With less than 40 days to go until Cheltenham The Dublin Racing Festival this weekend will provide some much-needed clues ahead of the showcase event in March.
With 8 Grade One races and 2.1 million euros in prize money on offer over the two days, thousands of punters will flock to Leopardstown to see top quality grade 1 action on show before a trip to Prestbury Park on the agenda afterwards.
The meetings two feature events- The Irish Champion Hurdle on Saturday and The Irish Gold Cup on Sunday will see some titanic clashes and some big reputations put on the line.
The Dublin Racing Festival now in its third year has been a huge success since its inception in 2018 and the 2020 renewal is a cracking two-day card that wouldn’t look out of place at the Cheltenham Festival.
In its first year, the Dublin Racing Festival yielded no fewer than eight subsequent Cheltenham winners, while Envoi Allen and Klassical Dream went on to triumph at the Festival last year.
Here are the best bets to stick your money down at Leopardstown this weekend.
The Nathaniel Lacy & Partners Solicitors Novice Hurdle (12.50pm)
A cracker of a race to kick off the Dublin Racing Festival. Latest Exhibition looks like a serious prospect in the hands of Paul Nolan who beat the well regarded Andy Dufresne last time out at Navan. Elixir D’ainay finished second behind the mighty Envoi Allen and wasn’t disgraced in defeat behind the Ballymore favorite. FURY ROAD is a dower stayer who will love the ground and the trip. With Davy Russell on board, he can get the festival off to a flyer for punters.
Selection: Fury Road 10/3
Biggest Danger: Elixir D’ainay 3/1
The Ladbrokes Dublin Steeplechase (1.25pm)
A rematch between the two market principles in the shape of Chacun Pour Soi and A Plus Tard. Min and Cilaos Emery also show up here and both should not be underestimated. Min has been there and done it on numerous occasions at Leopardstown and is seeking a hattrick in this race while Cilaos Emery is a horse who has looked very impressive since going novice chasing. A Plus Tard came out on top last time out, but CHACUN POUR SOI can reverse the form this time around as he badly needed the run and should improve massively according to his trainer.
Selection: Chacun Pour Soi 13/8
Biggest Danger: A Plus Tard 3/1
The ERSG Arkle Novice Steeplechase (2.00pm)
Another rematch here between NOTEBOOK and Fakir D’oudairues. Notebook jumped impeccably and stayed on well to beat Fakir at Christmas and can do the same again. Fakir D’oudairies is 5 pounds lower in the weights than Notebook but Rachel Blackmore can write another chapter and get her mount past the winning post once again before a tilt at The Arkle in Cheltenham. Cash Back is a bold front runner for Willie Mullins and is the dark horse in the race. He can sneak into an each-way place.
Selection: Notebook 7/4
Biggest Danger: Cash Back 6/1
The Matheson Handicap Steeplechase (2.35pm)
It is worth taking a chance on DEBUCHET. A classy horse with a lot of ability in his bumper days, he failed to fulfill this promise when sent over hurdles. However, since going chasing he has taken to fences much better and off a rating of 133, he has a nice low weight and Danny Mullins is a jockey in hot form. Paloma Blue looks the biggest danger and is interesting on his handicap debut.
Selection: Debuchet 11/1
Biggest Danger: Paloma Blue 5/1
The PCI Irish Champion Hurdle (3.10pm)
Big reputations will be on the line here for the feature event of day 1. Sharjah won here at Christmas while Klassical Dream was a brilliant novice last year but has failed to live up to his reputation in graded company. HONEYSUCKLE has looked like a quality mare and is still unbeaten 7 races since winning her point-to-point in Dromahane back in 2018. Henry De Bromhead’s stable star can do the business here before the Champion Hurdle in March seriously on the agenda if she wins.
Selection: Honeysuckle 7/4
Biggest Danger: Sharjah 2/1
The Ladbrokes Hurdle (3.45 pm)
The £200,000 JP McManus-owned UNEXCEPTED is a graded horse and is lining up in handicap company for the first time. His hurdling was flawless on his debut for Willie Mullins at Fairyhouse but disappointed massively over Christmas losing to Easywork by a wide margin. The trip and ground didn’t suit him that day. Off a rating of 137 in handicap company, he can redeem himself and is very appealing. The Mouse Doctor could be thrown in off a mark of 124 and bolted up last time out at Musselburgh, he could still have plenty in hand.
Selection: Unexcepted 4/1
Biggest Danger: The Mouse Doctor 12/1
The Goffs Future Stars (C & G) I.N.H. Flat Race (4.20pm)
Unbeaten in two bumpers to date, the Gigginstown House Stud-owned ERIC BLOODAXE will aim to make it a hattrick on Saturday. He created a big impression on his debut at Fairyhouse beating the odds on favourite Ferny Hollow. He followed this up with another win at Leopardstown over Christmas. Appreciate It will be stiff competition who himself had a bloodless win at the same track and is one of the market principles for the Champion Bumper in Cheltenham. Risk Factor also demands serious respect for Joseph O’Brien.
Selection: Eric Bloodaxe 15/8
Biggest Danger: Appreciate It 15/8
The Irish Stallion Farms EBF Paddy Mullins Mares Handicap Hurdle (12.55pm)
The Willie Mullins-trained mare DRURY, a half-sister to RSA favourite Champ, can get day 2 off to a great start for Paul Townend. An 11 length winner at Fairyhouse last time out, this daughter of Beat Hollow can follow up again here. Duchess Ravenwaves has a nice low weight and jockey Conor McNamara is booked to ride with a 5-pound claim. She should go close and can sneak into an each-way place at a big price.
Selection: Drury 8/1
Biggest Danger: Duchess Ravenwaves 16/1
The Tattersalls Ireland Spring Juvenile Hurdle (1.25pm)
ASPIRE TOWER just wins and wins the Triumph at Cheltenham. Aspire Tower has gone from strength to strength since going over jumps with two facile wins. An 86-rated horse on the flat with Richard Hannon, he was a 13 length winner in Punchestown and followed this up with a flawless display in Leopardstown winning by 18ls. He is a very short price at 1/2, so betting without the fav is the best play. Wolf Prince chased home Aspire Tower over Christmas at Leopardstown and has won well subsequently franking the form.
Selection: Aspire Tower 1/2
Biggest Danger: Wolf Prince 15/2
The Chanelle Pharma Novice Hurdle (1.55pm)
Easywork is a worthy favourite here and was very impressive on Stephen’s Day at Limerick beating the well-fancied Unexcepted by 22ls. However, it is worth siding with Willie Mullins in this race. ASTERION FORLONGE will need to brush up on his hurdling but won his maiden hurdle at Naas in emphatic fashion by 10ls. Mt.Leinster has always been very highly thought of in Clonsutton and can chase home his stablemate into second having won here at Christmas with an imposing win.
Selection: Asterion Forlonge 5/1
Biggest Danger: Mt Leinster 5/2
The William Fry Handicap Hurdle (2.30pm)
A race with 28 confirmed runners, this a race you can stick a pin in the newspaper and hope to strike it lucky. Take that pin and take a chance with QUARTZ DU RHEU off a mark of 137 in his handicap bow. He has been running consistently well in good company since arriving in Willie Mullins’s yard from France. A 20/1 shot he can do the business here at a big price and is the mount of Paul Townend which speaks volumes. Cabaret Queen is currently the favourite but is the third reserve so connections will be hoping she gets in on the day. If she does, she has the bottom weight and could be thrown in off a 26lbs lower hurdle mark.
Selection: Quartz Du Rheu 20/1
Biggest Danger: Cabaret Queen 6/1
The Flogas Novice Steeplechase (3.00pm)
This will be a race between the two market principles Faugheen and Battleoverdoyen. Faugheen now a 12-year-old has been a revelation since going chasing and the roof will be lifted off at Leopardstown if he passes the winning post in 1st place. With Davy Russell on board, BATTLEOVERDOYEN is getting the nod here. 5 years younger than Faugheen and 3 chase wins from 3 since going over fences, he can pip the machine on the line.
Selection: Battleoverdoyen 7/4
Biggest Danger: Faugheen 11/8
The Paddy Power Irish Gold Cup (3.30pm)
The showpiece event of the Dublin Racing Festival. The Irish Gold Cup is shaping up like a top-class renewal. They all finished in a heap in the Savills Chase, and it wouldn’t be surprising if lightning struck twice turning for home if it happened again. Connections of Presenting Percy and jockey Davy Russell have been very bullish about his chances earlier this week and that he will come on massively for the run. He was never really put into the race by Davy Russell but expect a huge improvement in last year’s Gold Cup favorite. DELTA WORK came from the clouds after the last fence and flew home with a wet sail. An ever-improving horse, Delta Work can cement his Gold Cup chances with back to back wins at Leopardstown before a shot at the big one in March. Kemboy will come on massively after his last run and is still a massive danger.
Selection: Delta Work 9/4
Biggest Danger: Presenting Percy 9/2
The Gaelic Plant Hire Leopardstown Steeplechase (4.00pm)
AT THE ACORN a 150,000 Euro point-to-point graduate has been a long-time entrant in many a notebook. His handicap mark has been protected since going chasing in his first 4 runs with an eye-catching performance at Leopardstown over Christmas. He finally got off the mark over fences with a commanding win at Fairyhouse last month. This run didn’t go unnoticed by the handicapper who put him up 15lbs. He still has plenty in hand off 133 for his trainer Tony Martin and this son of Gold Well can win here at Leopardstown for the Here For The Craic Partnership with Cheltenham potentially on the horizon afterward. At a bigger price, Minella Times has each-way claims for Henry De Bromhead.
Selection: At the Acorn 5/1
Biggest Danger: Minella Times 18/1
The Coolmore NH (Mares) I.N.H Flat Race (4.35pm)
This is a two-horse race between Castra Vetera and Bigbadandbeautiful. Castra Vetera was very impressive on debut at Fairyhouse with a 7l win. The form of this race makes for excellent reading with Carrigeen Lotus franking the form with a win in Cork. However, with Jamie Codd booked BIGBADANDBEAUTIFUL can follow up with a fourth win on the bounce to close out the festival. Codd has said he loves this horse saying she could be a Royal Ascot filly she is that good. High praise indeed.
Selection: Bigbadandbeautiful 4/5
Biggest Danger: Castra Vetera 3/1