Last Year's Winner: Henry Higgins
- R M Power
- C O'Brien
- 10st 10lb
- Starting Price:
- Season Form Figures:
- Previous Best:
- 5th - Handicap Hurdle (Grade B), Fairyhouse (Nov 2015)
You may recall this handicap as the Ladbrokes, Pierse, MCR or Boylesports and run a little earlier in January than is now the case but, during its prime, it was known as the Sweeps Hurdle when it attracted Champion Hurdle quality horses. Those of a certain vintage will remember Persian War, Comedy Of Errors, Night Nurse and For Auction all winning as did the future Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, Captain Christy, and the dual Champion Chaser, Barnbrook Again.
Ireland’s most prestigious handicap hurdle is now restricted to horses rated 0-150 (raised from a 0-145 three years ago). All but one of the last 18 winners was sent off between 5/1-16/1. The last British-trained winner was the Jenny Pitman-trained Master Tribe in 1987 but this is no longer a race they attack with any great verve.
Willie Mullins has got to grips with this handicap in a big way of late supplying the 2013 winner and the 1-2 in 2011 having saddled the second, third and fourth in 2010 in addition to winning with Adamant Approach in 2002 so he has unquestionably taken over the mantle as ‘the man with the plan’ from Arthur Moore for this race who successfully plotted up six winners between 1979 and 1998. Mullins’s Kalkir was also second last season behind Henry Higgins. Two of Mullins’s three winners contested the Bar One Handicap Hurdle at Fairyhouse in December.
Jessica Harrington has taken three runnings (two of which contested the Paddy Power Handicap Hurdle at Leopardstown over Christmas where they both finished second) so is clearly another trainer to note and she also trained the 2014 runner-up, Modem, who also placed at that same meeting on his previous start.
Twelve of the last 16 winners were winning their first handicap hurdle when successful here which says plenty.
Tony Martin supplied the third and fourth in 2014 taking his tally to six placed horses in addition to Xenophon’s victory since 2003. Noel Meade, on the other hand, has had a shocker as not one of his 33 runners in the last 20 years has even placed since his Cockney Lad finished third as the 9/4 favourite in 1995.
Twelve of the last 16 winners were winning their first handicap hurdle when successful here which says plenty. The winning run of novices had dried up since their fine run between 1992 and 2002 when How’s The Boss, Anusha, Dance Beat, Grinkov and Adamant Approach gave them five victories but Gilgamboa gave them another success three years ago.
The domination of second-season hurdlers would account for that as, remarkably, up until Abbey Lane won four years ago during his third campaign over timber, the previous 13 winners had all been second-season hurdlers whether they officially carried novice status or otherwise.
Archive Footage won with 11st 8lb on his back in 1999 but that was a very rare success for those at the higher end of the handicap as just one other winner in the last quarter of a century carried over 11st and that was by only a solitary 1lb (Adamant Approach in 2002). In fact, the last 14 winners have carried no more than 10st 11lb.
I usually prefer to go with to official ratings trends over weight-carried trends but this statistic is so strong it seems sensible to stick to it. Only one penalised horse in the last 18 years has finished placed from 28 to try and many of which, coming off a recent victory of course, were very well fancied.
It has been important to arrive here off the back of a good recent start as up until Final Approach six years ago, the previous ten winners had been placed at worst in their last race as have four of the five subsequent winners, two of which advertised their claims by finishing second in a two-mile handicap at the course on his previous start at the Leopardstown Christmas Meeting. That four-day meeting has featured four of the last 11 winners.
At a glance summary
- Yet to win a handicap hurdle
- Second-season hurdlers
- Placed over hurdles at the Leopardstown Christmas Meeting
- Trained by Willie Mullins, Arthur Moore, Jessica Harrington or Tony Martin
- Second-season hurdlers
- Carrying over 11st
- Penalised horses
- Unplaced on most recent start
- Trained by Noel Meade
- Likely to start at bigger than 16/1
- Penalised horses