Aupcharlie likely in Topaz renewal


RACING: LEOPARDSTOWN PREVIEWThe combination of Ruby Walsh, Willie Mullins and an unbeaten-over-fences favourite like Back In Focus will be irresistible to many in today’s Grade One Topaz Novice Chase. But it’s the other Mullins runner, Aupcharlie, that could emerge best.

The Mullins duo are among a 13-strong line-up for the €75,000 three-mile contest which has attracted the cream of Ireland’s staying novice crop so far this season.

That includes Troytown-winner Tofino Bay and another Gigginstown hope in Dedigout, who is the pick of champion jockey Davy Russell. There is also the exciting but erratic Mount Benbulben, as well as a pair of JP McManus hopes led by The Westerner Boy who won by no less than 25 lengths last time out.

Stamina test

It is Back In Focus who has dominated the ante-post market, however, after two wins, the second of which saw him beat off Lyreen Legend at Punchestown. He is a resolute galloper who will relish this stamina test.

In contrast Aupcharlie brings far less of a profile having been much less “flash” on his sole start over fences at Gowran to date.

He sports the Sizing Europe colours of Ann and Alan Potts so Andrew Lynch teams up and, crucially, does so with Aupcharlie’s profile on an upswing. The six-year-old’s hurdling career was something of an anti-climax last season having been such a good bumper performer but Mullins believes Aupcharlie is now starting to fulfil his potential.

He has always looked a staying chaser in the making and at the odds looks a better value each-way option than his stable-mate in an ultra-competitive heat.

Today’s action shapes up as a potential red-letter day for the Potts team with Sizing Solution, a point-to-point winner three weeks ago, who is an interesting starter in the maiden hurdle.

In the concluding bumper, the famous colours also look sure to be prominent with Bally Longford who is expected to improve significantly for a run at Downpatrick last month.

Voler La Vedette’s Woodies Christmas Hurdle victory last year was more eventful off-track than on with the controversy over a rogue piece of Betfair technology resulting in millions traded before the race being declared void in betting terms. The Grade One mare is back again but has not looked the same this season.

A watching brief may be the best advice regarding Voler right now but in contrast her old rival, Zaidpour, is in the form of his life, coming here on the back of a Hatton’s Grace win where he managed to overcome adversity in the straight and still win.

Kid-glove treatment

He is already a winner at three miles and ran fifth in the French Champion Hurdle during the summer, so stamina is not an issue and the Hatton’s Grace runner-up, Monksland, looks to have a job on his hands having only a couple of pounds more to play with on ratings.

Rocky Wednesday will need some kid-glove treatment if he is to land the conditions hurdle. But he did run well at Navan and if ridden with more patience this time could come out on top.

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