Difficult to oppose Heartbreak City in Leopardstown feature

Tony Martin’s Melbourne Cup runner-up a ‘good thing’ once he handles eight hurdles

 Kerrin McEvoy riding Almandin wins the Melbourne Cup ahead of Joao Moreira on Heartbreak City at Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne, Australia. Photo:  Michael Dodge/Getty Images

Kerrin McEvoy riding Almandin wins the Melbourne Cup ahead of Joao Moreira on Heartbreak City at Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne, Australia. Photo: Michael Dodge/Getty Images

 

The difference eight flights of hurdles can make will dominate thoughts in the run-up to Sunday’s Leopardstown feature as the Melbourne Cup runner-up Heartbreak City is theoretically a handicap “good thing” if translating his outstanding flat form to jumps.

Tony Martin’s star is ranked among the world’s leading stayers having come agonisingly close to landing “the race that stops a nation” on the first Tuesday in November.

 Now Heartbreak City is back on home turf – and jumping – for Sunday’s €100,000 Coral.ie Handicap Hurdle in which only eight of his 22 opponents carry less weight and which in terms of raw running ability looks a lucrative big-race penalty kick.

 This is a horse that prior to Australia had romped home in York’s Ebor off a flat mark of 103. Now he runs against prospective steeplechasers off a National Hunt rating of 125 which is just 7lbs higher than when he last raced over flights at the Galway festival in July.

 On paper this could be a bookmaker nightmare and it has already had layers going no more than 5-2 about the favourite in a race which mightn’t stop a nation anymore but remains one of the most competitive handicaps on the calendar.

 This time though it can be simply boiled down: if Heartbreak City doesn’t allow those hurdles deflect him, and he enjoys normal luck in running, then everything else is probably running for second.

 But history abounds with examples of talent failing to translate across the codes. Vintage Crop won a Melbourne Cup; he wasn’t the same over hurdles. Istabraq scraped a handicap win off a mark of 75 on the flat and became all but untouchable over flights. Switching isn’t straightforward.

Transformed

 However the quandary for punters is that at both York and at Flemington the seven year old looked a transformed proposition. Just to tempt punters even more the hugely effective Donagh Meyler claims 3lbs off his back. Hindsight could yet make Heartbreak City seem a ‘shoo-in’.

 Winning big handicaps is hardly anything new to the famously shrewd Martin either and he has three other hopefuls with the November Handicap winner Golden Spear in particular far from being a back number. Willie Mullins has four hopefuls of his own as he seeks a fourth win.

 But in a race which largely revolves around the favourite it is one of JP McManus’s five runners who could provide a timely reminder that favouritism isn’t everything.

 After Rain started favourite for this a year ago and never figured as another McManus runner, Henry Higgins, emerged best. After proving elusive to the legendary owner for so long, McManus has now won this race twice in three years and even though Barry Geraghty has opted for That’s A Wrap, there was a lot to like about how Jody McGarvey’s mount finished over Christmas.

 Sunday’s other €100,000 pot is the Leopardstown Chase in which the Grade Two winner A Toi Phil is likely to be well fancied. There could be value to be had in another novice, Total Recall, although there’s no disputing Yorkhill’s status as star novice when he lines up in the Grade Three.

 The JLT favourite jumped noticeably to the left on his chasing debut at Fairyhouse but that shouldn’t be an issue at Leopardstown and he can complete a Ruby Walsh hat-trick in the first three races on Sunday.

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