PADDY POWER COLUMN - Casey Top and Clan Tara worth a pop

Leopardstown managed to host three of the four days of their Christmas festival and while it was obviously disappointing to lose a day, I suspect that at various stages of the build-up manager Tom Burke would have snapped your hand off for such a scenario to occur.

Leopardstown managed to host three of the four days of their Christmas festival and while it was obviously disappointing to lose a day, I suspect that at various stages of the build-up manager Tom Burke would have snapped your hand off for such a scenario to occur.

Of the winners on Paddy Power day, I was most impressed with Hurricane Fly, who was unextended under Paul Townend to land the paddypower.com iPhone App Festival Hurdle by two and a half lengths from a decent yardstick in Solwhit.

I also liked the look of Prima Vista's win in the handicap hurdle on the Tuesday and I would have tipped him to win Sunday's feature MCR Hurdle at Leopardstown, but trainer Noel Meade pointed out that his winning rating of 110 wouldn't be enough to see him get into that race and as I don't currently know his reassessed mark, I will look elsewhere.

Before that though belated congratulations to Meade as the eight-time champion jumps trainer was 60 last Sunday.

Returning to the MCR, I'm going to opt for Len Whitmore's Casey Top, who should give readers a good run for their money as after nine runs over hurdles, the eight-year-old has won or been placed six times.

The Wexford trainer has deliberately given his charge a break to freshen him up after quite a busy summer campaign and he ran well after a break when fourth in a decent handicap hurdle at Punchestown in April.

The selection wouldn't want heavy ground, but I don't think they'll get that this weekend, although my only concern is that the two miles might just be a bit short of his best trip and an additional half a mile might not go amiss.

Saying that they will probably go at a fast old gallop and stamina might come into play in the closing stages so the ability to stay could actually be an advantage.

Len only trains four horses in Enniscorthy so a big pot like this might be just the job!

Before that Thurles hosts the Grade 3 Beamish Stout Phil Sweeney Memorial Chase on Thursday and although I think that the conditions of the race suit Colm Murphy's Zaarito, at time of writing the Wexford handler wasn't 100% sure that the Tiraaz gelding was going to run with his participation depending upon a piece of work later in the day.

So in his possible absence, I'm going to go for Paul Nolan's Clan Tara, who was jumping away well in last week's Paddy Power Chase before he looked a bit unlucky to take a tumble at the fifth last.

Nolan told me that the nine-year-old has come out of it fine and one piece of his earlier form jumps off the page at me.

In 2009 in a Punchestown beginners' chase, my fancy found just Pandorama a head too powerful and that one threw himself into the Gold Cup equation last week when landing the Lexus Chase.

I'll also be having a few quid on Aston Villa in their next few games after seeing them perform valiantly on Match Of The Day on Sunday evening.

I particularly like watching this show if I don't know the results, which I didn't, and when John Terry put Chelsea 3-2 up in the 89th minute, the Villains looked doomed.

But having earlier thrown away a 2-1 lead which they held until the 84th minute, Villa showed good spirit to score a stoppage-time equaliser and they didn't look like a team that had lost six of their previous seven games.

I think they can beat Sunderland on Wednesday and master Sheffield United away in the cup on Saturday.