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Last Year's Winner: Off You Go
- M P Walsh
- C Byrnes
- 11st 5lbs
- Starting Price:
- Season Form Figures:
- Previous Best:
- 1st - Coral Hurdle (Grade B Handicap), Leopardstown (Feb 2018)
Formerly run in early January but it is now part of the Dublin Racing Festival a month later but for me it now gets a bit lost in amongst a plethora of Grade 1 races. 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 but it is now restricted to horses rated 0-150 (raised from a 0-145 six years ago).
All but one of the last 21 winners was sent off between 5/1-20/1 and last year witnessed a 1-2-3 for J P McManus with Off You Go landing a gamble in this race for the Charles Byrnes stable for the second year running, thus joining Comedy Of Errors and Fredcoteri and Redundant Pal as a dual winner of Ireland’s most prestigious handicap hurdle. Byrnes also won this prize with Dromlease Express in 2004. Off You Go was also McManus’s fourth winner in the last six years (two of which were novices) adding to Gilgamboa and Henry Higgins.
Willie Mullins’s Uradel finished fifth as favourite last season but he supplied the runner-up and fourth in 2018 and 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 1979-1998. Two of Mullins’s three winners contested the Grade A Handicap Hurdle over 2m Fairyhouse in early December, as did Off You Go last season before winning here on his next start.
Tony Martin supplied the second and third three years ago following two more placed runners in 2014 taking his tally to eight placed horses in addition to Xenophon’s victory since 2003. 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 Modem and Jezki to finish second in 2014 and last season respectively. 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.
Twelve of the last 19 winners were winning their first handicap hurdle when successful here which says plenty and only one of the last 13 winners had not contested a handicap before
It has been important to arrive here off the back of a good recent start as up until Final Approach eight years ago, the previous ten winners had been placed at worst in their last race as have five of the eight 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 – a race in which the 2016 winner, Ice Cold Soul, finished back in twelfth. That four-day meeting has featured five of the last 14 winners.
The winning run of novices had dried up since their fine run between 1992-2002 when How’s The Boss, Anusha, Dance Beat, Grinkov and Adamant Approach gave them five victories but the J P McManus-owned pair of Gilgamboa and Off You Go have given them two more recent successes. Henry Higgins is the only winner this century to have had raced more than ten times over hurdles underlining the strong ‘potential to improve’ profile required for this handicap.
Twelve of the last 19 winners were winning their first handicap hurdle when successful here which says plenty and only one of the last 13 winners had not contested a handicap before. The domination of second-season hurdlers would account for that as, remarkably, up until Abbey Lane won seven 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 two other winners in the last 26 years have carried over 11st). In fact, the 2018 winner sneaked in as the bottom weight of 29 runners carrying 9st 10lb, 17 of the last 18 winners have carried no more than 10st 11lb and horses carrying over 11st since Archive Footage are 1/63. 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 21 years has finished placed from 28 to try and many of which, coming off a recent victory of course, were very well fancied. The last penalised winner was Hansel Rag in 1985.
At a glance summary
- Yet to win a handicap hurdle but had contested a handicap hurdle
- Second-season hurdlers
- Placed over hurdles at the Leopardstown Christmas Meeting
- Contested the Grade A 2m handicap hurdle at Fairyhouse in early December
- Trained by Willie Mullins, Charles, Jessica Harrington or Tony Martin
- Owned by J P McManus (notably a novice)
- Carrying over 11st
- Penalised horses
- Unplaced on most recent start
- 10+ starts over hurdles during their career
- Likely to start at bigger than 20/1