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The Mandarin’s Friday Selections for 29th December 2023

The Mandarin’s Selections from Leopardstown Maiden Hurdle 12.35
A Loughanmore Point winner who impressed on both his starts on the flat at Punchestown at the back of last season. He did well enough on his hurdling bow to get the nod for this, finishing runner-up to Gordon Elliott’s Firefox who made virtually all. Ballyburn was the only horse that got close to Firefox in that big field, and can be expected to come on for that run. Ballyburn to break the maiden tag over timber here Irish EBF Mares Hurdle (Grade 3) 1.10
Risk Belle
A really hot race this for a Grade 3, with Magical Zoe heading the ante-post markets. Her runners-up spot to Irish Point last month now reads a solid piece of form, as that rival landed the Grade 1 Christmas Hurdle here yesterday by 11 lengths from a quality field. However, it may pay to side with Willie Mullins’s Risk Belle, who looked to have moved up a notch when scoring in a Grade 3 Hurdle at Fairyhouse earlier this month. Both Magical Zoe and Risk Belle save their best for ground with plenty of cut in it, but Risk Belle gets the nudge in a fascinating contest

Neville Hotels Novice Chase (Grade1) 1.45
Corbetts Cross (nap)
A terrific renewal in store as the brilliant staying hurdler, Flooring Porter, takes on the rising star of the Novice Chasing division, Corbetts Cross. Gavin Cromwell’s Flooring Porter made a seamless start to his chasing career when seeing off the useful Broadway Boy at Cheltenham, but found things a bit tougher going right-handed at Punchestown next time out. The return to a left-handed track is sure to suit, but in Corbetts Cross he has a proper rival to beat. The almost winner of the Albert Bartlett at the Cheltenham Festival back in March, before spoiling his chances by running-out, looks to be making into an even better chaser, with an easy win at Fairyhouse earlier this month to get off the mark over fences. Ground to suit, so Corbetts Cross tops the shortlist

Matheson Hurdle (Grade 1) 2.20
State Man (nb)
It will be no surprise to see State Man go off at a skinny odds-on price for this Grade 1 Hurdle. Only finding the exciting Constitution Hill too good in the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, this should be a formality as Willie Mullins’s Doctor Dino gelding lines up to defend the title he won from stablemate Vauban last year. This time, another Closutton inmate, Impaire Et Passe rates the main threat, and a good duel is in store. State Man to retain the title at a canter

Plusvital Flat Race 3.25
Redemption Day
Redemption Day can finish a week of brisk business for Champion Trainer Willie Mullins. This French bred gelding has not been seen trackside since following home the smart Facile Vega in the Punchestown Bumper in 2022, but is sure to have been primed for a return to action as Mullins readies his team for a return here in February. The Passing Wife and Jalon D’oudairies rate the main threats if Redemption Day is in any way ring rusty, but this looks a good starting point for his delayed return to action

The Mandarin

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