Month: February 2018

February 3rd 4th Weekend Review

Tuesday February 6th 6.30pm

Fabulous weekend of NH horse racing. Real quality. That is of course at Leopardstown and the inaugural Dublin of Festival. “The Dublin Racing Festival has been a massive success. I’m already looking forward to next year.” Ben Linfoot sportinglife.com

ATR’s Kevin Blake nailed it “…….passionate racing fans not just from Ireland, but from all over Great Britain and even further afield came to Leopardstown in their droves to support the meeting. It is those racegoers that create the atmosphere, flooding to the parade ring and responding in a knowledgeable and passionate manner to the action on the track. It was their presence that ensured a vibe and energy at the Dublin Racing Festival that would be the envy of all but a couple of couple of top-class race meetings under either code in Europe. Those that attended were treated to a special two days of National Hunt racing. With the vast majority of Irish-trained stars in each division turning up to stake their claims for glory, what the meeting produced was an array of informative, dramatic and classy action that proved to be the perfect antidote to the series of phony wars we have become so accustomed to in the months leading up to the Cheltenham Festival in recent years.” Here’s my take on two excellent days and the UK fare relevant to Cheltenham.

 

Leopardstown Saturday

1.10 2m 6f Novice Hurdle G1 Clock suggests they didn’t go fast enough up front and the heavily punted Fabulous Saga was over the top/ground too quick/had an off day because he went out like a light from the final bend and it was a three furlong burn up. Probably a sub-standard Grade 1 with the flat-bred Tower Bridge coming out on top. Probably go for the Ballymore and take on Samcro! Jetz could be interesting in a Cheltenham handicap 2m 4f+ as he didn’t get the clearest run here. Most of the others want a fence and deeper ground.

1.45 2m Dublin Chase G2 Yorkhill has an issue whether it’s physical and or mental and Closutton knows he has. As soon as he reached the parade ring he drifted like a barge! His Cheltenham record is impeccable but I’m not sure even Willie Mullins can get him there this year! In Irish racing this division is probably the most shallow in quality as Gigginstown have no interest over two miles, however in Min Ireland have a serious player and he will try to put the record straight with Altior in the QMCC having followed Altior up the hill in that ridiculously strong Supreme Hurdle of 2016.

Two points to note. This division needs Special Tiara to act as the hare and the vibes suggest that Douvan will be back this season, Cheltenham or Punchestown?

2.20 2m 1f Arkle Novice Chase Grade 1 Footpad and Petit Mouchoir were excellent and it looks like the four leading protagonists in Cheltenham’s 2018 Arkle will have all taken part in last year’s Champion Hurdle, Petit Mouchoir (3rd 6/1), Footpad (4th 14/1), Sceau Royal (6th 25/1) and Brain Power (9th 13/2). The Souede and Munir pair of Footpad and Sceau Royal are the best jumpers of the quartet whereas the other two have the better flat speed. Footpad has done nothing wrong this season but Petit Mouchoir produced enough on Saturday to suggest it could be a lot closer come March 13th at Cheltenham.  Of the other three in the Leopardstown race, Any Second Now did enough to suggest he was worth a speculative NRNB punt in the Grand Annual, McManus owned with Grade 1 novice form and likewise Tycoon Prince, who took a tired fall at the last, is very much on my 2m 4f handicap chase radar.

2.55 2m 1f 0-150 Grade B Handicap Chase Patricks Park was a comfortable winner for Willie Mullins and Racheal Blackmore off OR123 and the handicapper will probably have to put him up at least 10lbs to get a run at Cheltenham. (Stop Press-Which is exactly what has happened!) Three Stars ran in the Arkle at Cheltenham last year, is a G3 winner and ran here off OR137. Grand Annual or Brown Advisory Plate? Tully East OR144, already a Cheltenham Festival winner, has to go high on the Brown Advisory Plate short list after this run. Townshend OR145 was outpaced but stayed on and Some Plan OR143 was going well when coming down two out.

3.30 2m Irish Champion Hurdle G1 I can’t wait to see what the handicapper makes of this race! If Faugheen was mine I’m not sure I would be too disappointed. He’s a 10yo, it’s a step in the right direction, he’s been outstayed by younger legs, a positively ridden Supasundae is at the top of his game. Faugheens hurdling was spot on and he’s comfortably seen the rest off, I wouldn’t hesitate going for the Champion hurdle. The course, the crowd, the weather, Ruby Walsh could all bring about further improvement! I would be more concerned if I owned Melon or especially Defi du Seuil! Surely both will now be aimed at a novice chasing campaign next season.

4.05 2m Coral handicap hurdle 0-150 Grade B The first four carried 10st 2lbs or less, two for JP McManus and two for Willie Mullins! The third, Grand Partner, and the fifth, Tudor City, love the C&D but the 1st, Off You Go OR123, the second Deal D’Estruval OR127, and the fourth Makitorix OR128 were certainly “unexposed”! The new marks are eagerly awaited.

Deal D’Estruval could be a Coral Cup horse at Cheltenham? Likewise there is a big pot in Makitorix who came the longest way round into the straight and stayed on strongly. Bleu Berry didn’t try a yard. First run for 181 days off OR142!

Agent Boru ran an odd race. In the van early, dropped back, nothing finished as strongly. May need to keep onside OR122.

4.40 2m Goffs Future Stars Bumper G2 This is as good as it gets for me. The winner, Blackbow, hugely impressive as was the flat-bred runner up Rhinestone and I would expect both to line up at Cheltenham on the Wednesday.

Rapid Escape was disappointing, Dunvegan was immature and too keen but I will stand by what I wrote in the preview for this race, “Make sure all the horses above are in your tracker and probably keep them there for the next five years! These are Championship, Festival winning types.”

 

Leopardstown Sunday

12.40 2m 2f Mares Handicap Hurdle Grade B Won comfortably by Alletrix who made every yard just eight days after chasing home Laurina in the G3 Solerina at Fairyhouse. Strongly fancied by the yard, trainer Jessica Harrington said before the race “I’m going to run her after a great effort in Fairyhouse last week and Robbie is going to put up 2lbs over weight. She’s rated 116 in this race and if I run her in a Handicap later on, she competes off her new mark of 125, so the overweight makes no difference as she’s actually still ‘well in’. I’d rather have Robbie ride as he knows her and she arrives here having done absolutely nothing since last week.” In doing so Alletrix paid her conqueror, Laurina, a huge compliment and I’ve just watched that Fairyhouse race and Laurina may not be the slickest hurdler but she has plenty of size about her and she just sprinted away from that G3 field and is the best novice mare I’ve seen this season!!!

1.15 2m Spring 4yo hurdle G1 Typical of the juvenile scene you’re the best until something better comes along and it was no surprise to me that Mr Adjudicator and Farclas both left Espoir D’Allen behind off the final bend and it wouldn’t surprise me if their respective trainers, Messrs Mullins and Elliott, both have something at home that is better still! In Mullins case it’s Stormy Ireland, a filly the trainer can’t stop raving about and Elliott has nothing else entered in the Triumph but I keep hearing good things about Ringleader and Fools and Kings!

1.50 2m Deloitte Novice Hurdle G1 Samcro. It is as simple as that. I admit to wanting to take him on over the minimum trip but he had this lot for breakfast! Paloma Blue did his best to give him a race but was legless by the last and it was left to Duc de Genievres, who will surely benefit stepping up in trip, to forlornly chase the latest Irish jet home. The Future Stars race at Leopardstown was totally rubbished with the likes of Sharjah, Real Steel & Whiskey Sour in another county!

2.25 3m Handicap Hurdle 0-150 Grade B Another race where the handicappers reaction will be of interest. Total Recall was 31lb better off over hurdles and galloped this lot into the ground. The next three home all performed with credit, Oscar Knight (who always hints at being well handicapped), Flawless Escape (an improving novice), Delta Work (consistent and may well have a similar race within his scope) but for me the eye-catcher was the fifth horse, A Great View. The mount of the hapless Barry Geraghty looked like he was ridden with another day in mind and seeing he is already qualified for the Pertemps Final at Cheltenham this one doesn’t look rocket science! However off OR131 he is going to struggle to get in without a little assistance from Phil Smith.

3.00 2m 5f Flogas Novice Chase G1 It doesn’t get much than this and I’ll be surprised if you get a deeper novice chase than this all season. The Storyteller was seventh and only 7L behind the winner! So who were The Magnificent Seven?

Monalee Made every yard and outstayed them. Noel Fehily (his Cheltenham jockey as Davy Russell committed to main rival Presenting Percy) got Monalee into a super rhythm and didn’t miss a beat. Serious RSA contender.

Al Boum Photo Great run and he’ll get further. As for the future I expect the RSA (4 miler possibly) will be his next start but I just wonder if Mullins has one eye on the irish National on April 2nd as he needs to pick up prize money in that event to keep Elliott in his sights and his staying novices are perhaps his best hope?

Invitation Only Only beaten in the last 100 yards and surely this fine stamp of a horse is the Mullins JLT No 1 contender?

Dounikos Suggested here that he may well have given Al Boum Photo a serious race in the Limerick G2 that he was handed when that rival fell at the last. Just when you’ve had enough of Mullins bingo let’s try Gigginstown lotto? Petit Mouchoir for the Arkle, Dounikos or Tombstone for the JLT if anything, Shattered Love for the RSA? However the 4m NH Chase could be the ideal fit for Dounikos. He won his maiden hurdle over 2m 7f at Thurles and that suggests that stamina is his strong suit and he certainly kept on here.

Snow Falcon Maybe this is exactly what he is. G2/3 chaser, 2m 4f-2m 6f. Does he truly get 3m? Would good ground help?

Tombstone I just don’t know? Always had my doubts whether he puts it all in. He was of course fourth in THAT 2016 Supreme novice hurdle. 2m 4f looks his best trip and probably doesn’t win above G3. However if he landed a really big pot I would not be surprised but on balance I’ll take Tombstone on.

The Storyteller Ran here off OR147 and like Snow Falcon and Tombstone maybe this is as good as he is but I would love to see him line up in the Brown Advisory Plate off that mark with Jack Kennedy in the saddle!

Of the rest, Sutton Place was never travelling, mind you Barry Geraghty could probably get a Rolls Royce to stall the way he is riding at the moment! Rathvinden took a clumsy tumble two out when they turned the heat up and I could see Willie Mullins giving him an Irish National entry!

3.35 3m Irish Gold Cup G1 Fabulous race with a fabulous back story even if Edwulf chinning Outlander was personally financially painful! Perhaps that is only half the story as surely the trophy had Kiltullagh Vic’s name on until his last fence departure and that would have been a Grade 1 victory on only his third fencing start under rules!

Djakadam and Outlander were the leading pair until turning for home when Outlander went on but was immediately joined by a smooth travelling Killultagh Vic with edwulf a couple lengths behind. KV’s fall left Outlander in front with Edwulf getting up on the run in. Djakadam plodded on for third and his best chance of victory at Cheltenham would surely be in the Ryanair where he would probably re-oppose a non-staying Valseur Lido. I would love to see Alpha des Obeaux in the Ultima off top weight as I think Gigginstown will go to the Cheltenham Gold cup with Road to Respect, outlander and possibly Disko.

Our Duke travelled OK-ish but an error three out, as the pace increased, did for him although he plodded on for fourth. Plenty of work to be done if he is to be competitive at Cheltenham and as he chose not to come last year maybe they will miss it again, give the horse time and get him spot on for Punchestown? Anibale Fly and Mala Beach are yet to step up from handicaps to Graded company. If I thought he would complete Minella Rocco is a Grand National horse. I would be amazed if he made the frame in this year’s Gold Cup!

4.10 2m 5f Handicap Chase Grade B Looked like the excellent JJ Slevin had nicked another one for JP O’Brien when kicking off the final bend on Vieux Morvan but was mown down by a strong finishing The Last Goodbye with the pair well clear. Neither would look out of place in the Brown Advisory Plate.

Harry Fry’s entry Hells Kitchen disappointed by refusing to settle, again. Maybe he needs two miles (Grand Annual) and just let rip or perhaps replace Barry Geraghty with a jockey!? Couple of interest were the Mullins/Munir & Souede Polidam who Noel Fehily brought from a long way back. Which race at Cheltenham he lines up in is a riddle. The Irish handic Sandown

apper has dropped him a pound to OR145 which could bring the Kim Muir into play if the English handicapper plays ball? The other was Jett who took time to settle in the hands of Robbie Power, moved into contention despite the attention of a loose horse, every chance turning for home but the early exertions told. His trainer Jessica Harrington said in her Unibet blog on Saturday “He’s another of mine who will love the good ground and he doesn’t have a bad weight either. We’ve been running him over 2m but this trip isn’t a problem as he’s won over it before and his experience will count for plenty here.” The handicapper has kindly dropped him two pounds to an attractive OR140 and will be a punting proposition as soon as he gets Good going. Yet to race outside of Ireland.

4.40 2m Mares bumper G2 Looked a Mullins benefit although a minor surprise with the little skinny one, Relegate (Katie Walsh), beating the big, scopey one, Colreevy (Patrick Mullins) and Getaway Katie Mai splitting the pair. Relegate could go for the Mares bumpers at Sandown and then Aintree.

 

Meanwhile back in Blighty!

Saturday Sandown 12.40 2m Novice Hurdle C3 An interesting novice hurdle to kick the afternoon off with. Ainchea is a future chaser but treats his hurdles with contempt and his fall at the last wasn’t his first error. Countister was dwarfed by Ainchea and the mare may well have won anyway but she will struggle to match Laurina in the Trull House mares novice at Cheltenham. The third horse, Arthington, is big on my handicap radar. Gladly he remains on OR137 and his form behind Twobeelucky at Cheltenham reads well and with the stable jockey claiming five pounds I think he could have a good ground, decent 2m pot within his scope.

Saturday Sandown 1.50 2m Contenders Hurdle Listed Buveur D’Air paid £17K for a schooling hurdle, although Geraghty almost cocked it up! No slicker hurdler in training. Deserved favourite for Champion Hurdle.

Saturday Sandown 2.25 2m 4f Scilly Isles Novices Chase G1 Terrefort just held off Cyrname in this G1 2m 4f novice chase and both will surely be JLT bound. The winner is not very big but is very neat at his fences and Cyrname loves a scrap but neither are likely to make the winners enclosure. The third home, No Comment, is of definite interest. He is JP McManus’s only entry in the 4m NH chase at Cheltenham. This horse is a son of Kayf Tara has only run over 3m twice, both times second, both times staying on and one of them was a G3 handicap hurdle.

Tizzard has a lot of explaining to do about his campaigning of Western Approach and the rain had got into the ground and was too soft for Kallondra.

Saturday Sandown 3.00 2m 7f Handicap Hurdle Grade B A real slog won by a giant horse in Topofthegame who is now up to OR150 over hurdles and surely his next visit to the winners enclosure will be chasing. Golan Venture has been well campaigned by Phil Middleton and may have not peaked yet on OR141. Better ground would help Melrose Boy and OR137 surely isn’t the ceiling of his talent.

Saturday Wetherby 2.40 3m Towtown Novices Chase 3m A tough jumping test on Heavy ground and Ballyoptic battled well to beat Vintage Clouds and Shades of Midnight. The ground did for Captain Chaos and Ami Desbois. Don’t think the race will have any Cheltenham influence but could be for next season’s winter staying chases. For a novice Vintage Clouds has been aggressively campaigned having already run in the Scottish and Welsh National’s.

Saturday Musselburgh 1.30 2m 4f Scottish Future Champions novice Chase C3 There may not be a lot of Barney Dwan but he is nimble at his fences and in March 2016 he won The EBF hurdle final at Sandown, last March he was second to Presenting Percy in the Pertemps Final off OR143 and with the handicapper amazingly dropping him two pounds for this win he will supposedly go to the 2m 5f novices handicap chase that closes day 1, again off OR143! The two that fell independently three out, Keeper Hill and Peter the Mayo Man, both look big and scopey and could well re-oppose the winner at Cheltenham.

Sunday Musselburgh 1.25 2m Juvenile Hurdle Listed We have a Dream cemented his place in the Triumph hurdle eventually coming clear of a back to form, slick jumping who looks a lively Fred Winter candidate.

Sunday Musselburgh 2.00 Supreme Scottish Trial Novices Hurdle 2m an upset here with the odds on Claimantakinforgan trained by Nicky Henderson turned over by the North’s top novice Beyond the Clouds, returning from an 88 day lay-off and an improving Simply the Betts. Connections of the winner are hinting at the Premier hurdle at Kelso and then an Aintree handicap whilst the second could be an interesting handicap proposition off a mark in the mid 130’s in something like the Imperial Cup? Meanwhile it’s back to the drawing board for Team Seven Barrows and their Supreme plans.

Sunday Musselburgh 2.35 Alfred Bartlett Scottish Novice Hurdle Trial 3m C2 Kim Baileys improving Red River got the better of Henderson’s very green Mr Whipped in receipt of three pounds. Both could go to the real thing at Cheltenham but will struggle against the likes of Cracking Smart and Santini.

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Dublin Festival of Racing (Part II)

Posted Friday February 2nd 4.15pm

Well I’m enjoying this meeting already and it hasn’t even started. Doing the research for these championship races has been time well spent, I feel right on top of the Irish form whether my Conclusions are right or not!

Sadly the clock has beaten me for in depth analysis of the handicaps, although there are three selections below, and I will have to leave the mares contests up to you. I need to move on to the weekends action in the UK!

Hope you all enjoy the blog, both parts, the Leopardstown meeting, both days and of course, Be Lucky!

 

Star Selections (16 stars)

Saturday 1.10             Carter Mackay                       Two star** win @ 4/1 PP

Saturday 2.55             Bel Ami de Sivola                   One star* each way @ 12/1 Coral

Saturday 4.05             Mind’s Eye                              One star* each way @ 10/1 Coral + Ladbrokes

Saturday 4.40             Dunvegan                                One star* each way @ 14/1 online 12/1 High Street

Sunday 1.15                Mr Adjudicator                       One Star* win @ 5/1 Ladbrokes 9/2 general

Sunday 1.50                Paloma Blue                           One star* each way @ 25/1 WH

Sunday 3.00                The Storyteller                       One star* each way @ 25/1 Bet 365 16/1 BF

Sunday 3.35                Outlander                               Two star** win @ 7/1 WH

Sunday 4.10                Vieux Morvan                         One Star* win @ 8/1 Coral

 

Cheltenham

Festival Bumper         Hollowgraphic            Two star** win @ 6/1 NRNB PP

 

 

Saturday

4.40 Goffs Future Stars 2m Bumper G2

Best bumper so far this season either side of the Irish Sea. Willie Mullins sends Hollowgraphic straight to Cheltenham, supposedly, but is still double handed here, as is Gordon Elliott, as is Noel Meade.

Minella Encore Impressive at Leopardstown in the C1 bumper, making all and holding off The Gunner Murphy (McManus and O’Brien) and Daly Tiger (Gigginstown and Meade). Strong form. Katie Walsh rides here and he has to give weight to the whole field.

Blackbow Patrick Mullins chooses to ride Blackbow. This horse was always going to be interesting because Mullins/Kirk paid big money for an English PtP winner from Tom Lacey. Fine stamp of a horse who also won at Leopardstown, he travelled strongly before outstaying the much touted The Holy One for the Harringtons and the eye-catching Ballyneety (McManus/O’Brien).

Trainer Says: “We were very impressed with him at Christmas and he looks a likely candidate for the Grade 2 bumper at Leopardstown.”

Rapid Escape Won all three of his bumper starts this season (Elliott/Gigginstown), beat Dunvegan by 1¼L at Down Royal, beat The Holy One by 4L and then a Listed contest at Navan beating the mare Lady Ischia. Classy son of Doyen who looks more of an athlete than a prospective chaser. Lisa O’Neill rides and Elliott is as bullish about this fellow as Mullins is about Hollowgraphic.

Empire Burleque Not seen for almost a year when he won at Fairyhouse when Jamie Codd (Elliott/Gigginstown), rode them to sleep and then outsprinted the much touted Fulham Road (Ricci/Mullins). Tough ask here but open to improvement, cost £92K and he is bred to win a Derby being by Cape Cross out of a Galileo mare!

Brace Yourself On Boxing Day recent mum Nina Carberry made her way to Down Royal and Brace Yourself (Patricia Hunt/Meade) hacked up by 24L from Dorydalis (Elliott/Gigginstown). Meade has been making all the right noises.

Trainer says:We were delighted with him when he won in Down Royal. They went hard in front and that seemed to suit our lad and he went further and further away in the straight. Nina kept him out wide on the better ground as well and that may have helped him. We only bought him at the back end and we didn’t really know a great deal about him before he ran – we knew he was a nice horse but we hadn’t drilled him for Down Royal. The plan now is that he’ll go for the good bumper at Leopardstown next weekend. It still wasn’t a big surprise that he won in the north, as we’ve liked him since he arrived.

Warren Ewing who had him before is of the view that he wants better ground but he does seem to handle soft ground pretty well. He worked well on Tuesday and he seems to be in good shape. He has filled out a good bit since Christmas and he will stay in bumpers this spring. If he went and won at Leopardstown, we’ll have to look at Cheltenham – that would be the dream, but we’ll have to see how next weekend goes first.”

Village Mystic Not seen for two years when he (Elliott/Gigginstown), beat Jack Dillinger by 4L. He has since moved from Mullins to Meade.

Trainer says: “He won a bumper for Willie and he looks a nice horse. There is a chance that he might run in the Grade 2 bumper at the Dublin Racing Festival next weekend. We’ll see how this week goes and I’ve been pretty happy with him.”

Dunvegan Only a length off Rapid Escape, then stuffed 12L by Hollowgraphic and Patrick Fahy’s son of Le Havre won at the third time of asking at Fairyhouse.

Rhinestone JP’s only runner and another bred for a Flat Classic being by Montjeu, second to Athenian (Meade/Gigginstown) on debut he was a cosy winner at Thurles beating a Mullins hotpot mare, Simona Sancta.

Trainer says: He won very well at Thurles and he’ll go to Leopardstown for the Grade 2 bumper there next month. There is a chance that he could be a Cheltenham Bumper horse if he managed to win the next day. We’ll step him back into full work now – he has been doing gentle canters since he won.

 

Conclusion Make sure all the horses above are in your tracker and probably keep them there for the next five years! These are Championship, Festival winning types. As for this race Rapid Escape is a worthy favourite but too skinny at 6/4. I’m keen on an improving Dunvegan each way at around 12/1 but I’m backing Hollowgraphic for the Cheltenham bumper, two star** win @ 6/1 NRNB PP 7/1 general now, as a solid run here from Dunvegan will give that horses form a boost.

 

Sunday

1.15 Spring 4yo hurdle G1 2m

Espoir D’Allen (McManus/Cromwell) has the best Juvenile form in Ireland and comfortably holds Mitchouka (Elliott/Gigginstown) and he also beat Farclas (Elliott/Gigginstown). However Farclas was on hurdling debut and has only just over a length to find but is 3lb worse off. Sadly stunning debut winning mare Stormy Ireland (Mullins) doesn’t line up with the yard relying on the stylish Mr Adjudicator who did little wrong in winning his only start to date, open to improvement and at around 5/1 I’m having a dabble.

This division is dominated by Nicky Henderson with Apple’s Shakira (McManus), but she has Mares and Supreme mutterings and We Have a Dream (Munir & Souede). Hopefully the winner here could provide a worthwhile contender.

 

1.50 Deloitte 2m G1 Novice Hurdle

Big Cheltenham trial in the past but is now run over two furlongs shorter and of all the novice divisions the two mile looks the weakest especially with Samcro, Next Destinstion and On The Blind Side being put forward for the intermediate Ballymore. But shock, horror Samcro lines up here whilst there is no Mengli Khan and as I think Samcro will get done for toe at Cheltenham I’ve got to take him on here!

The Future Champions novice hurdle at Leopardstown was a comedy of errors with Mengli Khan jumping a wing three out, then a never travelling Real Steel and an on the bridle Sharjah both falling independently at the last leaving Whiskey Sour to come from way back to collect the prize. Trainer Says: Both Sharjah and Real Steel will run in the Deloitte Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown as I think they could both do with more experience. They were unlucky with what happened them last time, but they were both fine after it. Hopefully the sun won’t be out for the Deloitte!

It would be hard to back any of those three here and perhaps Willy Mullins has more of a chance with his fourth entry, Duc de Genievres, who was an eye catching third behind Next Destination in a G1 on debut for the yard at Naas. However the trainer said “he would go up in trip” so a drop to two miles is confusing. Trainer Says: He ran very well at Naas. That was only the second run of his life and he should improve from it. He travelled well through the race and I’m not sure which way I’m going to go with him in terms of trip. It might be too tough an ask for him to drop to two miles and take on sharper horses. He looked like he should be able to do it based on the last day, but that was over a longer trip off a steady enough pace. Moving up a gear at championship pace will be a different story, so he might be as well off sticking to longer trips.”

I am taking an each way chance with Paloma Blue who is getting his act together over hurdles after finishing second to the ill-fated Fayonagh in the G1 bumper at Punchestown. Third on debut to Next Destination, second beaten a head by Spades are Trumps and then won over this C&D beating Impact Factor having travelled, jumped and quickened.

Trainer Says: He’ll run in the Deloitte Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown on Sunday. We were delighted with the way he won at Leopardstown last time, he put up a nice performance. This is obviously a big step up in class for him, but we’ll know where we are going with him after this.

 

3.00 Flogas Novices Chase G1 2m 6f

Willie Mullins saddles five of the eleven starters, Gordon Elliott four and one each for Henry de Bromhead and Noel Meade. Two in the Gigginstown maroon, two in JP’s yellow and green hoops but otherwise seven other owners!

The Closutton Massive

Invitation Only Townend rides which could “suggest” he’s team captain. Leading fancy for the JLT at Cheltenham and after falling on debut in a race won by Monalee he has won two since including a G3 last time. Owned by the Wylies.

Al Boum Photo David Mullins rides. Won well on debut beating Tycoon Prince at Naas before falling at the last in a Limerick G3 when seemingly having the race at his mercy. G2 winning hurdler. Might he be a better horse on deep winter ground?

Bon Papa Won over 2m on chasing debut then a non-staying third to Shattered Love in the 3m G1 Neville Hotels at Leopardstown over Christmas. Mark Walsh rides.

Koshari Robbie Power dons the Ricci silks and Koshari has only 2½L to find with invitation Only having followed him home in the G3 at Punchestown. Won on chasing debut at Thurles.

Rathvinden Patrick Mullins partners this busy boy who has been on the go since last May. This will be his tenth run over fences and he has won four of them including a G3 at Tipperary. Unluckily brought down by the fall of Monalee last time he continues to catch up for lost time having not run between March 2014 and December 2016 having injured himself when third to Faugheen in the Neptune at the Festival

The Elliott Army

Dounikos Won his two starts over fences without getting rave reviews. Beat easy Thystes winner, Monbeg Notorious, on debut at Galway and was then the beneficiary of Al Boum Photo’s fall at Limerick when beating stablemate Tombstone. Jack Kennedy rides for Gigginstown.

Sutton Place Comfortably beat Kemboy on chasing debut and this Grade 2 winning hurdler (twice) will have the services of Barry Geraghty as he looks JP’s best chance.

The Storyteller Regulars will know I am a huge fan of this horse. Looking good when brushing aside Sutton Manor and LiveLoveLaugh on chasing debut, a shuddering error three out put paid to his chances behind Invitation Only but he kept on again and was closing come the line. Keith Donoghue should enjoy the ride as this horse has gears!

Tombstone He’s a disappointment, he’s a rogue, he’s classy. Since finishing fourth to Altior in THAT Supreme hurdle, too often the bridesmaid and only Tombstone himself really knows if he is putting it all in!

Henry de Bromhead’s Monalee is many peoples idea of the RSA winner next month but he has a bit to prove having taken a novice fall last time out. The Alfred Bartlett runner up to Penhill is probably a better horse over 3m but the booking of Noel Fehily suggests they mean business. Trainer Says: He’s entered in the Flogas Novice Chase at Leopardstown on Sunday and the intention is to run. He got a horrible fall and then a good kicking at Leopardstown last time, but he’s seems OK now, so hopefully he’ll acquit himself well.

Noel Meade has been telling everyone who’ll listen that he expects a big run from his Snow Falcon and is probably his best chance of success at the inaugural Dublin Festival of Racing. Second to Mossback, third to Death Duty, he got his head in front at Leopardstown beating Wishmoor. A Grade 1 staying hurdler he has been to all the top gigs but doesn’t win too many. Lot of miles on the clock for an 8yo novice chaser. Trainer Says: “He’ll go for the Flogas Novice Chase at the Dublin Racing Festival. Hopefully he’ll perform well enough there to go to Cheltenham and I would have thought that the RSA Chase would be his race. He is in super form. We were confident about his chances the last day even before the other horses fell – he jumped great and he has come out of that race in very good form. He goes on nearly any ground. The one mistake that I made last year was bringing him to Newmarket for the Cesarewitch but, fair play to Paul Hanagan, he looked after him when he knew the ground was too quick for him. He just wasn’t letting himself down that day and we had a horse afterwards which was great. I’m really looking forward to running him at Leopardstown.”

 

Conclusion They have all got to get round first, not something they have all managed in the past. Such a strong race with so much depth but as I didn’t think I would ever get the chance again to back my selection at double figure prices it has to be The Storyteller each way.

 

3.35 Irish Gold Cup G1 3m

Just when you thought that this sumptuously iced, Bake Off winning, cake of a meeting couldn’t get any better here is some cherry to top it off! As I am running out of time I am going to cut and paste from a previous blog when I looked at the Cheltenham Gold Cup from an Ante Post perspective five weeks ago.

Our Duke Chose to miss Cheltenham last season and it wouldn’t surprise me if they did so again. Built his reputation by destroying the field from the front in the Irish National off OR153. Currently on the easy list having scoped badly after disappointing behind Outlander at Down Royal but reportedly getting there. I’d like to see some form against the big boys not Bless my Wings!

Djakadam He looks like a burnt out wreck of the horse that stormed to victory in that foggy Thyestes Chase three years ago! The formbook says Sizing John has his number. Does he stay 3m 2f? Does he get up that Cheltenham hill? Both of his last two Grade 1 victories were over 2m4f at Punchestown and perhaps that C&D are his best chance of returning to the winner’s enclosure? However if there is one trainer that could wave his magic wand and freshen this horse up it is the wizard, Willie Mullins. If Djakadam does step back in trip for the RyanAir, Ruby Walsh’s choice of ride in the Gold Cup would be interesting!

Minella Rocco Second in last season’s Gold Cup staying on strongly. Most recently fourth in the Christmas Chase at Leopardstown when done for toe but the trainer, Jonjo O’Neill, suggested he was going down the handicap route. Indeed ever since he won the 4m NH chase at the Festival in 2016 he has looked a Grand National winner in waiting and I am of the opinion that like Native River he would be a National horse winning a Gold Cup. Niggly concern that O’Neill has a habit of getting horses to peak for four days every March.

Outlander Splendid Gigginstown owned Grade 1 winning yardstick. Goes to all the big gigs, frequently places but the formbook suggests he is well held by Road to Respect.

Valseur Lido A top grade novice when with Willy Mullins winning Grade 1 chases at 2m4f and 3m1f and was third in the 2015 JLT to Vautour and not far away when falling in the King George when Cue Card pipped Vautour. Transferred to Henry de Bromhead he won the JNwine.com Champion Chase at Down Royal and was fourth to Outlander in the 2016 Lexus chase. He was then off the course for a year, on the home gallops he fractured a cannon bone that required surgery, before running a promising fifth under the intelligent guidance of Noel Fehily, an eye catching booking, in what had now become the Christmas chase at Leopardstown over 3m1f. Interesting.

Anibale Fly Hosed up in the Grade B 3m Paddy Power handicap chase at Leopardstowns Winter festival. Greater racing minds than mine suggested trainer Tony Martin may have been “hiding his light under a bushel” by campaigning him over too short a trip but he had no problem getting three miles and his official mark rose eleven pounds from OR148 to OR159. Won his bumpers on heavy ground and the only time he has run on Good ground was when sent off 3/1F for the 2016 Kauto Star novice chase at Kempton and he didn’t go a yard, this is the race that Might Bite had in the bag but fell at the last! Recently his trainer said “After the Leopardstown win you’d imagine he could be a Grand National type.” The Irish Gold Cup on February 4th seems his next target. Owner JP McManus also has Coney Island and Minella Rocco who would seem the more likely Cheltenham Gold Cup candidates. Anibale Fly is a progressive, classy 8yo. As for Grand Nationals, could be Irish 2018, Aintree 2019?

Killtulagh Vic For me this was the training performance of the Christmas/New Year racing with massive credit going also Colm McBratney who nursed him back. He hardly jumped a flight at Punchestown but ran away from the likes of Ex Patriot, Tigris River and Ivanovich Gorbatov. Team Mullins has suggested he will be seen next in the Red Mills Chase at Gowran Park. If he makes Cheltenham this March the Ryanair would seem the logical race but this is Willy Mullins. Quoted for the Stayers hurdle but I wouldn’t rule out a Blue Riband appearance nor for that matter top weight in the Byrne Plate!

Alpha Des Obeaux Fourth to Might Bite in the 2017 RSA, second to Total Recall in the Munster National conceding sixteen pounds he is somewhat in limbo. If he does run at Cheltenham this March personally I would love see him carry close to top weight in that Tuesday 3m Ultima handicap but I fear they will throw him at the RyanAir chase as he won the Clonmel Oils chase this season over a similar trip.

 

Conclusion Personally pleased that Road to Respect chose to swerve this race to go to Cheltenham a fresh horse on his favoured spring ground, I think the winner will come from those that finished behind him in the Christmas Chase. Valseur Lido has his second run back after a year off, so will he ‘bounce’ or show improvement? Our Duke returns from injury and is meant to be working the place down. However I am going for Outlander, a three time G1 winner, C&D winner and whose form figures at Leopardstown are 11113, ridden here by Jack Kennedy. I think this is his Gold Cup.

Dublin Festival Of Racing Overview

“It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma…”

Originally said by Churchill in 1939 to describe the actions of Russia, more recently re-cycled by Tom Segal when talking about betting at York but wholly appropriate to the inaugural Dublin Festival of Racing next Saturday and Sunday!

Two days of fantastic National Hunt racing of the highest calibre with more sub-plots than a Stoppard play. In just about every race you will be asking the same questions as you to try to find the winner on the day.

Is THIS race the plan or is this a Festival (Cheltenham, Aintree, Fairyhouse or Punchestown) prep race?

Who is in the saddle? First, second or third string?

Mullins v Elliott? Mullins needs to close the gap on his rival and the difference is measured in Euros won.

Who ISN’T here? Who represents their form?

Where it is being held?

Leopardstown. Described by the Racing Post as a “Left-handed, flat, galloping track with 3f run-in. Circuit 1m6f.” The second last on both the hurdle and the chase course is halfway round the final bend and there is a sharp turn into the home straight and just one obstacle in the home straight. This course is where Mengli Khan choose to jump through a wing, they have “island” obstacles which makes jumping straight a major plus. Are you listening Yorkhill?

The going is currently Soft on the hurdle track and Soft, Yielding in places (that’s quicker) on the Chase course and it doesn’t look like getting any slower.

OMG, “there are two elephants in the room”.

The first is the Cheltenham Festival. Many this side of the Irish Sea will look at these fourteen races as trials for THE Festival in March, however the Irish, especially those in authority are very keen to promote the Dublin Festival Of Racing as a stand-alone event.

The second is Ruby Walsh. Ireland’s senior member of the weighing room is still on the side-lines with his broken leg. Willy Mullins will definitely miss him, especially on his big guns who may have one or two quirks. Paul Townend is an able deputy, David Mullins rides the second strings with Ms Katie Walsh getting the third choice, Danny Mullins still absent with a wrist injury. Where mob handed in the handicaps some lesser known riders get their big chance. However Ruby Walsh will most noticeably be missed when the tapes go up, as at these bigger meetings Irish jockeys are used to dancing to his tune! Davy Russell would be the obvious conductor but he prefers a more stalking role so look out for two of the young guns to take a small field championship race by the scruff of the neck. Jack Kennedy, because he may well have the horse to do it and David Mullins because he can! On Day One alone David Mullins gets to ride Carter McKay, Min, Demi Sang and Melon! That’s a possible Lucky 15 to kick off with.

Pigeon-holing could be dangerous!

If there is one thing I have learned about Irish racing in the last few seasons is don’t pigeon hole! Many Irish horses are from the PtP circuit where they race over 3m and most decent horses stay that far, just find their “best” trip. Just because they won their last two races on Heavy ground doesn’t mean they won’t perform on better ground. Don’t “assume” from jockey bookings that it is first and second string (with maybe the exception of Ruby Walsh).

Mullins v Elliott

Gordon Elliott will try to win everything. Willie Mullins will be more tactical and don’t tell me there won’t be team orders. Pacemakers, spoilers, ridden to maximise place prize money, I expect to see all of them from Team Mullins! Hardly riding “on merit”!

Day 1 Saturday February 3rd

1.10 2m 6f Novice Hurdle

Bombshell here. No Samcro here, he runs in the 2m Deloitte novice hurdle tomorrow instead, although connections say the Ballymore (2m5f) is still the Cheltenham target. Samcro beat Jetz by 12L on hurdling debut.

Instead Elliott gives Russell the leg up on Dortmund Park who could be Alfred Bartlett bound as in winning his last two races over hurdles this €230K French bred gelding has suggested stamina is his forte. Similar could be said of Fabulous Saga on whom Willie Mullins puts Paul Townend, a career record of four from six and his last two wins over 3m at G3/G2 level. Very solid form. David Mullins rides Carter McKay who was favourite for the Cheltenham Bumper last season, once Getabird was an absentee, until usurped on the day,. Team Closutton always suggested that he was a stayer and he did well to be third to Getabird in the G1 2m Moscow Flyer at Punchestown. I can see David Mullins riding him aggressively and definite improvement going up five furlongs in trip.

The other four will all need to improve but each of their trainers thinks they will and has spoken to the press!

Henry de Bromhead on Dicey O’Reilly “We were quite disappointed with his seasonal reappearance at Cork, so we were delighted to see him bounce back and win at Leopardstown’s Christmas meeting and he seems in great form since then. The plan is to run him in the Nathaniel Lacy & Partners Solicitors Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown on Saturday. This is a step up in trip for him and he obviously needs to improve, but we’ll see what happens.”

Jessica Harrington on Jetz@paul0boyle10 How highly do you rate JETZ? If he can win a Graded Hurdle this year I would be absolutely delighted but he will make a great chaser and all his family improve with age so I’m very excited about the future, especially when he gets some better ground.”

Noel Meade on Moyross “I was very disappointed with him at Naas (well-beaten seventh in the Grade 1 won by Next Destination) and nothing showed up afterwards – it may have been the very heavy ground that caught him out. He is a chaser for next season but I thought he’d run better than he did at Naas. We’ll find something for him in the next few weeks but, as I said, he is a good bit better than the form that he showed at Naas. He is in the two-mile-six-furlong novice hurdle at Leopardstown and I’d say he’ll go there.”

Joseph O’Brien on Tower Bridge “He ran well at Leopardstown and he’ll go for a maiden or a novice hurdle next month. With that new rule now, we might keep as a novice up until Hatton’s Grace day this year so he won’t go to the Dublin Racing Festival and there is a good novice hurdle for him at Punchestown next month. He wouldn’t want the ground too soft and the ground at Leopardstown the last day was as soft as he’d want it. I think he could develop into a nice novice hurdler.” So why the change of mind? Oh he’s owned by JP McManus, nuff said!

Conclusion I’m with Carter McKay who will come on for the extra distance and Danny Mullins riding a hold up race from the front! Eight runners would have made Moyross an ew play but not with seven.

1.40 Dublin Chase G2 2m 1f

This race could be worth the entrance money alone. Special Tiara picked up the pieces when Douvan blew out in the QEQMCC last March at Cheltenham. Min beat Special Ned in the G1 at Leopardstown, but lost it in the stewards room, they re-oppose here. Ordinary World was third to Special Tiara at Cheltenham, Ballcasey has won four graded chase but never at G1 and usually over further and Alisier D’Irlande, a stunning specimen, who could lead this field a merry dance but has yet to convince in Grade 1. The wild card is of course the horse that Lydia Hislop has dubbed “The Ubiquity In Equine Form”, Yorkhill.

Immediately after winning the Neptune hurdle Ruby Walsh famously told the world that “this horse could win the Arkle Chase with his mouth open” and indeed at the start of this season Yorkhill was quoted in at least four Cheltenham ante-post markets. Immensely talented but to put it mildly “a sandwich short of a full picnic”! He jumps left, sometimes drastically, ran into a straw bale in a PtP and unseated, he is headstrong but he is a four time Grade 1 winner. This particular correspondent has always wanted to take him on but Kevin Blake (At the Races and Final Furlong Podcast) makes a very sound case for a G1 2m Championship chase being his correct race. At 2m the increased gallop will help him settle and at speed he will jump straighter. I’m on at 9/1 for the QEQMCC. I am quite prepared to see this latest venture fail but if successful the Cheltenham clash with Altior could be the race we all expected to see in the champion Hurdle!

Talking of the voluptuous Ms Hislop here is her take on Yorkhill in her latest “Road to Cheltenham”, “By the way, did I mention Yorkhill chipped a bone in his foreleg when finishing last in the Christmas Chase? Of course I didn’t – because neither did Willie Mullins until last Saturday. I thought I might have been overdoing the Trappist gags but hailMaryfullofgrace I repent! I repent! “He was out for ten days which he’d be getting [in any case] after the race,” Mullins said, minimising the news. “I think last year we had to take a splint bone out of him. He seems to rap himself but he recovers very quickly and won at Cheltenham after it.” Clearly if Yorkhill does pitch up on Saturday, the setback has indeed not been significant but nonetheless it is clearly far from ideal for this important Champion Chase audition. It will be fascinating to see who rides which Mullins charge in the race that will probably determine which horse is banished to the Ryanair.”

Conclusion I’ll pass on the punting front but this is a must watch race! Yorkhill and odds on just don’t go in the same sentence and what could you take him on with?

 

2.20 Frank Ward Arkle Novices Chase G1 2m 1f

Just five runners and in all reality it is probably a heavyweight match between Footpad and Petit Mouchoir, or is it?

Any Second Now was a leading, if not the leading, novice hurdler this time last year. He swerved Cheltenham and then unseated in the G2 at Fairyhouse. Since novice chasing he has been runner up on all three starts to Monalee, Invitation Only and he has 5L to make up on Footpad. Just hasn’t cut it in Grade 1.

Tycoon Prince had been supported for tomorrows handicap chase so a tad surprised to see him here. Promised much, well talked up but never delivered often over further. Saw off Bunk Off Early over C&D at Christmas, can he build on that?

Demi Sang is only five but has already won two chases at Auteiul and on Irish debut saw off the handy Avenir d’une Vie at Naas. He travelled, jumped adequately if little big at a couple and Geraghty had to get after to him from the last to get him home. Useful, probably wants further but not Champion Hurdle class! That is where Footpad and Petit Mouchoir were over the smaller obstacles. Footpad hasn’t put an hoof wrong over fences and currently looks the best in this division but Petit Mouchoir was the first horse in my Cheltenham notebook this season but has been side-lined with an entry. So it’s a trade-off between the fact that Footpad never beat Petit Mouchoir over hurdles against the fact that Petit Mouchoir has an interrupted preparation. Petit Mouchoirs trainer told Attheraces “He’s entered in the Frank Ward Solicitors Arkle Novice Chase at Leopardstown on Saturday and the plan is to run him. He had a setback since his chasing debut, but he seems good now and he’s ready to run. He seems well, but he obviously hasn’t had an ideal preparation for a race of this class, so while he will be there to do his best on the day, it might well prove to be a stepping stone to his next start.” Hardly bullish.

Conclusion Logic says Footpad but I’ll pass and enjoy the contest.

 

I’m going to post this now (5.50pm Thursday) and continue with the bumper and the two handicaps tomorrow!