Leopardstown preview: Coral.ie Leopardstown Handicap Chase (15.00)
David Metcalf | January 16, 2016
The Colm Murphy trained gelding was a usful hurdler who showed steadily progressive form over fences last season.
After finishing in the frame on two occasions, including when third to the highly-regarded Wounded Warrior, Empire Of Dirt showed a good attitude to get off the mark over the larger obstacles when beating Champagne James in a 2m 4f contest on soft ground at Naas.
The nine-year-old raced close up, and after being produced to challenge at the last dug deep on the run-in to win going away by a length.
It was a gutsy and taking performance, and one which suggested Empire Of Dirt would have more to offer this season.
Empire of Dirt could reign supreme
That view was confirmed on seasonal reappearance in the valuable Troyton Chase at Navan where Empire Of Dirt was travelling strongly in a share of the lead when coming to grief at the third last.
The son of Westerner hadn’t been asked for any serious effort, and to my eyes would have gone very close to landing the spoils had he stood on his feet.
Empire Of Dirt backed that up with a solid second at Punchestown, before disappointing last time out when pulled-up in a valuable contest at this venue.
He was never travelling in the latter and clearly amiss, but it would be no surprise to see Empire Of Dirt bounce quickly back on testing ground which holds no fears.
This 2m 5f contest should be right up his street, and on the pick of his form Empire Of Dirt looks nicely treated off a mark of 133.
Punt on Cause Of Causes could come off
Cause Of Causes has been given a chance by the handicapper and looks a big danger.
The Gordon Elliott trained gelding is a tough sort whose landed the 4m National Hunt Chase at last year’s Cheltenham Festival in terrific style off a mark of 145, before going on to round off the campaign with a fine eight of 39 to Many Clouds in the Grand National at Aintree off 146.
Cause Of Causes is now able to race off a reduced rating of 142, and comes into the contest on the back of a promising reappearance run when a tenderly handled 12th of 28 to Minella Foru at this venue.
That run should have blown away the cobwebs and put the eight-year-old spot on for this, and with the stable in fine form a big run looks on the cards.
Coral’s top tip: Empire Of Dirt looks decent each-way value in wide open contest. Cause Of Causes rates a big danger having dropped in the weights.