Sharjah claimed his third Grade 1 victory when winning the Matheson Hurdle at Leopardstown at Leopardstown on Sunday for the second consecutive year. Still only six, the ex-French gelding has been a remarkable horse for the Ricci family and Willie Mullins having also won the Galway Hurdle last season. A three and three quarters of a length winner, he appreciates better ground and conditions at the Dublin track were ideal. Stablemate and warm favourite Klassical Dream made a bad mistake down the backstraight and never recovered. Indeed, it was a surprise last season's Supreme NH winner wasn't pulled up immediately afterwards and it is hoped he hasn't incurred any long term damage. As regards Sharjah, the Champion Hurdle is very much the plan once again having been brought down early on last March. The underfoot conditions are likely to determine his chance, although he has to prove himself at the track having only finished eighth in the Supreme a couple of seasons ago.
The staying novices' chase was decimated by the withdrawals, including Carefully Selected and Minella Indo, which left the way clear for Battleoverdoyen to make it three out of three over fences and his first Grade 1 success over the larger obstacles. The RSA Chase will be his ultimate aim but he is likely to return to Leopardstown in early February for the Flogas Novices' Chase over two miles five. There were 10 non runners on Sunday's card owing to the drying conditions. This is a problem the track needs to address before the Dublin Racing Festival. There were 22 withdrawals on the second day of last season's Festival due to the same reason. Horses such as Le Richebourg have not been seen since. Trainers with horses who are being lined up for a trip to Cheltenham won't take the risk next month unless the ground is slower. Fingers crossed we get a wet January in Ireland because the authorities at Leopardstown appear determined not to water.
Well done to Declan Phelan for highlighting Cobbler's Way (9/2) in the Christmas Special as a horse to look out for. Henry De Bromhead's charge duly won the two and a half miles maiden hurdle. A good jump at the last appeared to make the difference as the favourite The Big Getaway blundered away his chance. Scoring by a length and three quarters, he is a fine big strapping gelding who will come into his own over fences next season. He is a smashing prospect. Declan's selections have been in great form over the Festive period with 4 winners from 7 runners.
There has been some superb racing in Ireland during the last four days and here are a few statistics to ponder over. Gordon Elliott trained 10 winners from 69 runners, Willie Mullins had 9 winners from 70 runners and Henry De Bromhead, who enjoyed a couple of Grade 1 successes, sent out 7 winners from 48 runners. Owner wise, Gigginstown House Stud had 19 winners from 67 runners, Rich and Susannah Ricci 2 from 7 (both Grade 1 victories) and J.P.McManus only one winner from 49 runners over the same period.
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