Khan hop­ing for a hap­pier out­ing than last year

Coeur Sub­lime could be best of Gor­don El­liott team in the Ju­ve­nile Hur­dle

The Irish Times - Monday - Sport - - Racing Leopardstown Christmas Festival - BRIAN O’CON­NOR

Mengli Khan’s sole start to date at Leop­ard­stown saw him crash out through a wing of a hur­dle when a heavy Grade One favourite last Christ­mas; it’s some­thing to keep in mind per­haps when he re­turns to the track for the St Stephens Day fea­ture.

The Gor­don El­liott trained star sub­se­quently re­deemed him­self with some high class hur­dles form and looked a po­ten­tial top-notch per­former over fences on his steeple­chase de­but last month.

Mengli Khan barely had to break sweat to win by 10 lengths and his jump­ing was no­tably flu­ent for jockey Davy Rus­sell.

It means he is set to start an odds-on favourite for St Stephen’s Day ¤100,000 Rac­ing Post Novice Chase, a race with a fine his­tory of pro­gress­ing ex­cep­tional short-priced per­form­ers such as Dou­van, Siz­ing Europe and Foot­pad a year to­wards Chel­tenham fes­ti­val glory.

Foot­pad was the last of three Wil­lie Mullins trained odds-on win­ners in a row al­though the dan­ger of bet­ting short has rarely been more ob­vi­ous than Vau­tour’s shock eclipse at 1-4 in 2014.

It was El­liott and Michael O’Leary who took ad­van­tage that day through Clar­cam but Mengli Khan who will be the target this time even though one of his five op­po­nents is an­other of O’Leary’s Gig­gin­stown team, Mind’s Eye.

There was noth­ing in Mengli Khan’s sub­se­quent starts to sug­gest that spec­tac­u­lar exit in last year’s big novice hur­dle was any­thing but a once-off.

The Gig­gin­stown team sub­se­quently reck­oned it could have been the shadow of the wing at that fate­ful se­cond last flight – caused by a low-ly­ing sun – that might have prompted Mengli Khan to run out.

More rel­e­vant per­haps could be that he is the most in­ex­pe­ri­enced in the race. Look­ing a nat­u­ral when not un­der pres­sure is one thing. But if he can do the same against a horse like Le Richebourg who is al­ready rated 150 over fences then Mengli Khan could be a prime Chel­tenham con­tender.

How­ever at the odds, and es­pe­cially on ground which is mostly good on the steeple­chase track, Le Richebourg could be a value al­ter­na­tive.

Drop back

It will be a fourth start over fences for the JP McManus owned horse who was out­stayed by Mengli Khan’s sta­ble mate Delta Work in the Drin­more ear­lier this month. A drop back to two miles should be no prob­lem. With Barry Ger­aghty on duty for McManus at Kemp­ton, Mark Walsh takes the spin.

Walsh is also likely to fancy his chances in one of the ear­lier maiden hur­dles when he teams up with the pre­vi­ous ‘win­ner’ over flights, City Is­land.

Grand Na­tional win­ning trainer Martin Bras­sil sad­dled City Is­land to win a maiden at the Gal­way Hur­dle fes­ti­val in Au­gust and sub­se­quently de­scribed him in terms of be­ing the best prospect he’s had in some time.

How­ever in Oc­to­ber City Is­land was dis­qual­i­fied af­ter his Gal­way drugs test re­turned a pos­i­tive for ar­senic.

Un­for­tu­nately for Bras­sil a sea­weed based sup­ple­ment fed to the horse con­tained ar­senic which is a pro­hib­ited sub­stance al­though that was some­thing the au­thor­i­ties stressed the trainer couldn’t have been aware of.

Gor­don El­liott sad­dles five of the 11 run­ners for the Grade Two Knight Frank Ju­ve­nile Hur­dle in which a num­ber of in­ter­est­ing French re­cruits make their first ap­pear­ances in Ire­land.

It might be how­ever that proven Ir­ish form comes to the fore. Even though Coeur Sub­lime is worse off at the weights for be­ing beaten a short head by his sta­ble com­pan­ion Chief Jus­tice at Fairy­house last month he could progress from that out­ing the bet­ter.

Henry De Brom­head sad­dled eight win­ners dur­ing last year’s Christ­mas fes­ti­val at Leop­ard­stown, in­clud­ing Tisamys­tery who re­turns to try and win the hand­i­cap chase again.

Tisamys­tery is just 4lbs higher in the rat­ing com­pared to 2017 and ran an en­cour­ag­ing race at Cork last month. De Brom­head could hardly be in bet­ter form go­ing into Christ­mas hav­ing sad­dled a hat-trick at Thurles on Satur­day.

Mengli Khan is set to start an odds-on favourite for St Stephen’s Day ¤100,000 Rac­ing Post Novice Chase

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