Leopardstown to host Cheltenham-bound horses for two days of workouts

More than 120 horses, including some leading Cheltenham festival contenders, are expected to get workouts at Leopardstown over the coming days.

There will be an opportunity to school and gallop horses following Monday’s meeting at Leopardstown, the final jumps fixture of the season at the south Dublin track.

Fans waiting after racing will be able to observe that first-hand but not similar workouts scheduled to take place on Tuesday morning.

“We are delighted with the response. I think over the two sessions there will probably be over 120 horses,” Leopardstown’s chief executive Tim Husbands said on Sunday.

Some of the biggest names in recent years have availed of the chance to get their eye in at Leopardstown prior to the festival, including the 2016 Gold Cup winner Don Cossack.

Other star performers such as Hardy Eustace and Florida Pearl have also worked publicly before going to Cheltenham.

However, Willie Mullins indicated on Sunday he will skip the chance to use Leopardstown, having already used the opportunity to get racecourse work into some of his massive Cheltenham team after racing at Navan on Saturday.

Both the dual-Gold Cup winner Al Boum Photo and Energumene, one of the Champion Chase favorites, were among the horses in action and satisfied the champion trainer with how they went.

Al Boum Photo had disappointed Mullins in some of his work last month while Energumene missed a couple of days last week with a stone bruise.

“I was much happier with Al Boum Photo. Paul [Townend] was delighted with him. Hopefully he has that bad bit of work behind him,” Mullins reported.

“We are very happy with the way things are shaping up at the moment. For the ones running early in the week [at Cheltenham], that is probably enough for them. The ones for later in the week will probably get another bit,” he added.

Energumene jumped three fences at Navan and pleased his trainer with the way he moved.

Along with Chacun Pour Soi, Energumene will try to fill in the single glaring gap in Mullins’ stellar CV by finally landing the Queen Mother Champion Chase.

Chacun Pour Soi skipped a racecourse outing at the weekend and Mullins reported he had worked at home instead.

Mullins appears to have all but nailed Galopin Des Champs’s colors to the mast in terms of taking on Bob Olinger in the Turners Chase at Cheltenham.

The clash between the two unbeaten novices is perhaps the most eagerly anticipated head-to-head at the festival, although both are also still engaged in the longer Brown Advisory Chase over three miles.

On Sunday the champion trainer was clear about his preference for Galopin Des Champs.

“We started him off at two and a half over fences and he was very good both times. I’d like to stay at that trip,” he told Sportinglife.com, a site he contributes a regular column to.

“The way he jumps he loves to get on with the job and while he’s in both the Brown Advisory and the Turners, at the moment I’m favoring the latter.

“I like the way he jumps and if he went to the three-mile race, would he be too quick over his fences?” Mullins added.

The most successful trainer in Cheltenham festival history is a heavy odds-on favor to win a ninth leading trainer award.

A 4-11 favorite with some firms, Mullins’s main threats are expected to come from compatriots Gordon Elliott and Henry de Bromhead.

The latter was pipped to the leading trainer prize last year on countback of place horses after both De Bromhead and Mullins saddled half a dozen winners each.

Elliott has twice been top trainer for the most high-profile week of the racing year, edging out his great rival in both 2018 and 2019. He jointly holds the record of eight winners in a single week, which he achieved in 2018.

Mullins has four runners on Monday’s Leopardstown card with Townend on two of them, including a beginners’ chase spin on Mt Leinster.

Taking the mount so close to the festival indicates Townend’s confidence in the horse, who in form terms should be very hard to beat given a clear round.

Mt Leinster has largely promised more than he has delivered but ran off a mark of 135 in a handicap last time, which looks superior to anything his opposition has approached.

Brooklynn Glory is a big player in the opener while Mullins gives the point-to-point winner Rath Gaul Boy a racecourse debut in the bumper.

The Minella Indo colors of owner Barry Maloney will be on view here where Monty’s Star lines up.

A half-brother to another Maloney owned star in Monalee, Monty’s Star showed promise when runner-up in two point-to-points.

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