Heading into Leopardstown’s Christmas bonanza it’s probably fair to say that Ryanair and Gigginstown House Stud supremo Michael O’Leary is looking forward to the week’s feature.
The familiar maroon silks dominate the betting in the Lexus Chase with three of the first four in the betting, even then the participation of that one anomaly (Djakadam) looks unlikely.
Don Poli heads the betting, and with the RSA Chase winner prominent in the betting for the Cheltenham Gold Cup it is easy to see why.
While he isn’t particularly flashy, he is a real grinder in the latter stages and stays all day, making him a massive dangerous in all of the big staying chases in the calendar.
A shock defeat, when finishing last of five in the Growise Champion Novice Chase at Punchestown in April, is the only defeat he has faced in his five starts over fences.
He put in a couple of sticky jumps that day, something that he hadn’t done previously so a line can perhaps be put through that run.
A strong performance to see off Hennessy Gold Cup and Grand National winner Many Clouds at Aintree on reappearance will have blown away any cobwebs ahead of this race.
While it was a smart performance, the distance in which he won by must be taken with a pinch of salt, with Bryan Cooper’s mount receiving five pounds from his rivals that day.
For the past three years the Lexus has been won by a horse coming through at the death rather than one snatching it in the latter stages.
In fact, Synchronised in 2011 was the last winner to jump the last in a better position than third place, perhaps unusual with Leopardstown’s relatively short run-in.
A winner over course and distance in the Topaz Novice Chase last year, Don Poli will certainly be grinding it out at the end, but he must make sure something doesn’t shoot clear after the last.
That is exactly what last year’s winner Road to Riches is capable of doing.
Noel Meade’s gelding showed a nice turn of foot to get his head in front after the final fence 12 months ago and then really fought it out well to hold off the advances of On His Own.
He looked to be throwing it up to Coneygree after jumping the final fence in the Gold Cup but a combination of the Prestbury Park hill and the winner’s outstanding stamina fall short.
Back on a flatter track, one that he was successful on last year, he can be seen in an even better light.
His win last time out at Clonmel looked a strong form pointer with subsequent Hilly Way Chase winner and runner-up Felix Younger and Bright New Dawn well beaten.
The ground last term in this race was described as soft/heavy, but with conditions currently soft at Leopardstown, it could be even more suited.
He’s an unbelievably consistent sort, finishing in the places in each of his last nine starts, and while he will have his work cut out overturning his more fancied rival.
Willie Mullins has surprisingly never won the Lexus Chase and if anyone continue that run and upset the applecart at the same time it will be this 3/1 shot.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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