Ryanair Hurdle (Leopardstown) Betting Tips & Predictions – Saturday 29th December 2018

The top-notch Grade 1 action continues to roll on this weekend, with one of Saturday’s big highlights coming over in Ireland as Leopardstown lays on this excellent hurdle contest. The race regularly sees a clash between the most powerful yards in the Irish racing game, and this year’s edition looks set to be no different.

This looks a quality field, and it is a race which is likely to have a significant bearing on the ante-post market for the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. Overall Willie Mullins has been the man to follow here and we fancy he will be once again.

Top Tips

Melon to Win @ 9/4

Odds correct at time of writing but may have changed since. Check site for latest prices.

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Race Info

Two miles is the trip for this Grade 1 hurdle contest. The race offers €125,000 in total prize money and is set to be run on good to yielding ground this year.

GoingDistanceGradePrize MoneyRunnersEW Terms
Good to Yielding 2m Grade 1 €125,000 11 Runners 1/5 1-3

Recent Winners

Willie Mullins leads the way amongst the trainers on show this year. The County Carlow maestro sits on five wins in total and needs just one more to move level with namesake Paddy Mullins for the all-time lead.

We had a shock in this race last season when the Gordon Elliott runner Mick Jazz came out on top. This has generally been a pretty good contest for the market leaders though with six winning favourites in the past 10 years.

2017 Mick Jazz 14/1 Gordon Elliott Davy Russell
2016 Petit Mouchoir 6/1 Henry De Bromhead Bryan Cooper
2015 Nichols Canyon 2/5 Willie Mullins Ruby Walsh
2014 Hurricane Fly 5/6 Willie Mullins Ruby Walsh
2013 Hurricane Fly 11/10 Willie Mullins Ruby Walsh

Analysis: Mullins Contender A Juicy Bet

As with seemingly the vast majority of Irish Graded races these days, this may well come down to a head to head battle between the powerhouse operations of Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott. Eleven remain in the race at the time of writing, eight of whom hail from either the Mullins or the Elliott yard.

Samcro To Go One Better?

Gordon Elliott’s Ballymore Novice Hurdle winner Samcro was one of the most talked about horses over the summer in anticipation of just what he might achieve this season. So far the answer to that question has been, not very much at all. Beaten on his return by the unheralded Bedrock, he was then brushed aside in effortless style by Buveur D’Air in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle. Those defeats haven’t put connections off though, and he remains on course for a crack at the Champion Hurdle. Whilst he is undoubtedly a horse of significant ability, it is beginning to look questionable whether he has the speed for this trip at the very top level. He is nevertheless clear favourite and it’s way too early to be writing him off entirely.

Melon To Pip Rival To The Post

Willie Mullin undoubtedly boasts a mightily strong hand in this race in which he has done so well. We are greatly looking forward to seeing the talented mare Laurina make her return to the track, but with the rain looking like staying away once again, we may have to wait a little longer. Of the other Mullins runners, the single best piece of form belongs to the six year old Melon. A neck second to Buveur D’Air in the Champion Hurdle itself is a top class effort whichever way you look at it, a repeat of which may well make him the one they all have to beat. He arrives on the back of a significant break but did score in good style first time up last season. A winner on ground ranging from good to soft, conditions are unlikely to be an issue.

Jardine Ready To Rock Again?

Much was made of Samcro being below par on his seasonal return, but he was nevertheless put in his place by the Iain Jardine runner Bedrock, who could do more than beat what was in front of him. A winner at Grade 3 and Grade 2 level already, can he take this next step up with the ground likely to be in his favour? His only previous run at the top level was a solid one when only six lengths adrift of a peak form Defi Du Seuil at Aintree, and there are sound reasons for believing he has improved a good deal since.

Final Verdict: Melon to win

Samcro is probably a big price if judged on last season’s form. On what we have seen to date this year though he is too short for our liking. Bedrock may represent a touch of each way value at double figure odds, but overall we see this falling to Willie Mullins once again.

That Champion Hurdle run of Melon’s was simply too good to ignore, and certainly a notch above that achieved by stablemate Sharjah in beating Faugheen – surely a stayer these day – over this trip last time out. Take Melon to prove the class act in the field.

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