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Sharjah triumphs and Klassical Dream flops on final day at Leopardstown

The 2019 Christmas Festival concluded today at the Dublin track.

THE DRYING GROUND did no favours to the quality of the card on the fourth and final day of the Leopardstown Christmas Festival, when the struggle of punters continued, despite the victory of Battleoverdoyen in the second-biggest race of the afternoon.

The feature race, the Matheson Hurdle, saw the market get it all wrong but Patrick Mullins got it all right. Easy to back, last year’s winner Sharjah travelled easily and mastered the front-running Petit Mouchoir after the last.

sharjah-ridden-by-patrick-mullins-and-and-petit-mouchoir-ridden-by-rachel-blackmore-jump-the-last-fence Sharjah ridden by Patrick Mullins and Petit Mouchoir ridden by Rachel Blackmore jump the last. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

If the victory of one Willie Mullins runner were the main story, the flop of another was not far behind, Klassical Dream’s unconvincing campaign post-novice company taking a turn for the worse. Pestered for the lead, the odds-on favourite made a shocker of a mistake midrace, never recovering.

Sharjah, a former Galway Hurdle winner, is something of an unappreciated sort at this level, if not when it comes to the man who rides him.

“I was able to arrive just as I wanted to at the last. Down to the last I thought he was going to win on the bridle, but then I realised I didn’t want to miss this (hurdle) and he needed pushing. He did it well in the end,” the amateur rider said.

“Maybe he does want this good ground and I would love another crack at it (Champion Hurdle).”

If anything, this race copper-fastened the Champion Hurdle credentials of another stablemate, Saldier, for all that he has to prove his wellbeing. However, Betway makes him 6-1, with Epatante 3s favourite.

Wellbing issues do not relate to Battleoverdoyen. Four defectors saw the Grade 1 Neville Hotels Novice Chase reduced to a far from satisfactory three-horse race and the hot favourite Battleoverdoyen advertised his class.

Stablemate Champagne Classic benefitted from the drying ground to make Battleoverdoyen battle from the last, at which he lugged left, but Davy Russell’s mount, who jumped superbly, was soon in command.

davy-russell-celebrates-winning-the-neville-hotels-novice-steeplechase-on-battleoverdoyen Davy Russell celebrates winning on board Battleoverdoyen. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

With this being the winner’s third run this term already, it was a shade surprising when Gordon Elliott said: “He’ll probably come on a bit from the run: he’s having a good blow after it

“Davy said the two of them only hacked around and it was like a nice school. He said he only did what he had to do.

“It’s not ideal for the sponsors who put the prize-money up but there is nothing we can do about the ground and that’s the way it is.

“The second horse is a good horse, he’s rated 150.

“I’d imagine he could come back here for the Flogas Chaase. He’ll be entered in it and we’ll see.

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“It’s been an unbelievable week. We’ve had ten winners and four Grade 1s. I went home with my tail between my legs on the first day but that’s the way it is.”

Mullins had a decent day, with Stormy Ireland going gate to wire in the mares’ hurdle, her stablemate Elfile the only rival to get even remotely close to the mount of Paul Townend, who oozed class.

A further surprise in the post-race remarks today was that chasing could be on the agenda for Stormy Ireland, who is far from the biggest.

“She’s a brilliant jumper. We’d love to go chasing with her, she’s not big but she’s big hearted,” said Mullins.

“Paul was very positive on her, she likes to gallop and jump. It was going to be very hard for any of those, under the conditions of today’s race, to stay with her.

“The ground obviously made things a lot easier for her. She’s a nice mare and hopefully we can pick up some more nice prizes like for the rest of the season.

“She’ll get an entry in the Mares Hurdle but whether she’d be good enough or not I don’t know.”

paul-townend-on-stormy-ireland-wins-the-advent-insurance-irish-ebf-mares-hurdle Paul Townend and Stormy Ireland en route to victory Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Rachael Blackmore and Henry de Bromhead have had a fantastic week and the success of Cobbler’s Way owed plenty to the rider’s intuition in the maiden hurdle, dictating but leaving enough up her sleeve.

“Rachael got a great jump at the last and I don’t think she had quite gone for him yet,” said de Bromhead.

“She said he picked up really well after the last.

“He’s always been a horse we’ve thought a lot of. We were a bit disappointed with him the first day but he seems to have come on a lot for his first run.”

Best Behaviour took the opener for Oliver McKiernan, Peaches And Cream won snugly under a delighted Conor McNamara in the novices’ handicap hurdle and the bumper went to the exciting Eric Bloodaxe for Joseph O’Brien.

Leopardstown – Sunday’s results

  • 12.10 - 1. Best Behavior (8/1) 2. Fiveaftermidnight (33/1) 3. Brex Drago (14/1)
  • 12.45 - 1. Cobbler’s Way (9/2) 2. Sempo (7/2) 3. Francin (14/1)
  • 13.20 - 1. Stormy Ireland (9/10 fav) 2. Elfile (9/2) 3. Black Tears (10/1)
  • 13.55 – 1. Battleoverdoyen (4/9 fav) 2. Champagne Classic (9/4) 3. Lord Schnitzel (10/1)
  • 14.30 – 1. Sharjah (9/2) 2. Petit Mouchoir (7/1) 3. Coeur Sublime (100/30)
  • 15.05 – 1. Peaches and Cream (12/1) 2. Millen To One (12/1) 3. Thunder Down Under (12/1)
  • 15.40 – 1. Eric Bloodaxe (8/11 fav) 2. Wide Receiver (11/4) 3. Hollow Sound (8/1)

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Johnny Ward

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