Shutthefrontdoor likely to be on boat for the Lexus Chase

Strong cross-channel contingent expected at Leopardstown Christmas meeting

Barry Geraghty and Shutthefrontdoor (centre) on their way to winning the Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse. J P McManus’ charge could line up for  the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho.

Barry Geraghty and Shutthefrontdoor (centre) on their way to winning the Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse. J P McManus’ charge could line up for the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho.

 
Gold Cup

€150,000 Lexus Chase at Leopardstown.

The fast-improving seven-year-old is a general 20-1 shot for “blue-riband” glory at Cheltenham in March, but the McManus team used the 2011 Lexus as a successful stepping stone towards a Gold Cup victory for Synchronised and victory against some proven top-notchers over Christmas would see Shutthefrontdoor’s festival odds tumble.

The past two Gold Cup winners, Lord Windermere and Bobs Worth, are among those likely to set the standard for the 2014 Lexus, but cross-channel raiders have won a remarkable seven of the past eight renewals of Leopardstown’s day-three Christmas feature and a satisfactory piece of work later this week will see Shutthefrontdoor on the boat across the Irish Sea.

“If he runs anywhere over Christmas, it will be in the Lexus,” said McManus’s racing manager, Frank Berry. “He’s going to do a piece of work later in the week, and if that goes okay, it looks like Leopardstown will be the plan.”

Another McManus star, Carlingford Lough, could also line up in the Lexus despite not yet having had a run so far this season. The John Kiely-trained horse won twice at the top level as a novice last season, including the Topaz Chase at Leopardstown, and is a 33-1 shot for the Gold Cup. “He had a bit of a setback before he was due to run in Down Royal, which held him up a bit, but he’s back and will do a bit of work later in the week. He has a chance of making the race as well,” said Berry.

The strength in depth of the champion owner’s team on both sides of the Irish Sea could cause some logistical holiday headaches in trying to work out what goes where, but it’s a headache anyone else would relish.

Ryanair Hurdle prospects

The Alan King-trained Uxizandre is currently a 5-2 favourite with the sponsors for the Grade-One Dial-A-Bet Chase on the same day and Berry confirmed that “hopefully, Uxizandre will run in that”.

Leopardstown’s authorities are eagerly anticipating a significant cross-channel raiding party for a festival that is worth an overall €1.2 million in prize money and is likely to attract 55,000 customers through the gates over the four days. Organisers are also keeping their fingers crossed for good weather.

Dramatic forecasts of Arctic conditions sweeping the country later in the month have grabbed plenty of attention, but Leopardstown chief executive Pat Keogh isn’t particularly concerned yet about a potential impact on the festival.

“Two weeks away is really too early to be forming an opinion, and the outlook that we’re getting now isn’t worrying us unduly,” he said. “Those forecasts appear to outline one possible scenario among many that might happen towards the end of the month, and it all looks very vague. We always monitor weather forecasts very closely, but at this stage it is too early to know anything. We will take a look later in the week.”

Seven Grade-One races

One horse that is very unlikely to figure among the Lexus Chase entries is the John Durkan Memorial Chase winner Don Cossack, with trainer Gordon Elliott reporting that “he’ll definitely not be turning up at Christmas and I doubt he’ll turn up in the Hennessy [in February].

“I’ll have to talk it over with the owner [Michael O’Leary], but he could go straight to Cheltenham.”

Don Cossack is currently among the favourites for the Ryanair Chase in March, a race that his owner has yet to win in the nine years his company has sponsored it.

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