The Dublin Racing festival was not a genius idea but rather an initiative taken to a culmination of big race days at Leopardstown from mid-January to mid-February, and formulate one huge racing weekend from them, something the Irish racing public have been crying out for for some time. Considering the time of the year, and the increased frequency of the mention of Cheltenham, it is a superb precursor to the National Hunt festival in March.
In typical Irish fashion, the home nation has been slagging off the poor turn out from British horses to the point of ridicule. It is an embarrassment to say the least from the Irish racing public, because after all, why would the British trainers send their horses to Leopardstown at this stage of the season and why we would want to see such pre-Cheltenham show downs in February is beyond me.
Suppose Lostintranslation and Clan does Obeaux come over to take on Delta Work and Kemboy in the Irish Gold Cup, then the winner would be tethering around odds on for Cheltenham. Likewise, Epatante and Pentland Hills coming over for a match up with Honeysuckle and Sharjah in the Champion Hurdle, but most of all, if Altior ran in the Dublin Chase, we’d as good as know how the Champion Chase division is fixed. The magic of Cheltenham would evaporate and the betting public would be ridiculing the layers for short prices in the big races.
As it stands, the Dublin Racing festival is spot on and the winners can go to Cheltenham with their supporters keen to take on the best of the British at decent odds and with the added element the mystery brings to it. I have gone through the two race cards and below are my selections over the two days based on race time handicapping techniques.
Nathaniel Lacy & Partners Solicitors 50,000 Cheltenham Bonus For Stable Staff Novices Hurdle (Grade 1)
When leading Irish novice, Espoir D’Allen beat Elixir D’Ainay in the Lawlors of Naas Novices Hurdle, my immediate reaction of the runner up was that he would be an intriguing outsider for the Supreme Novices Hurdle over the minimum trip as he galloped strongly from the front throughout, but came up short to a quicker and stronger stayer towards the end of the race. It surprised me to see him declared for this race over 2 miles and 6 furlongs. Having studied his pedigree I didn’t find anything to convince me he was a stayer and a horse I have seen as a strong stayer as well as having the pedigree for 3 miles is Fury Road for Gordon Elliott, Gigginstown and Davy Russell. It was 2 miles and 7 furlongs and heavy ground when he won at Limerick over Christmas and he outstayed a previous 3 mile winner that day. I’m surprised that Fury Road isn’t favorite for this race as I see him taking all the beating.
Ladbrokes Dublin Chase (Grade 1)
The much overhyped Chacun Pour Soi heads the betting here based on his beating of Defi du Seuil at Punchestown last May. I backed him that day as I saw him as a fresh horse taking on Defi at the end of a long season and that’s how I see the race still after his 4 1/4 length beating of him. The huge reaction in his favor was overreaction on the levels of Samcro. I’ve no doubt he will strip better for his first run of the season behind A Plus Tard but I also believe he’ll have to improve with that rival who is very decent and has potential to be even better with regards Cheltenham festival honors. I’d still side with Henry de Bromhead’s runner because even allowing for the improvement in Chacun, I haven’t seen anything of him to convince me that he’s better, as good as the Punchestown win was. The problem for A Plus Tard tomorrow isn’t Chacun Pour Soi (on all evidence) but it does come in the same Rich Ricci colors for the same trainer, Willie Mullins. I agree that Min isn’t at his best over 2 miles but he is in a different league to these and if Robert Power rides him positively, then there’s only one outcome I can see and that is the son of Walk in the Park completing a Dublin Chase hat trick.
1. Min 2. A Plus Tard 3. Chacun Pour Soi
ERSG Arkle Novice Chase (Grade 1)
I read a twitter comment by an esteemed racing journalist on Thursday, who was questioning Paul Townend’s decision to ride Melon over Bapaume because apparently everyone fancies Bapaume to win the Arkle. What a load of drivel! Besides the fact that Melon was a superior hurdler than Bapaume, he’s a better chaser also and you only need to consult the time of his beginners chase win to see that. He won in a quicker time than Notebook won his Grade 1 at Christmas, even accounting for the sectionals on the ground. Notebook is a horse I’ve always thought a lot of, to the point I expected more from him over hurdles. But over fences he’s coming into his own, as is Fakir D’oudaries. Cash Back falls firmly into the ‘I’m overhyped’ category, also. I base all of this on race times against conditions and nothing has impressed me in this as much as two time Champion Hurdle runner up, Melon. I think he’ll win this comfortably by six or seven lengths.
PCI Irish Champion Hurdle (Grade 1)
I put up Honeysuckle as my horse to follow this season as I believe that she was the best novice hurdler last season and in open company, she will receive the ridiculous mares allowance of seven pounds, basically a seven length head start. Mares should be running off of levels in this type of company but even if it were so, I think she’ll account for a favorite of mine, Sharjah, without fuss. The only question is if she is as good at 2 miles but like Annie Power before her, the pathetic concession gives her a massive chance. Sharjah was unlucky in last year’s Champion Hurdle, when brought down early by Buveur D’air and if Honeysuckle dodges the Cheltenham Champion Hurdle, I believe he will win it but under tomorrow’s conditions, I only see him coming second. Supasundae has a good chance of coming third but the much under rated Petit Mouchoir on his favorite track and trip may sneak it. Klassical Dream will likely give his trainer dreams of fences – a season later – as I can’t see him figuring here, even at his best.
1. Honeysuckle 2. Sharjah 3. Petit Mouchoir
Ladbroke Handicap Hurdle (Grade B)
I was astonished that Tiger Tap Tap wasn’t quoted in ante post Cheltenham festival markets after his recent runs and I can’t see him beaten in this tomorrow (NAP) who I think is nearly 30 pounds well in. It sounds crazy but the time of his Munster Hurdle win was exceptional and the form of his maiden win looks good with the runner up winning next time beating another subsequent winner, Aione. Embittered also won his maiden in good time and has been highly tried in two attempts since. I was frustrated to see both horses entered here but there won’t be better handicapped horses in national hunt racing this side of Cheltenham and perhaps even beyond, and a forecast is on the cards.
1. Tiger Tap Tap (NAP) 2. Embittered
Chantelle Pharma Novice Hurdle (Grade 1)
The withdrawal of Tiger Tap Tap and Abracadabras made this a tougher race to figure out. Asterion Forlonge won well last time and Blue Sari has a high reputation but Mt Leinster is one who came in massively from his first run, behind the favorite Easywork and he is the selection here based on a strong maiden hurdle time.
Flogas Novice Chase (Grade 1)
With a clear round, which is never guaranteed in novice chases of this caliber, Faugheen and Battleoverdoyen should be far superior to these and despite his age, Faugheen should prevail by around three lengths. He has been a superb servant and an all time legend and as good as Battleoverdoyen is, Faugheen’s level over fences continues to put him ahead of these novices even at the age of twelve. Easy Game and Toronado Flyer are above average horses and Castlebawn West has been a horse I’ve always held in high regard. While any one of the trio could claim third, I marginally go for Toronado Flyer, who hasn’t been consistent but is the classiest if he puts his best foot forward.
1. Faugheen 2. Battleoverdoyen 3. Tornado Flyer
Paddy Power Irish Gold Cup
There have been many detractors of last season’s RSA Chase but I am definitely not one of them. I thought it was a fantastic renewal with three class acts fighting out the finish. It was such an aggressive battle by all of the admirable trio that it no doubt took its toll. Topofthegame was nowhere close to that form at Aintree and was ruled out of this season. Santini looks a shadow of the horse that ran in the RSA and the race looks to have left its mark on the pair. However, Delta Work came out and bolted in at Punchestown and allowing for a bad run at Down Royal on his seasonal reappearance, he went on to claim a quality renewal of the Savills Chase at Christmas. At his best he has a great chance. But only if Kemboy isn’t at his own best. Like most of Willie Mullins’ horses, his first run can be ignored as the string seemingly need it this season and it was too bad to be true even if he finished a close 4th. He is the joint highest rated steeplechaser in training on a fair assessment of 177 and if both horses are firing, I can see 4 or 5 lengths separating them. One of my favorite horses in training is Presenting Percy, who I have followed since his bumper days. I am a big fan of his pedigree, with Sir Percy mixing with Phardante influence on the dam side. Even at his brilliant best, Percy wouldn’t be good enough for Delta Work and Kemboy but any chinks in the big twos armor and you can be sure he will have the quality to prevail but that is a big ‘if’. At a huge price, Jett could run a big race. I still think he has a big race in him and if he snuck into the first 4, I for one wouldn’t be a bit surprised.
1. Kemboy 2. Delta Work 3. Presenting Percy 4. Jett