Several of these, including Mikael D'Haguenet and Quel Esprit, were engaged in the Grade 1 at Leopardstown yesterday. Willie Mullins' pair would be strongly fancied if turning out for this but in their absence TORPHICHEN gets the vote. Edward O'Grady's charge wasn't far behind Quel Esprit on his chasing bow at Limerick in November and has progressed into a very useful performer finishing third behind Realt Dubh in a Leopardstown Grade 1 last time. Saludos may have won that latter race but for falling at the last so is an obvious threat though he jumped poorly on a return visit and may have lost his confidence. Lastoftheleaders had Uncle Tom Cobley behind over this C&D in November but the pair are taking a leap in class and are held by Saludos. Montan made a winning start at Fairyhouse but this is much tougher.
Lastoftheleaders (IRE) 15-2 (10-6) Tracked leaders on outer, 5th halfway, headway into 3rd travelling well before 2 out, ridden to challenge approaching last, no impression on winner run-in, kept on one pace, 2nd of 12, 1 3/4l behind Peak Raider (9-10) at Fairyhouse 2m 1f hcp chs sft in Dec.
Mikael D'haguenet (FR) 4-7fav (11-12) Tracked leaders, 3rd before halfway, dropped to 5th when slight mistake 4 out, 4th and driven along 2 out, 6th and one pace straight, left moderate 5th from last, 5th of 8, 11l behind Realt Dubh (11-12) at Leopardstown 2m 1f nov chs Grade 1 (4yo+) (1) sft in Dec.
Montan (FR) 9-2 (11-12) Mid-division, 8th halfway, headway in 6th entering straight, travelled well to lead 2 out, slightly awkward last and headed, ridden and rallied run-in, led close home, won at Fairyhouse 2m 5f beg chase sft in Jan beating Killultagh Queen (11-7) by hd, 16 ran.
Quel Esprit (FR) 2-5fav (11-12) Always prominent, led approaching 7 out, headed before 2 out, soon led again, ridden clear from last, won at Limerick 2m 3f beg chs hvy in Nov beating Torphichen (11-12) by 6l, 16 ran.
Saludos (IRE) 5-1 (11-12) Chased leader in 2nd, 3rd 5 out where slight mistake, mistake 3 out and dropped to rear, weakened and tailed off, 5th of 6, well behind Realt Dubh (11-12) at Leopardstown 2m 1f nov chs G1 (1) sft in Jan.
Sam Adams (IRE) 11-4 (11-12) Chased leaders, 3rd halfway, 2nd 4 out, ridden entering straight, stayed on to challenge approacing 2 out where led, clear before last, kept on strongly, won at Fairyhouse 2m 1f beg chase hvy in Jan beating Arabella Boy (11-12) by 6l, 15 ran.
Torphichen 10-1 (11-12) Raced wide, 6th halfway, progress into 4th 4 out, 3rd and ridden 2 out, soon challenged, left 2nd at last, kept on same pace under pressure, 3rd of 8, 5l behind Realt Dubh (11-12) at Leopardstown 2m 1f nov chs Grade 1 (4yo+) (1) sft in Dec.
Uncle Tom Cobley (IRE) 9-2 (10-13) Chased leader in 2nd, led after 4th, challenged 2 out, ridden and disputed approaching last, kept on run-in to assert close home, won at Naas 2m nov chs sft in Jan beating Prince Erik (11-8) by 3 1/2l, 7 ran.
Save My Blushes 8-1 (11-9) Mid-division, 9th halfway, ridden into 7th 2 out, no extra before last, kept on one pace, 7th of 12, 26l behind Elcanos (10-1) at Fairyhouse 2m 4f nov hcp hdl 8Evens16 sft in Jan.