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Topaz Novice Chase preview

The Christmas Festival at Leopardstown continues tomorrow with a couple more Grade 1 races. The obvious choice for new contributor Andy Stewart would have been the Ryanair Hurdle but he's gone for the lower profile contest instead. You can follow him on @redofpurple.

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Topaz Novice Chase

With Ballycasey being taken out of the race it has lost a little bit of its intrigue, but the race still has some high class horses involved and it means Ruby Walsh is available to keep the ride on the favourite Morning Assembly.

Morning Assembly - Has won his last three races on the spin, including a Grade 1 Novice hurdle at the Punchestown Festival at the end of April where he comfortably beat the current RSA Chase favourite (and absentee from this race at 48hrs decs) Ballycasey by seven lengths. After this he started his chased career, winning over 20f at Punchestown, beating Si C'Etait Vrai by 3 3/4 lengths before beating the same rival again by 22 lengths when upped to 22f in the Grade 2 Florida Pearl Novices Chase where he also beat off Don Cossack, who himself had won his previous start by 22 lengths at Galway. Don Cossack went on to win the Grade 1 Drinmore Novices Chase after his defeat to Morning Assembly so the form of this race is strong and certainly sets the standard.

Bright New Dawn - A high class novice hurdler with an OR of 144, he has some useful form behind the likes of Champagne Fever and Jezki. He made his chase debut three weeks ago where he made the running and won at Punchestown over 20f where he beat Dogora by a 1/2 length. He was made to work harder than probably hoped for a chase debut but he did it well and the expectancy from the yard is he was going to make a better chaser than hurdler. Coming into a Grade 1 Chase with just the one previous start over fences is not always the best of preparations but he remains open to improvement for experience and trip.

Fox Rock - A lightly raced 5yo, he had a lowly hurdle rating of 129, but he looks to have left that well behind already. On his chase debut he finished a two-length runner-up to the smart Road To Riches (contested two Grade 1s since) and then won his next race over 21f at Fairyhouse where the trip would have been more to his liking. Whilst this is a big step up in class he appears to be going forwards and will have no problems with the three miles on soft ground.

Carlingford Lough - You can make a case for this horse on the form book. He has an OR of 150 and finished second last time out to Don Cossack in the Grade 1 Drinmore. However, he has one chase win from 11 starts and I'd expect something to improve past him. Three miles and soft ground look suitable for him.

Sizing Rio - Another promising 5yo in the race, he appears to be at his best in testing conditions. Both his chase wins have come on soft & heavy ground, winning by six and 10 lengths respectively. Last time out he finished 12 lengths behind Don Cossack when the going was good/yielding so he should perhaps be given the benefit of the doubt if indeed soft ground is what he needs. The trip of three miles is a question mark as he did not try that distance in his hurdling days.

Mad Brian - Has a hurdle rating of 127 and has already improved on that to the best part of a stone. He won his chase debut back in May over 22f at Killarney on soft ground, so the conditions of this race seem suitable. Although he is still lightly raced over fences, he was beaten in a handicap last time out off a mark of 132, the form of that race has been franked by Rockaboya since so it was a good performance, but I feel that sphere is where he'll stand a better chance of winning a nice prize.

Conclusion
With Ruby Walsh being free to ride in the race and the fact Morning Assembly's form is of a high standard I see no reason to oppose him. Bright New Dawn is highly regarded and has to be respected with classy novice hurdle form in the book but if I were to save on anything in the race it would be Fox Rock who has the slight edge on chase experience.

2pts Win Morning Assembly 11/8, William Hill.

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