Leading owner Rich Ricci probably can't wait for 2017 to end following a year of bad fortune. Unfortunately, that trend continued on the second day of Leopardstown's prestigious Christmas fixture. Montalbano fell at the third in the beginners' chase, Min crossed the line in front in the Grade 1 two miles chase only to lose the race in the stewards' room afterwards and then Sharjah looked all set to win the Grade 1 Paddy Power Future Champions Novice Hurdle only to fall at the last. It was an incredible day at the Dublin track.
Willie Mullins duly won the last named event but with 9/1 shot Whiskey Sour who benefited from favourite Mengli Khan running out at the second last and then two fallers at the final flight. The writer of Coronation Street has come up with some fanciful storylines over the Festive period but even he couldn't have made this one up. It was a remarkable race and a difficult one to weigh up. Either way, it leaves the Skybet Supreme Novices' Hurdle ante-post market wide open.
Once again, well done to Irish expert Declan Phelan for nominating Burning Ambition as his nap of the Christmas period in his article in the Update. The six year old was given a patient ride by Rob James and the gelding sauntered to a thirteen lengths success in the maiden hunters' chase at Limerick.
As regards by own selections in the Christmas Special, Squouateur was a running on third in the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown. Gordon Elliott's grey made up a lot of ground inside the final half a mile but found himself to far back in such a large field. Staying on well by the same owner's Anibale Fly, he was only beaten eight and a quarter lengths and looks tailormade for another tilt at the Kim Muir Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, a race he contested last year and was staying on when crashing out at the third last.
Duke of Navan ran very well in the Castleford Chase at Wetherby but I feel the change of tactics played into the hands of the winner Just Cameron. Nicky Richards' gelding is a better horse coming off a strong gallop but he found himself in front at the first fence and attempted to make all. His jumping was terrific and he looked like holding on at the second last. However, he couldn't repel the late challenge of Micky Hammond's winner. This was a golden opportunity missed.
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