Power)
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