Leopardstown preview: Squared Financial Christmas Hurdle (13.55)
David Metcalf | December 28, 2015
Alpha Des Obeaux shaped really well on seasonal reappearance and looks decent value to land the Grade 1 Squared Financial Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown today (13.55) now stepped back up in trip.
The Mouse Morris trained gelding showed progressive form throughout last season, and ran a blinder when chasing home the brilliant Douvan over 2m at Punchestown.
Although no match for the easy winner, the son of Saddler Maker kept on well to be beaten 3 3/4 lengths over a trip which was far too sharp.
Close rivalry for Christmas Hurdle
Alpha Des Obeaux was also in the process of running a huge race in a Grade 1 contest over 3m at Aintree when a length down and rallying when coming to grief at the last in a race eventually won by Thistlecrack.
The pair were miles clear of the rest when disaster struck for Alpha Des Obeaux, and the eventual winner is a rapidly improving sort who is currently favourite for the 2016 World Hurdle.
Whether Alpha Des Obeaux would have won is debatable, but there is little doubt that he would have gone very close and given Thistlecrack plenty to think about and the form is strong.
It was a performance which suggested the five-year-old had the scope to make up into a very smart staying hurdler this season, and that view was confirmed when Alpha Des Obeaux finished a highly creditable second to Arctic Fire over 2m 4f at Fairyhouse last month.
Stamina in favour of Alpha Des Obeaux
Alpha Des Obeaux travelled strongly for much of the contest and kept on well to be beaten four lengths over an inadequate trip, and the step up to 3m in this is sure to see him in a far better light.
He is also entitled to come on a bundle for the run, and with the ground heavy Alpha Des Obeaux can bring his stamina into play to turn the tables and land the spoils.
Arctic Fire is a really classy sort rated 17lb higher than Alpha Des Obeaux and brings the strongest form into the contest.
The Willie Mullins trained six-year-old posted a series of top class efforts last season, including when runner-up to Hurricane Fly in the Irish Champion Hurdle and occupying the same spot behind stablemate Faugheen in Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
Alpha Des Obeaux to grind out winning run
Arctic Fire has looked as good as ever this season in winning both his starts, but they have been over 2m 4f and all his best form is at 2m.
He now tries 3m for the first time, and there has to be a big question mark over whether the son of Solider Hollow will get the trip given that he is more of a speed horse than a stayer.
There will certainly be no hiding place on ground which is riding very testing, and in a race which is likely to turn into a slog I can see proven stayer Alpha Des Obeaux grinding his rivals into submission.
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