Cheltenham clues abound in Ireland’s St Stephen’s Day spectacles

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In the United Kingdom, the day after Christmas is known as ‘Boxing Day’, with Kempton’s King George VI Chase, currently headed by 9/4 shot Silviniaco Conti in the betting, the big equine event on the right side of the Irish Sea.

To the left, the 26th December is known as ‘St Stephen’s Day’, but don’t let the name fool you – it’s not all prayers and candles and there’s plenty of high-class horse racing going on.

At Leopardstown, there’s a Grade One that rivals any England has to offer over the festive period in the form of 14.55’s Racing Post Novice Chase, although this year’s renewal looks a two-horse race at best.

Willie Mullins’ Vautour, Ladbrokes’ 5/2 joint-favourite for the Cheltenham Festival’s Arkle and clear 3/1 jolly for the JLT Novices’ Chase, will probably have too much in hand for an up-and-coming field on the outskirts of Dublin.

The 2014 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner rates decent value even at 2/7 considering the next best in the betting, Gordon Elliott’s 7/1 shot Clarcam, finished eight lengths behind the Ricci family animal just over a month ago at Navan.

Mullins and Elliott will have already gone toe-to-toe, prior to Vautour’s likely victory, at 13.20 in the Grade Two Knight Frank Juvenile Hurdle, when the former’s Kalkir takes on the latter’s Thunder Zone.

The result may well be the same though, with Kalkir expected to go off as a well-fancied odds-on shot, so this ranks as good a time as any to get on the son of Montmartre at 5/1 for the Triumph Hurdle in March.

Mullins might actually have a fight on his hands down the road in Limerick, where JLT fancy Adriana Des Mottes currently shares favouritism with Enda Bolger’s Gilgamboa and Noel Meade’s Wounded Warrior at 9/4 in the Grade Two Shannon Airport Novice Chase.

However, the County Carlow handler’s second-string Perfect Gentleman seems wildly overpriced at 12/1, considering the nine-year-old finished no worse than second in six consecutive races, winning three in a row between February and early November, before falling last time out at Fairyhouse.

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

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