Leopardstown Christmas Festival: Petit Mouchoir the Ryanair Hurdle punt
Petit Mouchoir primed for Ryanair Hurdle mission
Petit Mouchoir has shaped well in both starts this season and looks decent value to turn over Nichols Canyon and land the Grade 1 Ryanair Hurdle on the final day of Leopardstown’s Christmas Festival (14.30).
The five-year-old had some very useful form to his name last season when in the care of Willie Mullins, opening his account over hurdles at the first time of asking when scoring easily at Thurles before running a blinder when stepped up into Grade 1 company and finishing a 1 1/2 length third to Long Dog at this meeting.
Petit Mouchoir went on to finish a solid keeping on eighth of 14 to Altior in a very strong renewal of the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival before running a stormer when collared close home and beaten just a neck by the highly regarded Buveur D’air in a Grade 1 at Aintree’s Grand National meeting.
He then rounded off the campaign with a half-a-length second in a similar grade affair at the Punchestown Festival and a split between Mullins and owners Gigginstown House Stud saw the son of Al Namix move to Henry De Bromhead.
Promising runs for new handler
There was lots to like about Petit Mouchoir’s first run for his new handler when third of four to Rashaan in a Grade 2 at Down Royal where after travelling strongly throughout in third,he found himself short of room approaching two out and made a mistake at the last when switched left to see daylight.
He then kept on under tender handling to be beaten 3 1/4 lengths, and it was an eye-catching effort which left the distinct impression that he may well have won if given a more positive ride.
Petit Mouchoir was then in the process of running a huge race in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle when last seen in action, travelling powerfully in the lead and yet to be asked a question when coming to grief three from home.
To me he looked all over the winner and if none the worse for that tumble looks value to gain compensation.
Nichols Canyon back to defend crown
Nichols Canyon won the race 12 months ago and is a red-hot favourite to retain his crown.
The Willie Mullins trained six-year-old is a proven top class performer who has won eight of his 14 starts over the obstacles.
Seven of those successes have come in Grade 1 company and Nichols Canyon also ran very well to finish third of 12 to stable companion Annie Power in the Champion Hurdle at this year’s Cheltenham Festival.
That form sets a clear standard in this and the gelding comes into the race having looked as good as ever on seasonal reappearance when scoring easily by 12 lengths at Punchestown.
An official rating of 162 gives Nichols Canyon an 11lb advantage over Petit Mouchoir but I cant’t help but feel that the selection has more to come and looks worth siding with at the odds on offer to cause an upset.
Coral’s top tip: Petit Mouchoir looks worth a wager at the odds on offer to foil Nichols Canyon’s bid to win back-to-back runnings of the Ryanair Hurdle.