In what could be argued the greatest weekend within national hunt racing, The Dublin Racing Festival often puts forward a showcase Ireland’s strongest contingent of horses ahead of The Cheltenham Festival.
In this weeks blog we will focus all of our attention on The Dublin Festival but before that I think that it is only right that I mention my 2 favourite performances of last weeks action…
SIR GINO, this boy looks an absolute beast. Now I thought BURDETT ROAD was a landslide ahead of him off the back of what he did on the last day at Cheltenham but wow I was wrong, and in this game, if you can’t accept being wrong and taking a knock then it is not the sport for you.
SIR GINO has absolutely whacked BURDETT ROAD there and that will remain the case come March. I firmly believe this lad SIR GINO is going to have a massive future ahead of him and the team at Seven Barrows.
LOSSIEMOUTH returned to action with a demolition job against LOVE ENVOI and RUBAUD on trials day. She looked better than ever and the way she beat them hard held up the hill seriously got your attention, and I would have that as my performance of the weekend. The Mares Hurdle is hers for the taking but she is a very short price for that and rightly so.
Nothing is going to get near her. Could she be the next HONEYSUCKLE? I think there is potential she could be the greatest mare in our sport for some years going forward and possibly could pose a threat in next years Champion Hurdle… cracking performance and great to see the grey back out on trackTHE DUBLIN RACING FESTIVAL PREVIEW
Jam-Packed quality action across the Saturday and Sunday at Leopardstown, apart from Cheltenham, for me and many others this is the National Hunts best action across the entire season as you’re spoilt rotten with racing at the highest grade and full of form to take into March and bolster your chances of being on many winners.
The Irish dominates and this is where you begin to see the best of what is on offer such as the Irish Arkle, Irish Gold Cup, Future Stars Flat Race and many others that become eventual winners of their desired race at the Cheltenham festival. You also see the other side to that as well such as handicap plots and lots of upsets too which could have a huge factor in your decision making come March.
Let’s get cracking here and kick off with the first race of the meeting which is the;
NATHANIEL LACY & PARTNERS SOLICITORS NOVICE HURDLE
Now the plan for this blog is that I am going to cover every race of the meeting in as much detail, depth and unbiased opinions as I possibly can! It’s going to be a long-read folks so sit back, have a nice warm or cold beverage and enjoy the read. Hopefully we can find many winners!
So, starting off here PREDATORS GOLD tops the market at 2/1, LOUGHGLYNN 4/1, JETARA 9/2, I WILL BE BAIE 5/1, STELLAR STORY 8/1 and its 20/1 BAR. Now it’s interesting to see that PREDATORS GOLD maintains strong support in the betting here despite never running anywhere near this trip but did definitely shape as if he needed further than the 2M 3 ½ F back on his hurdles debut in November.
They stepped back to 2M on the last day and that really didn’t suit him in the slightest but that bit of form behind Caldwell Potter in the Grade One there looks a strong race, now if he goes and wins this in stylish fashion he could certainly go on to be a real challenger in the Albert Bartlett come March. Same can be said regarding LOUGHGLYNN, now this lad has already put away STELLAR STORY and SEARCH FOR GOLD but only narrowly and SEARCH FOR GOLD is a 22/1 poke here which looks hugely over priced which would probably suggest he may turn up in the 3M handicap on the Saturday but if he was to come here I think he would have a proper chance at a massive price.
But away from that, LOUGHGLYNN didn’t do anything to make you wowed on the last day, through my eyes it was a game performance and he has stayed on well but he really needs to sharpen up on taking those hurdles in his stride, he was really messy at the last there and did just enough to hold out from STELLAR STORY. Onto JETARA, She has stacked up a string of ones next to her name now and seems to be progressing at a rapid rate but is subject to throw a bad run in the mix from time to time however, the way she won the last day was seriously impressive.
Now the last hurdle on course was omitted but shes absolutely zipped round there putting lengths between herself and the rest of the field in behind, I am not all that convinced that she beat too much in that race with Risk Belle not staying the trip and the rest of the leading contenders being relatively under par on the day, I do also believe that she wouldn’t see out the trip. PREDATORS GOLD is the horse to be on side with here, his turn of foot in this contest is going to be hard to cope with and I don’t see many getting near him.
The question is of course whether he can see out this trip but I think he looks to have a massive engine and gears to burn. The step back to 2M on the last day clearly didn’t work and I think the right action to go up further in trip could be the catalyst for further improvement and is my idea of the winner in this race. PREDATORS GOLD 2/1
MCCANN FITZGERALD SPRING JUVENILE HURDLE
STORM HEART holds favouritism here at 13/8, SALVATOR MUNDI 4/1, KALA CONTI 6/1, KARGESE 7/1 and 8/1 bar. STORM HEART is likely to take some whacking here. Despite the form looking rather standard only producing one winner since the race, the way he did it there is mightily impressive winning by 22 lengths without breaking a sweat. Now this contest here is a different kettle of fish but I think he is going to take all the beating here.
SALVATOR MUNDI has being a bit of a talking horse since SIR GINO dotted up over the weekend and now dominates the market in the Triumph Hurdle. SIR GINO had only narrowly beaten SALVATOR MUNDI over in Auteuil in April last year. Now if he has improved as much as SIR GINO has then he has every chance to sweep in here and land the spoils for the Donnellys, but off the back of a 291 day break, we don’t know where he is going to be at and who Paul Townend decides to ride will tell a tale on who is preferred at the yard.
KALA CONTI and KARGESE both seen last time out battling out a closely ran finish over course and distance and it was KALA CONTI who got the victory on that day. Now despite that result I think KARGESE will return that form with KALA CONTI here. That run last time out was her first run under operation for Willie Mullins so I think she will have improved plenty too and I think deserves a chance each way of testing STORM HEART here.
I do not fancy the likes of HIGHWIND, MAJBOROUGH or INTELLOTO and there’s chance all 3 of those won’t line up here, but one who I did think was very good on debut was BUNTING and don’t really understand why 10/1 is available around him. He did everything right and showed a good turn of foot with what looked to be a very strong engine when travelling, he could again be a nice each way bet at 10s, but for me I think the winner will be STORM HEART.
That turn of foot he showed coming round the home turn was lightning quick and within seconds he’s put a fair distance between himself and 2nd, coming down to the last he has pinged it at a good clip and put the race to bed in devastating fashion. Now to think he will have improved from his debut is likely to be a reality and if that is the case, he is going to take some beating in this. So for me it’s STORM HEART 13/8 & KARGESE 7/1 ew.
GOFFS IRISH ARKLE NOVICES CHASE
MARINE NATIONALE heads the market here at ½, GAELIC WARRIOR 9/4, FOUND A FIFTY 5/1, FACILE VEGA 14/1 and 16/1 bar. Now chances are FACILE VEGA will not run in this contest so we can eliminate him now. MARINE NATIONALE should be winning this if he has any chance of winning the Arkle come Cheltenham and to me is my idea of the winner but I think GAELIC WARRIOR will give him a fair crack here.
I do believe GAELIC WARRIOR is much better over a longer trip and I don’t think will have the toe to beat MARINE NATIONALE over this trip as he to me is a much quicker horse. Barry Connells horse is my idea of the winner, I cannot see anything challenging him here except GAELIC WARRIOR but not that much of a threat over this trip. MARINE NATIONALE will win this and go onto win the ARKLE come March.
RACE AND STAY AT LEOPARDSTOWN HANDICAP HURDLE
The market is PANDA BOY 5/1, CANAL END 11/2, FINE MARGIN 8/1, NINE GRACES 10/1, SHANBALLY KID 10/1, GAOTH CHUIL 12/1, SEARCH FOR GLORY 12/1 and 16/1 BAR. This is a proper headscratcher isn’t it? PANDA BOY is a diamond in these handicaps for Martin Brassil and rightly sits at the top of the market coming into this with a strong second behind Meetingofthewaters last time out. One that sticks out to me like a sore thumb and a proper Gordon Elliott plot is MAXXUM 20/1 ew.
This stinks, he’s produced the best RPR in the field of 167. Not so long ago this lad was the talking horse for some of the biggest handicaps last year including going off as a 9/2 FAV for the PERTEMPS in March last year. There is no chance he has regressed that much in just a few months. I think Gordo has something lined up his sleeve here, if this was the MAXXUM we all knew coming into this he would be a single figure price. He is a course and distance around here. He looks set up to run a really strong race here.
I do also really like FINE MARGIN at 8/1 ew here. He has to have a solid chance here after running a belting 2nd behind SLATE LANE on what was his first start for Willie Mullins, he also finished ahead of CRAMBO that day who then went onto win the GRADE 1 LONG WALK. If he has improved for that run and Mullins has got some decent prep into him for this then he would go very close in my eyes.
PADDY POWER IRISH GOLD CUP
GALOPIN DES CHAMPS 4/9, FASTORSLOW 5/2, CONFLATED 8/1, I AM MAXIMUS 33/1, COKO BEACH 66/1. GALOPIN DES CHAMPS returns here to make it back to back Irish Gold Cups and he has a right chance here really only needing to beat FASTORSLOW. The Martin Brassil trained FASTORSLOW has gotten the better of GALOPIN on the last 2 occasions that being said I think he caught him out for toe on the last day over a 2M 4F. But GALOPIN is a different beast over 3M, he is a Gold Cup winner for crying out loud…
he’s not going to be able to drop back down to 2M 4F and sloosh up after being campaigned the season before for a Gold Cup, and that theory was put right after we saw arguably the best performance of all time at Leopardstown in his Savills Chase romp, beating some serious animals in there including GERRI COLOMBE. I did wish he went straight to the Cheltenham Festival and was kept a bit more fresh ahead of March but…
Willie is the master and wouldn’t send him here if he felt it would impede his chances ahead of the Gold Cup. He is a different beast in Leopardstown, nothing will get near him here and this should absolutely cement the debate regarding FASTORSLOW & GALOPIN DES CHAMPS.
RYANAIR HANDICAP CHASE
We’ve got a very trappy handicap here in which PATH D’OROUX 4/1 tops the market, SO SCOTTISH 9/2, MADARA 6/1, THE FOLKES TIARA 6/1, SOLNESS 7/1, THE BIG CHAP 7/1, LUCID DREAMS 10/1 and it’s 12/1 BAR. This is solid, every horse within this field has a good chance of winning. I am playing this race with 2 rather than one, I want SO SCOTTISH 9/2 EW on side.
I am happy taking 9/2 ew about SO SCOTTISH, we know what Emmet Mullins is all about in handicaps and getting horses to do remarkable things, most recently displayed by training Grand National winner NOBLE YEATS to a cleeve hurdle victory… now you go back to his last run which resulted in a fall at Cheltenham, he was sent off at 5/1 there against the likes of IL RIDOTO, THUNDER ROCK, FUGITIF & FAKIR D’OUDARIES to name a few.
None of these in that field would have a hope of rocking it up with those lot and being competitive, but when SO SCOTTISH is on song, you’d give him a right chance of beating some of those mentioned. Now he comes into this off the lowest mark he has ran off since his last win back in 2022, he looks like he has being laid out for a big pot along the line and I believe here he can use his true ability and capitalise on this race.
This is a proper horse we are talking about here under a plot by his connections and trainer, he was sent off as the fav for last years plate at Cheltenham. If the handbrake is off here today, this could be a lengths job because on ability alone, he is superior of many in this field. 9/2 looks a proper each way to nothing.
FILS D’OUDAIRIES 20/1 EW back over fences looks a good bet to me. He looked like the winner when travelling all over Saint Sam and Effernock Fizz on his last chase run, since falling there he had being reverted back to hurdles in which he has ran 6 races and won 50% of them and some in quite stylish fashion. Now back over a fence and some good runs under his belt, I think Gordo knows exactly what he is doing here and this lad was not a bad chaser and comes into this off 137.
He has been putting in consistent 145 + RPR’s, there is definitely room for improvement off 137 as a chaser. He looks a good each way angle into this trappy contest.
DONOHUE MARQUEES FUTURE STARS I.N.H FLAT RACE
Last years winner A DREAM TO SHARE returns to action after a 285 day break away from the track but sits at a short price fav of 11/8. REDEMPTION DAY 9/2, YOU OUGHTA KNOW 6/1, JOYSTICK 12/1, THE ENABLER 12/1, JEROBOAM MACHIN 14/1 BAR. I don’t really know what wins this in fairness, the fav has had a very long time away from the track and despite being very good last year, will he still posses enough speed against some younger horses?…
Probably as the younger horses I believe wont really give him too much of a hard time here, the race for me is between A DREAM TO SHARE & REDEPMTION DAY, I am siding with the Mullins horse here. After a 611 day break off the track, he bounced back with a belting run behind Jalon D’oudairies in which he was only narrowly beaten by 2 ¾ lengths. He is now back fresh and getting weight from the fav here. I think REDEMPTION DAY is going to be a strong horse next season for the team at Closutton and with having that little bit more experience on track, I think that could prove pivotal here in this contest. I think 9/2 about this lad is great value.
Dublin Racing Festival – Day Two
PADDY MULLINS MARES HANDICAP HURDLE
FOXY GIRL has received plenty of early market support and sits at 3/1 fav. RISK BELLE 100/30, FEET OF A DANCER 7/1, SHECOULDBEANYTHING 15/2, SPLASHING OUT 9/1 and it’s 12/1 BAR. RISK BELLE 100/30 gets my vote here. Now I believe the trip last time really didn’t play to her chances in the slightest and I do think she would have gotten a lot closer to JETARA.
Back here to a trip that should suit her, she should take a bit of whacking here. I think she has a lot of class about her but just never seems to keep it up to a consistent rate. I would have her to be a main player in this race. I do also like FEET OF A DANCER 7/1 for Paul Nolan, she went from winning a maiden to then winning a handicap on her first handicap start off a mark of 104. She has since risen to 125 but I think the yard must think a lot of this mare, she is only a 5 yr old and is likely to have a lot more improvement off her mark.
LADBROKES NOVICE CHASE
FACT TO FILE 15/8, GAELIC WARRIOR 3/1, FACILE VEGA 7/2, GRANGECLARE WEST 5/1, CORBETTS CROSS 8/1, AMERICAN MIKE 16/1 BAR. We are still unaware whether GAELIC WARRIOR will turn up here or the IRISH ARKLE, but I do think he will end up running him here and sending FACILE VEGA back over 2M again to tackle MARINE NATIONALE.
Now if GAELIC WARRIOR turns up here he will likely take all the beating over this trip. FACT TO FILE looks a horse with a big future ahead of him but I think the experience GAELIC WARRIOR has could prove a bit too strong for FACT TO FILE at this moment in his career. GAELIC WARRIOR has put forward some of the best novice chases to date this season and has really wowed me on a few occasions. Yes it is quite obvious that he jumps out to his right but he is a pretty sound jumper to say the least. I think the cruising speed he possesses when popped out front is pretty special and is rarely for catching. I think he will take an awful lot of whacking should he come here.
If he does end up in the Irish Arkle then that would leave the floor wide open for FACT TO FILE, he looks as if he could be a potential Gold Cup horse in a year or two’s time. He has being campaigned at a rapid rate as he came out of bumpers straight into chasing which speaks volumes about how far ahead of schedule he is at Closutton. It’s his race to loose should GAELIC WARRIOR not turn up here.
TATTERSALLS IRELAND 50TH DERBY SALE NOVICE HURDLE
BALLYBURN 11/10, FARREN GLORY 4/1, SLADE STEEL 7/1, DADDY LONG LEGS 12/1, KING OF KINGSFIELD 12/1 BAR. BALLYBURN 11/10 is my selection here, what we saw him do on the last day was something special, that been said it was over a 2M 4F which after being beaten by FIREFOX was definitely the right thing to do, so it makes you wonder why Willie is dropping him back down to a 2M. Now if he wins this on the Billy Idle then he is going to shorten into favouritism for the Supreme, there are no doubts about that.
Willie must see this lad as his main shot for the supreme, as off the back of what we have seen for the Ballymore, he would win that race in a canter in my opinion, so the improvement must be serious if he is going back down in trip with BALLYBURN. Nevertheless I think oozes quality and will have enough of it to win this race in a comfortable fashion.
LADBROKES DUBLIN CHASE
EL FABIOLO 4/11 should just win this race. He is far too good for these lot here but at 4/11 makes for no betting appeal unless you throw him into the short price multis. My attention turns to GENTLEMAN DE MEE 7/1 EW. Now despite finishing behind DINOBLUE on the last day I think he does his best running around this time of year and will be fully tuned up for this.
I have a slight worry that EL FABIOLO could be too revved up since the Clarence House Chase was first initially cancelled which meant he had to go back over to Ireland in race fit conditions, let’s be fair he will have being cherry ripe for that race and my fear is that now after waiting for 2 weeks to race, he could possibly run slightly under par making way for a horse like GENTLEMAN DE MEE to put up a proper shift against EL FABIOLO here and could even go one better and cause a bit of a shock for the well supported favourite.
I’d give CAPTAIN GUINNESS absolutely no hope here, anything above 2M exactly and he can not stay a yard past it, I can’t have him at all. DINOBLUE has a live chance but I think this could just be a prep run ahead of her main target, the Mares Chase at Cheltenham come March. GENTLEMAN DE MEE 7/1 EW looks a great bet.
IRISH CHAMPION HURDLE
STATEMAN 2/7 turns up here as clear favourite off the back of what he did to IMPAIRE ET PASSE on the last day. BOB OLINGER 8/1 returns to the highest level of action and it’s a great sight to see but I am afraid this test may be a little bit too much for BOB OLINGER at this stage of his career. I think STATEMAN will win this but I think there is a chance IMPAIRE ET PASSE will finish closer to him here than what he did on the last day. The way to play this in my eyes in the straight forecast of STATEMAN 1ST, IMPAIRE ET PASSE 2ND 13/8.
It’s just staring me in the face. BOB OLINGER is a one for the heart strings I am afraid, he doesn’t have a chance of getting near these over a 2M round Leopardstown. STAEMAN & IMPAIRE ET PASSE finished in that order round here at Christmas and I firmly believe it will remain that way here too, STATEMAN is simply the best 2M hurdler in Ireland, and if CONSTITUTION HILL was no such thing then STATEMAN would dominate this division for many years, he is superior on ratings and has more experience doing it round here than IMPAIRE ET PASSE. 13/8 for the forecast looks a no brainer to me and I am absolutely GSI on this.
O’DRISCOLLS IRISH WHISKEY LEOPARDSTOWN HANDICAP CHASE
Here is a proper handicap, this looks a real trappy contest. We have the ever progressive MEETINGOFTHEWATERS 5/1 FAV, INOTHEWAYURTHINKIN 6/1, JAMES DU BERLAIS 13/2, HEART WOOD 8/1, CLASSIC GETAWAY 10/1, PERCEVAL LEGALLOIS 14/1 and its 16/1 bigger the rest. I do think that MEETINGOFTHEWATERS is the right favourite and I do really fancy his chances here.
You look at some of the horses in behind him on the last day and you see the likes of Panda Boy, James Du Berlais, Real Steel and Adamantly Chosen, those horses mentioned there are steady 150 horses, and he’s beaten them readily there, he definitely has more improvement to come being just 7 years old and off a mark of 145. He looked like he had more to offer coming to the line there too and I love that about a horse in these types of races, the types that go through and beyond the line.
You need to be on something that really sees their race out in a strong fashion and this lad guarantees you that. I do also think BUSSLETON has a sneaky each way appeal at 16/1. On his day he is a tidy horse and could beat half of these in a canter.
TIMELESS SASH WINDOWS HANDICAP HURDLE
KING OF KINGSFIELD sits at favourite at 6/1 here for Gordon Elliot, MAGICAL ZOE 7/1, ATABOYCHARLIE 8/1, AN TOBAR 10/1, ZENTA 10/1, BIALYSTOK 12/1 and its 14/1 BAR. I really like THE MODEL KINGDOM 18/1 EW and I would give her a good chance here if she was to turn up. On her day she is a very talented mare and was mixing up with some of the best around last season, including a 6 ½ length finish behind IMPAIRE ET PASSE.
Now she has being underwhelming to say the least this season but one decent run here would see her getting into the places. I think she looks a big price at 18/1. I do also like ZENTA 10/1 EW, but I can’t pick them all! My final selection for this race is MAGICAL ZOE 7/1 EW. The form of her last run only finishing a length behind IRISH POINT looks like a cracking piece of form now, now she’s never ran around here but I believe the track would suit her chances down to the ground. She has a wicked turn of foot and I think there could still be a fair bit of juice off a mark of 137.
COOLMORE N.H SIRES HURRICANE LANE IRISH EBF MARES I.N.H FLAT RACE
AURORA VEGA tops the market here at 6/4, FEMME MAGNIFIQUE 5/2, MONGIBELLO 4/1, HOLLY BROOK 8/1, BABY KATE 10/1 and its 12/1 bigger the rest. AURORA VEGA possesses a lot of hype been a brother to FACILE VEGA and Daughter to QUEVAGA, but we can only go off what we have seen her do, and what she has done so far has been very impressive. She looks a big filly who can gallop all day long. She has a really nice turn of foot and looks to handle all sorts of ground.
Now she’s had to be shaken up on the last day but she’s responded really well under pressure and you can tell she’s got gears to burn through. Now she hasn’t really beaten anything on paper, but she can only beat what is in front of her and she’s done it very well, she would be my idea of the winner.
MONGIBELLO won very impressively on her latest outing but I don’ t believe she has the ability to finish ahead of AURORA VEGA. BABY KATE 10/1 EW looks a smashing each way bet for this. She absolutely chewed through the Cheltenham hill and showed a real game attitude that day, I was really impressed by how well she stayed on to pull clear of the 2nd that day, 10/1 about her chances here looks very over priced.
DRF – NAP, NEXT BEST & MUGGY ACCA
NAP – STATEMAN 1ST, IMPAIRE ET PASSEE 2ND @ 13/8
NEXT BEST – MEETINGOFTHEWATERS 5/1 EW
MUGGY – MARINE NATIONALE, GALOPIN DES CHAMPS, EL FABIOLO, STATEMAN 2.15/1
Thanks very much for your time reading this weeks blog ladies and gents, these are our final clues ahead of the Cheltenham 2024 Festival. I really hope to see GALOPIN DES CHAMPS win more than any horse this weekend.
Be sure to check out the finishing line youtube channel for the latest preview for the Dublin Racing Festival which is being live streamed at 8pm on Thursday. I know Sean is rather keen on PREDATORS GOLD in the first so hopefully that’ll get us all off onto the right track this weekend.