Matt Chapman keeping faith with Willie Mullins Champion Hurdle hopeful Saint Roi ahead of huge Leopardstown clash on ITV

DEFEAT is likely, but whatever happens to potential star Saint Roi today keep the faith people, keep the faith.

Indeed, if you feel you might waver under pressure, just slam on that massive dance tune ‘Dreamer’ by Livin’ Joy before you read on. It’s truly inspiring and will leave you pumped as a pumped thing.

Saint Roi is back in the feature race at Leopardstown, the Grade 1 Chanelle Pharma Irish Champion Hurdle which is live on ITV4.

Everything is against Saint Roi. Not only has the County Hurdle hero been beaten in his last two starts, but a small field where there could be a distinct lack of pace pressure up front is just not his thing.

However, I’m all over the Willie Mullins inmate for Cheltenham’s equivalent, which is about the only place Saint Roi might get the kind of scenario of a strong end to end gallop in a large field which he so clearly desires.

Saint Roi is currently top-priced at 14-1 for the main event, and he might be even bigger after today’s race so have a bit on ante-post before he takes part and if he suffers a heavy defeat a bit more afterwards.

It is, of course, not impossible Saint Roi and regular partner Mark Walsh can score over in Ireland, because there is no doubt he should have landed the Morgiana on November 15 when an unlucky second to Abacadabras.

However, he was desperate in fourth to Sharjah in the Matheson Hurdle at this afternoon’s course last time. Mullins seemed mystified by the effort.

You would have to think it will be hard to stop Honeysuckle, as she gets 7lb for being a mare and is no mug, being unbeaten in nine starts which included this race last year. The superb Rachael Blackmore was on board then and is back on top today.

Honeysuckle might also get an uncontested lead, which as we all know is one of the most dangerous weapons in racing.


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Whatever happens it promises to be a cracker, with Sharjah back for more, and don’t rule out Saldier in the same Rich Ricci colours. He has more to show.

Also over at Leopardstown is the Grade 1 Ladbrokes Chase, which features the leading Queen Mother Champion Chase hope Chacun Pour Soi.

The Ricci runner will face a stern test from his stable companion Min, who is absolutely no mug. If the former spits out his friend, then he’s an absolute monster.

Domestically, I’m very much looking forward to the re-scheduled Cotswold Chase, a Grade 2 over just about three miles at Sandown.

My Gold Cup hope Santini is in the line up, but I don’t expect too much from him today to be quite frank. I’m hoping blinkers will be slammed on him at Cheltenham.

Grand National contender Bristol De Mai heads heads the line-up, and he will take some pegging back from Nigel Twiston-Davies and the excellent Daryl Jacob. The grey has never had the credit he deserves and returned this term with yet another fabulous success in the Betfair Chase at Haydock.

However, there’s something telling me – perhaps wrongly! – that despite desperate stable form the Colin Tizzard-handled Native River could turn back the clock and be hard to stop.

The 2018 Gold Cup victor will absolutely relish this stamina test in the Sandown mud, and at the age of ten it would be quite wrong to suggest he hasn’t still got a major victory in his capabilities. I’m hoping for an aggressive ride from Richard Johnson. Go for it Rich!

I’m off to Lingfield this afternoon for Sky Sports Racing, and I don’t underestimate how lucky I am to be going racing at all in these still desperate times.

Lingfield will be ignored by many, as Flat racing does not capture the imagination at this time of year.

However, it’s actually a really decent card with Misty Grey, Fizzy Feet and Summerghand all going in the Listed Betway Kachy Stakes over six furlongs, and Bangkok lining up under Ryan Moore in the Winter Derby Trial.

In the latter event the super talented Richard Kingscote rides Felix for Marco Botti. He has a bit to find on ratings, but there are real signs the Italian trainer is going to have a fine 2021.

Italy and Bangkok are two places it will be hard to travel to in the near future.

But while we have all been stuck at home for far too long, today is a day to relish being in front of the box. The racing on TV is superb.


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