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Jack de Bromhead Christmas Hurdle – Who Will Prove Themselves As The Irish Staying Star? Preview + Verdict

Run in honour of the late Jack de Bromhead, Leopardstown’s Christmas Hurdle stands in complete opposition to Kempton’s: it is run over 3m, signposting the top stayers taking aim at Cheltenham in three months’ time. Flooring Porter emerged in the race three years ago, while the great mare Apple’s Jade claimed a hat trick in the race between 2017-2019.

Six runner make up a smaller field than in recent years, with Joe Napier providing insight into each.

Home By The Lee returns for his title defence, after beating Ashdale Bob by three lengths in 2022.

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Last year’s renewal saw Joseph Patrick O’Brien’s HOME BY THE LEE battle to victory over Ashdale Bob (2nd) and Meet And Greet (3rd):


  • Every winner since 2010, including in every Grade 1 renewal, has been aged between 5-7
  • Favourites have been prolific, winning six of the last ten runnings
  • Seven of the last ten winners had won on their previous start
  • The average official rating of the last decade’s winners is 155
  • Six of the last ten winners had run twice already that season

Runner-By-Runner Guide

HOME BY THE LEE

(Joseph Patrick O’Brien/J J Slevin)

Two of Home By The Lee’s three wins over hurdles arrived at the beginning of last season, including glory in this race a year ago. That was his career best in what looked a deep enough field, with his ability to see out a truly run 3m helping him draw away by three lengths.

He had caused an upset on his return in the Lismullen Hurdle prior to that, though could not do the same this time around under his Grade 1 penalty. That was nevertheless a solid run when third to Bob Olinger, and this race will doubtless suit better. He was also beaten fewer than four lengths in the Stayers’ Hurdle last term, so has the best top level pedigree in this field, even if he is vulnerable to an improver.


IRISH POINT

(Gordon Elliott/Jack Kennedy)

The only second season hurdler in the lineup, Gordon Elliott’s grey was campaigned as highly as possible in 2022/23. Four starts at 2m may have proved a sharp enough test, though he was still beaten just a head by Marine Nationale in the Grade 1 Royal Bond. Upped in trip, he claimed the Mersey Novices’ Hurdle over 2m4f at Aintree to conclude his season.

He did not need to improve significantly to win on his return, but he did so with little fuss in a Down Royal Grade 3 from useful mare Magical Zoe. That was over 2m1f, so he takes a significant hike in trip, but his Aintree success hinted that 3m may well be his future, and it may be a canny decision by his trainer to target this division, as it is there for the taking.


ASTERION FORLONGE

(Willie Mullins/Paul Townend)

Improvers come in many forms. Indeed, so do improvisers, and if he were a human, you feel like Asterion Forlonge would fit in well with a travelling comedy troupe, deciding if and when to step in and play his part. Were it not for him, a number of big races in the last four years would have been far less interesting.

His ability should never be underestimated though. He went off favourite for Shishkin’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle win in 2020, having already won a Grade 1, while he got back to winning ways last term with success in a Fairyhouse Grade 2 and then ran Klassical Dream all the way in Punchestown’s Stayers’ Hurdle. Going back left-handed brings significant doubts given his back catalogue, but his best staying form puts him at the top of this lineup.


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BUDDY ONE

(Paul John Gilligan/Jack G Gilligan)

A tremendous improver over the last two seasons, Paul John Gilligan probably could not wait to run him in the Grade 1 Hatton’s Grace at Fairyhouse earlier this month. It was only in the closing stages that he truly faded out of contention, but he has risen to a rating that makes him competitive for this weaker top level contest.

His handicap successes at Galway and Cheltenham were secured in good style, emphasising his stamina reserves. The Hatton’s Grace boasted a very strong lineup this time around too, leagues above this one on paper, so he should be more competitive, especially up in trip. He is not ruled out even if he needs to find just that little bit more.


BALLYADAM

(Henry De Bromhead/Rachael Blackmore)

The roof would be raised if Henry de Bromhead can train the winner in honour of his son. This is a change of tack in a number of respects for Ballyadam, who was so promising early on in his career, but never quite made the grade in various other capacities.

The 2m hurdle scene proved too sharp, and jumping faults curtailed his initial attempts at chasing in 2021. He did win in that sphere back in July, showing the benefits of better ground, and three successive handicap runs up to the spring were solid efforts up to 2m3f. 3m has never looked like it was needed, however, and would need it to improve him around a stone.


BEACON EDGE

(Gordon Elliott/Saw Ewing)

At his peak, Gigginstown’s nine-year-old would have posed a threat to the best of these. His career best came when securing the Grade 2 Boyne Hurdle in 2021, and he even won a Grade 1 novice chase when sent over the larger obstacles, but the last two years have generally been a struggle.

He was switched from Noel Meade to Gordon Elliott in October, after which he won a decent enough contest at Thurles. However, a heavy handicap defeat at Navan, in which he was pulled up, suggests he is still a long way from his best, and he is the least likely winner.


Big-Race Verdict

Home By The Lee is a decent yardstick in this division, but he is vulnerable to a classier one. While this lineup lacks a depth of those, there may still be one in IRISH POINT, who competed at a high level against talented novices last term, and made his own breakthrough at Grade 1 level at Aintree. The step up to 3m is not guaranteed to suit, but the general impression is that it should be fine. Second choice is Asterion Forlonge, who is a risk going back left-handed, but whose best staying form puts him at the top of this field.

  1. Irish Point
  2. Asterion Forlonge
  3. Home By The Lee

*Odds Correct At Time Of Writing – 1.43pm Wednesday 27th December*


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