Lexus Chase Preview

Leopardstown

Horse Racing
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Published: 12/12/2011

Often seen as the Irish equivalent of Kemptonís King George VI Chase, the Grade One Lexus Chase at Leopardstown is a premier three mile event and one of the highlights of the Irish national hunt season.

The race showcases a select bunch of the best staying chasers from across the Irish Sea and often provides ample clues for the Cheltenham Festival in March, with particular emphasis on the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

2010 winner Pandorama will unfortunately not be returning to defend his crown after being ruled out for the season with injury, meaning there is space for a new star to come to the fore and spearhead the Irish challenge come March.

The last Gold Cup winner to emerge from winning the race was Denman in 2007 Ė and whilst it is unlikely that a chaser of his calibre will complete the double anytime soon, there are plenty of promising jumpers waiting in the wings.

2011 Irish Hennessy winner Kempes is a likely runner and could well be sent off favourite providing that the ground is not heavy.

Willie Mullinís star arrived at Cheltenham earlier this year as Irelandís most fancied entry in the Gold Cup however he never travelled and was ultimately pulled up a long way from home.

Kempes is likely to be aimed at the Grand National should his 2011-2012 campaign go to plan and he will be fit for the Lexus after a spin over two miles in November.

The Nightingale ran a decent enough race before blowing up in the JM Wine Chase at Down Royal to suggest that he could be a major Lexus contender.

Paul Nicholls charge is largely campaigned in Ireland due to his like for soft ground and trip and conditions should be almost ideal for the eight year-old at the Christmas meeting.

Nicky Hendersonís Burton Port is still yet to make his reappearance after suffering injury and he could well be sent over for the contest as the King George VI Chase may be too much of an ask first time out.

Last yearís Hennessy second looked a real stayer in the making at Newbury and he has the profile of a horse that could thrive at Leopardstown.

Veteran Joncol is likely to run and Paul Nolanís stable star remains a top class chaser on Irish shores.

He was well fancied for the Hennessy before being withdrawn and although his career has been blighted with problems, it may be rather significant should Nolan decide he is ready to return in a Grade One.

To the punters benefit, most Lexus Chase fields are small and select meaning that it is not impossible to deduce the winner if reading early season form correctly.

The race has been known to shape up as a bit of a dawdle compared to the King George VI Chase on Kemptonís quick, flat track, so a horse with a proven turn of foot should always be taken into consideration.

The staying chase division in Ireland may not be at its strongestor possess a real star such as Beef or Salmon who won the Lexus three times, but the 2011 renewal should at least be competitive.

It will be interesting to see which of the big names comes out on top however it is also possible that the old guard will be eclipsed by a new, young improving type with the scope to head to Cheltenham for the big one.


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