Carlingford Lough the forgotten horse in the Lexus Chase

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While the King George will take centre stage on Boxing Day, the top quality racing will continue into the weekend with the Lexus Chase from Leopardstown on Sunday providing us with a real poser.

Rarely has a Graded contest looked so difficult to put one’s finger on with questions surrounding many of the leading players.

That’s why it might be worth siding with the returning Carlingford Lough to trouble the places at 8/1.

John Kiely’s eight-year-old hasn’t been seen since landing the Growise Champion Chase at the Punchestown Festival in April, but is reported to be in stellar form heading into the Christmas period.

The JP McManus-owned gelding was one of Ireland’s top novice staying chasers last season and also picked up the Grade 1 Topaz Novices’ Chase over course and distance at this meeting 12 months ago.

He didn’t fire at Cheltenham when sixth in the RSA Chase, but he’s not the first and certainly won’t be the last horse to struggle to cope with Prestbury Park’s unusual demands.

The ability to handle all types of ground and the guarantee of his stamina will be vital assets as we look ahead at an unsettled week.

Rated 155, he does have something to find on ratings with most of his market rivals, but last season saw a decisively better horse from his previous years, so there could well be more there to eke out of the son of King’s Theatre.

While he will have to step up, the likely mount of AP McCoy still looks a fair each-way better with many shorter than him in the betting having questions to answer.

Bob’s Worth won this race last year, but in truth, that was the only time he truly shone last campaign, and it would need to be taken on trust that he is back to his best on his first run since March, not enough for us to be interested in him at 3/1.

Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Lord Windermere (5/1) made a satisfactory return, staying on strongly over an inadequate trip at Punchestown three weeks ago. The worry for him is that Jim Culloty (like many other trainers) obviously trained him with the Festival showpiece in mind last year, and one would have to worry about the same happening again.

Further down we have Boston Bob (6/1) who has been frustrating at times. He did take the Punchestown Gold Cup in April so is clearly not short of quality, but no form over 3m on soft ground, is swerved.

This year’s Galway Plate winner Road to Riches (6/1) has followed a similar path to the selection, showing steady improvement since winning the race.

However, he was allowed a very easy lead when winning the JNWine.com Champion Chase in November, so that form can be taken with a pinch of salt.

Overall, the price on the famous green and gold silks being carried to victory by Carlingford Lough looks fair enough and he could look a spot of value this time next week.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Ben Stones

Ladbrokes News’ equine expert, Ben likes nothing more than studying the form to pick out a winner or two for our readers. A Journalism and Media Studies graduate from the University of Winchester, Ben has previously written for a number of football and racing blogs and websites, as well as contributing to the sports pages of his home-town newspaper.