Few Grade 1 novice hurdles have such a stunning record of producing superstars as the Future Champions Novice Hurdle. Champion Hurdlers Istabraq, Hurricane Fly and Jezki all emerged from this race to secure enormous future success. Gold Cup winner Sizing John can also count a win in this race among his many victories.
A deep field for this part of the season complete the lineup for Joe Napier to run the rule over.
Facile Vega was still starting on his way to being a top level prospect when winning with plenty in hand last year.
Last year’s renewal saw Willie Mullins win a sixth renewal in the last eight years as FACILE VEGA justified his short odds to run out a cosy winner:
Key Race Trends
- All but one winner has been aged 4 or 5 in the race’s history
- Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott have shared the last eight runnings between them
- Four of the last ten favourites have won the race, with three of the last four obliging
- Despite being a novice hurdle, only five of the last ten winners had won on their previous start
DOWN MEMORY LANE
(Gordon Elliott/Derek O’Connor)
Derek O’Connor will be relishing his day in the spotlight aboard the unbeaten Down Memory Lane. Gordon Elliott’s five-year-old possesses a dreamy jumps pedigree and has been hardened by point-to-point success and a sole bumper victory back in February.
O’Connor’s association with the horse began when accompanying him to his 9 ½ length point win at Umma House, but his reputation was truly burgeoned on the racecourse. He remained full of beans even after crossing the line on the bridle at Down Royal, and there looks little doubt that he is a horse of rare talent. The form of that win means very little in this context, but there is a reason he is so highly thought of.
DADDY LONG LEGS
(Willie Mullins/Paul Townend)
On the opposite side of the reputation scale, Willie Mullins had mostly kept the name of Daddy Long Legs under wraps. Given Closutton’s strength in depth, that is probably no surprise, but his chestnut’s striking success at Thurles at the end of November was another to leave a very favourable impression.
He cruised clear by 13 lengths without being close to full extension, and that form has particular substance through third-placed Irish Panther. He can only be expected to improve from that, and while four-year-olds no longer get a 3lb weight allowance, that does not look likely to be an issue. His trainer runs three others, but he is Pauk Townend’s clear pick and will almost certainly be heavily involved.
(Gordon Elliott/Jack Kennedy)
He was not always at his best in bumpers, but hurdles could well be the making of the grey Caldwell Potter. Both starts over timber have been full of promise, if not quite in the abundance of the two clear favourites.
He was runner-up to Champion Bumper fifth It’s For Me on his hurdling bow, but rallied in likeable fashion to be defeated only narrowly. He was then provided a far better opportunity at Navan when winning by seven lengths. Though generally a sound jumper so far, he did make quite a significant mistake and won’t get away with those here. However, on raw ability, he may be closer to the top two than the market suggests, while he also gets the benefit of Jack Kennedy in the saddle.
(Willie Mullins/Patrick Mullins)
After their infamous split in 2016, Gigginstown and Willie Mullins are back together, at least in small part. Though Mullins receives only a fraction of the heavyweight operation’s horsepower, Predators Gold may be the first to head towards the very top since he regained some of their equine talent.
Two wins in two starts would have been the expected return, but he nevertheless won both his bumper and maiden hurdle comfortably. The latter in particular was gained without need for Paul Townend to get too serious, though his hurdling was not always the smartest. Townend now deserts, and his win was claimed over 2m3½f last time, so he may be best watched with a view to later assignments over further.
Rest Of The Field
The most interesting declaration among the remaining quintet is another Mullins runner in Absurde. His primary racing exploits have come on the flat, however, even for Mullins, who sent him out to win the Ebor at York before finishing seventh in the Melbourne Cup. However, he flattered to deceive in a Galway Listed novice in the summer.
Smooth Tom represents Andrew Slattery’s smaller operation, but he is two from two over hurdles and could be an improver given his own flat form. The Big Doyen has mainly raced over further, but looks slightly shy of this level, while both Fascile Mode and Westport Cove ran in top bumper races but have a fair bit to find in the principles.
Down Memory Lane looks very promising and can definitely achieve big things, but he may come across another serious rival in DADDY LONG LEGS. The form of his maiden victory in November looks stronger than any in this field, and he can give Willie Mullins a seventh win in the last nine editions. Caldwell Potter could be closer to the top two in the market than his odds currently suggest, while Smooth Tom is the biggest form eyecatcher of the outsiders.
- Daddy Long Legs (2/1 generally)
- Down Memory Lane (11/8 generally)
- Caldwell Potter (8/1 William Hill, 13/2 generally)
*Odds Correct At Time Of Writing – 11am Tuesday 26th December*
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