Matheson Hurdle Tips and Preview (Leopardstown)
One of the top Grade 1 contests of the Christmas period comes over in Ireland as Leopardstown plays host to the Matheson Hurdle (formerly known as the Ryanair Hurdle). Read on for betting tips, offers and the best odds on this key Champion Hurdle trial.
Two miles is the trip for this Grade 1 hurdle contest with eight obstacles standing between the competitors and the winning post. First run at Leopardstown in 1986 the race now offers in excess of €110,00 in total prize money.
Matheson Hurdle Tips and Betting Offers, 2:50, 29th December 2019
The Matheson Hurdle is one of the biggest and most prestigious races of the Christmas period. Many of the most powerful yards in Irish racing regularly have entries in this Grade 1 hurdle which takes place over 2 mile. Both Hurricane Fly and Istabraq won the Matheson four times as part of their preparations for the Cheltenham Festival and we have some potential Festival winners in this year’s field.
Klassical Dream to Silence the Doubters, For Now
Klassical Dream is the 11/10 favourite for the Matheson Hurdle. He would be even shorter were it not for a fairly poor start to his season when sent off as the 2/5 favourite at Punchestown. That run was supposed to be a routine win for Willie Mullins’ five-year-old but he was a long way from the sort of performance he showed when winning a hat-trick of Grade 1s last season, the middle leg of which was the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Ruby Walsh was the jockey for each of those Grade 1 wins and he has been speaking highly of Klassical Dream in the build up to the Matheson Hurdle. Even with Walsh’s backing, many racing fans are yet to be convinced that Klassical Dream has the class to be competitive at the top level now he has made the step out of novices’ hurdling.
The general consensus is that Klassical Dream will be a better chaser than a hurdler and should enjoy longer trips as his career develops. We will see just how good he is in the Champion Hurdle for which Klassical Dream is currently available at a general price of 7/2. For now though, he should be good enough to bounce back to form with a win at Leopardstown on Sunday.
Can the Petit Mouchoir Resurgence Continue?
The form of Petit Mouchoir is one of the most interesting storylines of the 2019 Matheson Hurdle. The eight-year-old really struggled towards the end of last seaon to the extent that many openly wondered whether he would be able to continue racing. Those concerns remained after his return to action in October at Tipperary where he was a long way off the pace.
Thankfully for his many fans, Petit Mouchoir was much more like his old self last time out in the Grade 1 Morgiana Hurdle. The quality of his performance at Punchestown was as welcomed by Henry De Bromhead and his team as it was a surprise. And yet, punters haven’t exactly fallen over themselves to back him on Sunday.
There is certainly a real risk associated with lending your support to Petit Mouchoir on the back of just one good performance. However, if he gets back to his best, he will surely have a chance of making a real impact in this one.
Willie Mullins will likely be hoping for a strong run from Petit Mouchoir. That’s because Klassical Dream would love the front runner to set a fast pace to take the legs away from the other threatening contenders. Petit Mouchoir may just be the key factor in this race and he does look a good each way bet at 16/1 with Ladbrokes but it’s Klassical Dream who is the worthy favourite at 11/10 with bet365.
Matheson Hurdle Previous Winners
- 2018 – Sharjah – jockey Patrick Mullins, trainer Willie Mullins
- 2017 – Mick Jazz – jockey Davy Russell, trainer Gordon Elliott
- 2016 – Petit Mouchoir – jockey Bryan Cooper, trainer Henry de Bromhead
- 2015 – Nichols Canyon – jockey Ruby Walsh, trainer Willie Mullins
- 2014 – Hurricane Fly – jockey Ruby Walsh, trainer Willie Mullins
- 2013 – Hurricane Fly – jockey Ruby Walsh, trainer Willie Mullins
- 2012 – Hurricane Fly – jockey Ruby Walsh, trainer Willie Mullins
- 2011 – Unaccompanied – jockey Paul Townend, trainer Dermot Weld
- 2010 – Hurricane Fly – jockey Paul Townend, trainer Willie Mullins
- 2009 – Solwhit – jockey Davy Russell, trainer Charles Byrnes
Matheson Hurdle History
Officially known as the December Festival Hurdle, it should come as no surprise that this classy event acts as one of the showpiece contests at the Dublin venues big Christmas meeting.
First run in 1986, the event has undergone its fair share of sponsorship changes with Bewley’s, betting giant Paddy Power, and the local golf course all taking their turn over the years. One of the biggest commercial sponsors of racing, Ryanair took the reins in 2013 then Matheson took over the sponsorship ahead of the 2019 renewal.
Whilst this race is now one of the highest profile events of its type on the Irish racing calendar, it hasn’t always been this way. Indeed, it was not until the year 2001 that the race was first granted Group 1 status.
A top tier event run over two miles, this contest is a fine race in its own right, but also acts as a natural stepping stone towards the biggest 2m Hurdle event of the season; the Champion Hurdle itself at the Cheltenham Festival. Having proven themselves too good for the field in this race, Istabraq, Hurricane Fly and Brave Inca also all went on to conquer their rivals up the Cheltenham Hill in March.
There have been four multiple winners of this race since its inception. Brave Inca landed back to back editions in 2005 and 2006, whilst Grabel claimed three on the spin for Paddy Mullins between 1988 and 1999 – the man on board for the first of those wins being a certain Willie Mullins. Special mention must go to two true titans of the hurdling game who each claimed this prize on four separate occasions; the supremely talented Istabraq and mighty Hurricane Fly.
Despite the number of top tier performers he has owned over the years, it is the Aidan O’Brien trained Istabraq who remains the best horse ever to sport the green and gold silks of JP McManus, and he will likely have a long wait before he owns one better. 14 times a winner in Grade 1 company, he included no fewer than three Champion Hurdles on his glittering CV. This race was named in his honour in 2011 and 2012.
14 Grade 1 successes is undoubtedly an impressive achievement, but is some way shy of the 22 top level triumphs achieved by fellow four time winner, Hurricane Fly. There’s no shame in that though as that total of 22 stands as a world record for a National Hunt horse. A two-time winner of the Champion Hurdle, and five time Irish Champion Hurdler, Hurricane Fly at least gives the magnificent Istabraq a run for his money as the most talented winner in the history of this race.
It is the name of Mullins which is stamped all over the history books when it comes to the list of successful trainers in this race. As of 2018 Paddy Mullins and Willie Mullins are tied for the all-time lead with six wins apiece. Given the consistent quality he has at his disposal, few would bet against Willie Mullins claiming the record as his own sooner rather than later.
The partner of the aforementioned Istabraq throughout his career, it is Charle Swan who leads the way amongst the jockeys. Wins aboard Novello Allegro (1992) and Theatreworld (1996), together with Istabraq’s four successes give Swan six wins in total.