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Lexus Chase preview

The focus may have been on Kempton for the last couple of days but the Christmas Festival at Leopardstown is similarly high in quality. The King George shone the spotlight on the UK's best Gold Cup hopefuls, and the Lexus Chase does the same for the Irish contingent.

Making his debut on the blog is the astute Nick Palfrey, @8palfrey8, and you can read more of his work on his blog.

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Lexus Chase

Saturday's Lexus Chase from Leopardstown is a high class renewal that features three top class chasers at the head of the market who all have something to prove after disappointing starts to the campaign.

Bob's Worth makes the trip from Nicky Henderson's yard at Seven Barrows hoping to makes amends after a terribly lacklustre effort in the Betfair Chase at Haydock last month. He's a formidable contender on his best form but how likely are we to see that tomorrow? On the one hand Haydock is a very flat left handed track that plainly didn't suit him and it might not have been the best idea pitching him in first time out in one of the best staying chaser line-ups of recent times. So with a run behind him we can reasonably expect some sort of improvement tomorrow. The problem for me is his breathtaking win in the Gold Cup in March was such a lung bursting effort, one in which he was off the bridle four out, that there is the possibility it might have bottomed him to some extent and it might take a while to get him back. He's the sort of game, honest battler that leaves it all behind in his races and he isn't the type to take a lot of racing. At 2/1 for this I would respect him but I think he's worth opposing

Sir Des Champs had what looked a horror fall at the third fence in the John Durkan at Punchestown first time out but happily he's obviously recovered taking his chance as he does in this. The problem with this horse is the possibility that that tumble has knocked his confidence. I would also add that he was far from fluent at a number of obstacles twelve months ago in this very race. I think those two doubts are big enough to give him a swerve. I expect him to be a massive contender for the Gold Cup on good ground at Cheltenham but this time of year on rain softened ground on a course he has had problems at in the past I wouldn't really have him in my mind as the likeliest winner.

First Lieutenant was the only staying chaser in training who ran at all three of the big spring time Festivals at Cheltenham, Aintree and Punchestown last season. He ran creditably in all three of the races he ran in, winning at Aintree, and it stands to reason that his connections would have wanted to give him a nice quiet summer in a field somewhere before a similar campaign. With that in mind, the possibility that he might well run in all the big events in March and April, it would seem obvious that his trainer wouldn't have him cherry ripe for his first couple of runs in the Autumn. Indeed his profile, even as a novice, was of a horse who started the season slowly. So I'm going to forgive him his first two runs this campaign at Punchestown and Down Royal. He's an honest horse who jumps well and I can only think those two poor runs was a result of lacking proper fitness. At 5/1 he strikes as a fair bet. He was in front of Sir Des Champs in the race last year.

Paul Nicholls is a trainer in great form and he has taken this race a couple of times in the past. His contender, Unioniste, is a talented young chaser on the up but he looks awfully short for this at a top priced 7/1. He's actually five points shorter in the betting than Lord Windermere who had him nine lengths in arrears a the line in the RSA at Cheltenham. Yes, Jim Culloty's charge was disappointing in the Hennessy at Newbury but he was hampered by the fall of another horse when going well and I expect him to outrun his price tomorrow. 12/1 is decent value.

The others all look outclassed in what is a smashing renewal of Ireland's best chase although I wouldn't put anyone off having a small each way on Lyreen Legend at around 20/1. He also ran well in the RSA and is a touch overpriced.

Conclusion: I think there are enough doubts about Bob's Worth and Sir Des Champ at their respective best prices of 9/4 and 3/1 to want to take them on and I'll be going in double handed with First Lieutenant at 5/1 and Lord Windermere each way at 12/1.

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