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Porter floors Christmas rivals at Leopardstown

Flooring Porter was given a fabulous front-running ride by Jonathan Moore to win the Leopardstown Christmas Hurdle.

Supplemented for the Grade One having easily won a handicap last time out, Moore judged his fractions perfectly in front aboard Gavin Cromwell’s five-year-old.

Having gone a good pace on the first circuit with the field well spread out behind him, he looked a sitting duck as French Dynamite, Sire Du Berlais and The Storyteller all seemed to still be going well, while favourite Fury Road was under pressure.

Moore asked Flooring Porter to quicken on the run to the last though, and the 11-1 shot responded in style as he pulled clear of the staying-on The Storyteller by six lengths, with Sire De Berlais a further three-quarters of a length back in third.

Cromwell’s winner was introduced into the betting at 12-1 for the Stayers’ Hurdle by Betfair.

The winning handler was represented by Feidhlim Cunningham, who said: “There has been huge improvement in him.

“He’s good going left-handed. Obviously he won the 90,000 euros Grade B handicap in Navan and he was good that day.

Jonathan Moore steals a peak over his shoulder but he is well clear
Jonathan Moore steals a peak over his shoulder but he is well clear (Niall Carson/PA)

“Fair play to the owners. We suggested supplementing him for this and they backed us. They put the money where their mouth is and it’s fairly paid off.

“He’s really improved and Gavin has done a wonderful job with him.

“Johnny has given him a peach again – it was a similar ride to Navan as he got breathers at the right times.

“We’re absolutely delighted with that. You’d have to say Cheltenham would be on the agenda now and we’re just thrilled to get the Grade One winner.”

Late setback forces Ronald Pump to bypass Christmas date

Ronald Pump has been ruled out of the Grade One Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown after he was found to be lame on Monday morning.

Trainer Matthew Smith called in the farrier, who discovered the seven-year-old had a stone bruise.

“Unfortunately he was lame this morning,” said the County Meath handler.

“The farrier was in and found he had a stone bruise.

“It’s very disappointing. These things happen unfortunately.

“He’ll be fine. It’s just that he’s not able to run today.”

Ronald Pump was a leading fancy for the three-mile hurdle feature, having finished second in last season’s Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham and runner-up to Honeysuckle in the Hatton’s Grace at Fairyhouse a month ago.

Dual Festival winner heads Elliott’s attack on Christmas Hurdle

Sire Du Berlais spearheads a triple assault on the Leopardstown Christmas Hurdle for trainer Gordon Elliott.

The Cullentra handler saddled the brilliant mare Apple’s Jade to claim this Grade One prize in each of the past three seasons and appears intent on adding to his tally on Monday.

The JP McManus-owned Sire Du Berlais is the narrow favourite. The eight-year-old is a dual winner of the Pertemps Final at the Cheltenham Festival and made a flying start to the current campaign with victory in the Lismullen Hurdle at Navan last month.

He is joined by Fury Road, who also impressed on his reappearance at Punchestown, as well as The Storyteller, who reverts to the smaller obstacles after winning the Ladbrokes Champion Chase at Down Royal.

“Fury Road was a really good staying novice and the form of his Albert Bartlett third at Cheltenham looks strong. I’m hoping he will make up into a strong Stayers’ Hurdle contender in the spring,” Elliott told Betfair.

“Sire Du Berlais is heading down the Stayers’ route after winning the last two Pertemps Finals at Cheltenham. I was delighted with his comeback win at Navan and he’ll improve for that run and the step up to three miles.

“The Storyteller is a great favourite around the yard and has done us proud this season already. I think he’s as good over hurdles as he is over fences and we’re trying him at this level to see what sort of route we might take with him through the second half of the season.”

Mouse Morris is represented by Lismullen runner-up French Dynamite, Gavin Cromwell runs Flooring Porter and Willie Mullins saddles both Bacardys and Bapaume.

Patrick Mullins, assistant to his father, he said: “They’re both top-class horses on their day and their ratings entitle them to take part.

“We’re hoping they can pick up some place money, but some funny results can happen at Christmas and if you’re not in, you can’t win.”

A very different Kempton in prospect – but still a King George to savour

It may be a different Ladbrokes King George VI Chase day at Kempton Park without the Christmas throng of racegoers due to Covid restrictions – but it is likely to be business as usual in the main event this afternoon.

Paul Nicholls has won the Boxing Day showpiece a record 11 times, and again appears to hold all the aces. The Ditcheat trainer is responsible for four of the nine runners as he bids to make it a dozen victories in one of the real highlights of the jumping calendar.

Clan Des Obeaux returns in front of packed stands 12 months ago - it will be a very different scene this year
Clan Des Obeaux returns in front of packed stands 12 months ago – it will be a very different scene this year (Steven Paston/PA)

Clan Des Obeaux, winner for the last two years, heads his quartet, although Nicholls is convinced there is nothing between him and Cyrname.

The latter has 21 lengths to find on his stablemate from the 2019 running, but Cyrname comes into the race on the back of a comfortable success in the Charlie Hall Chase, whereas last winter he had been in a tough battle with Altior at Ascot.

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Cyrname arrives at Kempton at the top of his game
Cyrname arrives at Kempton at the top of his game (Bradley Collyer/PA)

This time it is Clan Des Obeaux who has had a hard race on his reappearance, when second to Haydock specialist Bristol De Mai in the Betfair Chase. Having those two big guns would be enough for any trainer, but Nicholls also pitches in the ever-popular combination of Frodon and Bryony Frost and the former Willie Mullins-trained Real Steel.

It is not just going to be a Nicholls benefit, however. Far from it. Lostintranslation, from the Colin Tizzard yard, was a big disappointment last year and while he did not sparkle in the Betfair Chase his connections have not lost any faith in his ability. Nicky Henderson has also thrown a spanner in the works by supplementing Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up Santini.

Epatante is the Christmas (Hurdle) cracker

Epatante bids for back-to-back victories in the Ladbrokes Christmas Hurdle
Epatante bids for back-to-back victories in the Ladbrokes Christmas Hurdle (Steven Paston/PA

Henderson holds the key to the main supporting race on the card, the Ladbrokes Christmas Hurdle. The Seven Barrows trainer is giving Epatante her last race before she bids to retain the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham in March.

The brilliant mare took this prize last year from Silver Streak and the Evan Williams-trained grey does battle again. Henderson also saddles Floressa, who won the same race at Newbury that Epatante won last term.

Blue is the colour for Skelton

Shan Blue will try to maintain his unbeaten record over fences in the Ladbrokes Kauto Star Novices' Chase
Shan Blue will try to maintain his unbeaten record over fences in the Ladbrokes Kauto Star Novices’ Chase (Tim Goode/PA)

The third Grade One event on the programme, the Ladbrokes Kauto Star Novices’ Chase, named after Nicholls’ five-time King George hero, has an open look to it.

Nicholls saddles Exeter winner Enrilo in a bid to claim a fifth success, but there are plenty of other promising young staying chasers in the line-up.

Dan Skelton in particular has a leading contender in Shan Blue, who has impressed in winning his two races over fences to date. The Big Breakaway, for the Tizzard team, has a big reputation and is expected to bounce back from defeat over an inadequate trip last time.

Harry Fry’s Grade One-winning hurdler If The Cap Fits and the Philip Hobbs-trained Kalooki could also have more to give over the larger obstacles.

Epatante headlines Christmas Hurdle field

Epatante will face four rivals as she bids to join an elite band of dual Ladbrokes Christmas Hurdle winners at Kempton on Boxing Day.

Nicky Henderson’s brilliant mare took this prize in 2019 on her way to landing the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham in March.

The six-year-old made a successful reappearance in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle last month and now goes for back-to-back victories – a feat achieved by such stars as Binocular and Faugheen.

Among the opposition are Evan Williams’ Silver Streak and the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Ballyandy, who filled the places in this race 12 months ago.

Henderson has also declared Newbury winner Floressa, while Paul Nicholls’ Diego Du Charmil completes the quintet. Goshen and Sceau Royal were the two withdrawals at the final declaration stage.

Grade One-winning hurdler If The Cap Fits is among a field of seven declared for the Ladbrokes Kauto Star Novices’ Chase.

The Harry Fry-trained eight-year-old won his first race over fences but was beaten at odds-on by Pym on his only other subsequent start.

The Big Breakaway also has to bounce back from a surprise reverse at Exeter, although that was over an inadequate trip. Colin Tizzard’s charge will be more at home on his return to three miles, having impressed on his chasing debut at Chepstow.

The Dan Skelton-trained Shan Blue has looked a bright prospect with two wins at Wetherby.

Nicholls, who trained the mighty Kauto Star, relies on Enrilo to give him a fifth victory in the three-mile contest. Golan Fortune, Kalooki and One For The Team are the other contenders.