Fil Dor aiming to make most of weight for age allowance in Leopardstown feature

Former Derby favourite High Definition set to make jumping debut in festival opener

Allowances are rarely made at racing’s top level but the weight for age concession Fil Dor gets in Leopardstown’s St Stephens Day Grade One feature could prove decisive.

As a four-year-old, Fil Dor gets a 6lb swing from his four senior rivals in the €100,000 Racing Post App Novice Chase.

The nature of a race catering for tyro steeplechasers means such a ‘head-start’ can quickly get wiped out with a single blunder.

Nevertheless, it is still a sizeable plus for Gordon Elliott’s charge hardly fits the bill of some callow youngster taking on his seniors. This will be his 10th career start – including one in his native France – and Fil Dor mixed it consistently at the highest level over flights last season.


Vauban had his number on three separate occasions but that horse looks an exceptional hurdles prospect.

One more spin over hurdles this season was enough to prompt Elliott into switching to fences at Navan last month where Fil Dor looked an old hand in beating one of Monday’s rivals, Saint Roi.

Navan last month also saw Elliott’s other big-race hope Hollow Games put up an impressive performance.

Having raced at up to three miles over hurdles, Hollow Games easily managed the drop back in trip and was expected to as well given there was significant market support.

Jack Kennedy had the choice between the Elliott pair and perhaps it’s not surprising this season’s leading jockey has opted for the younger horse.

It won’t have escaped statistical fans either that Elliott’s previous winner of the race, Clarcam, was only four when defeating the odds-on Vautour in 2014.

Vautour subsequently proved himself exceptional and may have had a bad day at the Christmas office eight years ago.

However, that weight for age allowance hardly helped him either and this time round may prove very useful to Fil Dor.

Fil Dor’s finest hour over hurdles came on St Stephen’s Day 2021 in the Grade Two Knight Frank Hurdle.

A year later and Elliott is without a runner but his great rival Willie Mullins has a handful of options in attempting to win the race for the first time since 2016.

Lossiemouth made a major impression on her Irish debut at Fairyhouse earlier this month and is already a clear 11-4 favourite for Triumph glory at Cheltenham in March.

Not surprisingly Paul Townend has gone with her, although a couple of fascinating new Mullins-trained French recruits are in the mix too.

Like Lossiemouth, Jourdefete carries Rich Ricci’s colours, but Gala Marceau looks to have the more eye-catching French form, winning both her starts over hurdles before being bought by owner Kenny Alexander.

Cougar is an ex-Ballydole runner and has won both his starts over flights to date, although it could emerge that the 3lb allowance Gal Marceau gets from Lossiemouth proves important.

There is little doubt, however, that the most interesting former Aidan O’Brien horse on view at Leopardstown will be High Definition in the very first race of the festival.

By now the one-time Derby favourite was supposed to be enjoying a lucrative career at stud rather than counting down to jumping hurdles at Christmas.

Despite twice being placed at Group One level this year, High Definition ultimately proved a let-down on the flat, although he still carries the Magnier colours and, interestingly, hasn’t been gelded.

Mullins has another pair of French recruits to throw at him including Paul Townend’s pick Parmenion who won his only start to date at Craon last year.

The following maiden hurdle also has another smart Mullins type in Dark Raven, winner of both his bumpers and now returning from a 20-month absence.

Gavin Cromwell’s Final Orders boasts the most impressive-looking form figures ahead of the handicap chase at Leopardstown having won four of his last five starts.

They can prove an accurate indicator too as the diminutive gelding looked a transformed proposition during the autumn.

Vital to his chance could be the singular ground on Leopardstown’s steeplechase course which has been watered all the way up to Christmas. That may not be what others want but it should suit Final Orders.

The St Stephen’s Day action starts in the morning where Down Royal kicks off the busiest day of the racing year in Ireland.

Few horses will have longer to go to the North than the John Murphy-trained pair Barometer and Black Bamboo who travel from their base in West Cork.

Top amateur rider Jamie Codd goes north for three rides including The Storyteller in the hunters’ chase.

The popular veteran is back over the course and distance of his greatest success when victorious in the 2020 Grade One Ladbrokes Chase.

The Storyteller has brought that latent class to the point-to-point fields with three wins recently but faces no easy task against a field containing Vaucelet, Brain Power and another popular veteran in Snow Falcon.

Codd takes the reins on Tuesday’s Naas winner Know The Game, who carries a 7lb penalty in a handicap chase but may be well suited by a step up in trip.

Mullins has 19 St Stephen’s Day declarations and one of them, Chavez, goes north to make his debut for the stable under Swedish rider, Elliot Ohgren.

Chavez won twice from five starts for former trainer Paul Nicholls, including over hurdles at Ascot in March.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column