Knight Frank Juvenile Hurdle | Grade 2 | 2m | 3yo | ATR
Espoir D'Allen puts his unbeaten record on the line at Leopardstown on Tuesday as he renews rivalry with Mitchouka, who was more than four lengths behind Gavin Cromwell's talented juvenile in a Grade 3 at Fairyhouse this month.
The JP McManus-owned Espoir D'Allen is a general 10-1 shot for the JCB Triumph Hurdle, for which the powerful owner also has the clear favourite in Apple's Shakira.
Cromwell, who was narrowly denied in this race two seasons ago when Jer’s Girl was reeled in by Apple’s Jade in a pulsating finish, will be hoping luck is on his side this time.
He said: "I'm very happy with him and he seems to be in very good shape at home, so I've no complaints.
"He has the form in the book and deserves to be favourite for the race, but you never know with these juveniles how they will progress from each run. I think and hope he's progressing, and he’s in good order."
Gordon Elliott, who sprung a 20-1 surprise in this race in 2009 with Carlito Brigante before winning again with His Excellency in 2011, is represented by Mitchouka and hurdles debutant Farclas.
Elliott said: “Mitchouka is in good form and should run well, although there's no obvious reason why he should beat Espoir D'Allen, who beat him well last time.
“Farclas is a nice horse who won on the Flat in France. It's his first start for us and his first over hurdles. We're hoping he runs well but he'll come on a good bit for it.”
There have been a number of big-priced winners of this race in recent seasons but Ted Walsh is realistic about the chances of Minnie Dahill and would be surprised if she was capable of causing an upset.
He said: “Minnie Dahill was going to finish second when she fell at the last at Punchestown last month. She's in good form but will do well to finish in the first three.”
Grey Waters was at the centre of one of the most miraculous jockey recoveries of the season when last seen trailing home in a juvenile hurdle at Aintree.
The dual hurdles winner made a bad mistake at the last and Shane Shortall was almost propelled out of the saddle but somehow kept the partnership intact.
Shortall is in the plate again, while the field is completed by Gowran winner Mastermind and the maidens Desert Grey and Tenth Amendment.