Preview and Free Betting Tips for the Irish Hennessy – Leopardstown hosts a fantastic card today, with the feature race the Irish Hennessy – a race which is sure to impact upon the Gold Cup markets for the Cheltenham Festival. In what is a wide open race, here is my tip.
The market favourite is First Lieutenant (9/4 bet365), a horse who has managed to finish runner-up in six Grade 1 races over fences. His first couple of races this season were disappointing but he came back to form when finishing second to Bobs Worth, in the Lexus at this course over the Christmas period. Retained jockey, Bryan Cooper, has chosen this horse ahead of both Last Instalment and Roi Du Mee, and First Lieutenant has shown his best form when Cooper has been on board – most notably when winning the Betfred Bowl Chase at Aintree last April. He is a consistent type, and I do think that he has claims for the Gold Cup, but on ground that is less than ideal I think that he maybe be vulnerable today.
One of his main rivals is Tidal Bay (3/1 Stan James), with Ruby Walsh reunited with this old warrior for the first time since leaving Paul Nicholls' yard. It is a big ask for a 13 year-old to win a race like the Hennessy, but Tidal Bay has maintained a strong level of form over the last couple of seasons; winning a Bet365 Gold Cup, a Lexus Chase and finishing second in a Hennessy at Newbury. This horse is a quirky type but has bundles of class and on his day can beat anything. On his last recent start he finished third in the Welsh National giving over a stone to the first two home. That race is sure to have taken a lot out of him, and the winner has since flopped on his first race back last weekend. I worry that the same might happen to this horse. His main aim for the season is the Grand National and so this is likely to be his last run until then.
The second Gigginstown horse in the race is Last Instalment (6/1 Stan James), with Brian O'Connell taking the ride. Last time out he finished third behind Texas Jack at Thurles last month, and didn't find much when under pressure on the softer ground. This was his first race back after a long layoff of nearly two years, so he is sure to have come-on after that run. Before that race he'd won four races on the trot, most notably over the Christmas period back in 2011 when beating First Lieutenant in a Novice Chase. His record as a novice chaser looks promising, so if he is back to that form he looks to be in with a chance. The obvious concern however, is that after such a long layoff this race might come around a little soon with the bounce factor a genuine worry.
The horse that beat him last time out, Texas Jack (18/1 BetVictor), looks to be quite an inconsistent type. Noel Meade and Paul Carberry are a shrewd partnership, but there are doubts whether this horse will stay the trip, tackling 3m for only the second time. For me this doubt in stamina is a worry as is his inconsistency, especially on this ground. He is probably best watched for another day, as is Roi Du Mee (22/1 BetVictor). This horse impressed me when winning pretty convincingly at Down Royal in November when making all and beating the likes of Sizing Europe and First Lieutenant, but hasn't shown much in his couple of runs since.
The Jim Culloty trained LORD WINDERMERE (9/1 William Hill) has disappointed on his two starts this season, but the trainer has stated that his horses weren't firing before Christmas. He hopes they are now, and the RSA Chase winner at last year’s Festival will be looking to find that form again. Connections have given the horse a nice break after the disappointing start, and if Culloty has got him right, I think he's a big price, and can't be ignored. He has form on heavy ground, and gets 3m without worry, having stayed up the Cheltenham hill the Festival a lot better than the others in the race. I think that he will react the well on the ground and over the distance, and Davy Russell should be able to get the very best out of him.
Lyreen Legend (6/1 Coral) is an interesting runner. He chased Lord Windermere home in the RSA Chase, and was far from disgraced in the Lexus over Christmas on his first start since April. He probably needed the run that day, but he jumped well and stayed well, which is promising. Barry Geraghty picks up a nice spare ride on this young staying chaser who has plenty of scope to progress. In terms on today however, I think he might find a couple to good for him.
It's taken a long time to try and work out the winner of this wide open contest. In the end I've opted for Lord Windermere who I think will be one to follow for the future. The only real worry is his form this season, but fingers crossed he's improved and he could be the dark horse of the race.
LORD WINDERMERE (WIN) (9/1 William Hill)
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