Defy Logic whips up a storm on opening day at Leopardstown Christmas Festival
Track officials hoping forecast storm-force winds don’t interfere with today’s action
The winning combination in the Racing Post Novice Chase, Mark Walsh and Defy Logic. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
Defy Logic opened Leopardstown’s Christmas action with a thrilling St Stephen’s Day Grade One success and track officials have everything crossed that forecast storm-force winds don’t interfere with today’s scheduled action.
The Paddy Power Chase card is worth €430,000 in prize-money but the figures at the centre of everyone’s attention last night were wind-speeds predicted to possibly reach up to 130km/h at precisely the wrong time today.
Last night officials at Leopardstown were pointing to Monday as a free day in the racing calendar that may provide a convenient date to switch today’s card to if a bad weather forecast becomes a holiday spoilsport.
No official inspection is planned, but with the worst of the winds expected to hit the area around lunchtime, continuous assessment will be taking place from early this morning. “The worst-case scenario is that we get up 25mms of rain and that wind speeds reach up to 130kms/hr. We should be okay with any rain but our concern would be wind if we got the worst of it,” said clerk of the course Lorcan Wyer.
“We’re told these winds are expected to peak around mid-morning and early afternoon and we’ll be here early in the morning to begin assessing the situation in its entirety, not just the racing line, but the whole infrastructure on-course.”
Leopardstown’s chief executive Pat Keogh also expressed concerns about the wind and pointed out: “If it gets very windy, then hurdles for instance start to become unstable. But that’s in extreme circumstances. We also have to think about marquees.”
Leopardstown’s Christmas festival has a long history of weather interruptions, usually from frost and snow, but the 2009 Lexus Chase eventually won by Alex Ferguson’s What A Friend originally had to be postponed due to fog enveloping the course.
Any idea that yesterday’s action might present a ‘calm before the storm’ atmosphere was blown away by Defy Logic’s comprehensive victory for owner JP McManus in the Racing Post Novice Chase.
The 7/2 winner got the best of a wonderful jumping duel with the odds-on favourite Champagne Fever who made a mistake at the second-last fence and Defy Logic took full advantage to secure the first Grade One success of his own career and that of jockey Mark Walsh.
McManus was at Leopardstown to welcome back his big-race winner, just minutes after another of his massive string, My Tent Or Yours, landed the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton.
Trainer Paul Nolan looks to have a genuine Cheltenham Festival prospect in Defy Logic who is now a general 10/1 shot in ante-post lists for the Arkle Trophy. The fact that his rival Champagne Fever remains a 4/1 favourite for the same race didn’t concern Enniscorthy-based Nolan in the slightest.
“It’s great to have no excuses after a race like that. They went such a gallop. Champagne Fever has made the running in a Champion Bumper and Supreme Hurdle so we knew he wouldn’t stop. And while you’d prefer our horse to settle easier, there’s no point fighting him if it’s not working,” he said.
“I think our horse is really good, but you’re always afraid a horse you think a lot of won’t make it into a Grade One winner, so it’s great he’s gone and actually won one. The way he races, we wouldn’t want to go to the well too often,” Nolan added.
Champagne Fever’s defeat wasn’t the only reverse for champion trainer Willie Mullins who had three favourites beaten in total, including the 3/10 shot Aanlifet who had to be pulled up with an injured pelvis in the Grade Two Knight Frank Juvenile Hurdle.
That race was won by the Bryan Cooper-ridden Guitar Pete who is now a 20/1 shot for the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham on the strength of yesterday’s win.
Cooper later combined with Nolan for King Vuvuzela in a handicap chase and the horse scored at 5/1.