Dublin Racing Festival
The Dublin Racing Festival is new and it combines the best that the Irish city has to offer, from music and fashion to jump racing at Leopardstown, over two days (Saturday 3rd February to Sunday 4th February). Day one houses the Irish Champion Hurdle. Hurricane fly was arguably the best winner of the race winning it five times. Willie Mullins does well in the race, winning it with Faugheen in 2016. Attention turns to chasing on the Sunday with the Unibet Irish Gold Cup, which was won last year by Jessica Harrington’s Sizing John. He went on to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup and Punchestown Gold Cup in the same season. There is over €1.5 Million in prize money on offer and seven Grade One races for the racing public to feast their eyes on.
Saturday’s Big Races
Nathaniel Lacy And Partnership Solicitors Novice Hurdle (Grade One)
Willie Mullins has won the past six renewals of this race. This time around he is two-handed with Carter McKay and Fabulous Saga. The former won his first two starts under rules in National Hunt flat races before being unplaced in the big festivals. He won his maiden hurdle at Gowran Park by fifteen lengths, from a horse that has won twice since. He found top novices Getabird and Mengli Khan too much last time out. The trip has a question mark about it as he hasn’t been this far yet. A horse that has is his stable companion Fabulous Saga. He has ran during every month of 2017 from April onwards, winning five times, and hasn’t been out of the top three in all of his starts. He is proven over further unlike Gordon Elliott’s Dortmund Park. His dam was a flat horse who won once over one mile three furlongs and his sire went to two miles two furlongs at his furthest. The gelding was beaten first time out and but won his next two by a combined sixteen and three quarter lengths. Diley O’reilly was forth first time out and won a maiden hurdle. The distance might not be a problem for him.
Coral Dublin Chase (Grade 2)
Min lost a Grade One in the Stewards’ Room because he impeded Simply Ned down the run in. Held in quite high regard, Min looks to have a really good chance as Simply Ned seemed lucky to get that race as he hadn’t shown winning form since 2015. Special Tiara has form over Nicky Richards’ charge but the fan-favourite fell last time out in the Desert Orchid Chase. He was the winner of the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival 2017. Yorkill is a very versatile sort and he ran an extremely odd run behind Road To Respect in the Grade One Christmas Chase here; he was a tailed off last after losing his place turning into the straight. If he comes there on top form, he will go close.
Frank Ward Solicitors Arkle Novices Chase (Grade One)
Last year’s winning trainer of this race has Petit Mouchoir in this. The talented grey won first time out this season in a Beginners Chase by seven lengths. If he brings his hurdle form to the table, he would definitely be in contention down the home straight. Footpad seems extremely exciting and got lots of people talking about him after his easy success over Any Second Now. A negative for his chances is that he was regularly beaten by Petit Mouchoir over hurdles but experience over the larger obstacles could be the difference between them. Demi Sang is interesting as he was unbeaten over three chase starts and though it is a huge step up in class, he could go close. Similarly, Tycoon Prince beat highly regarded Bunk Off Early easily but this is extremely tougher.
Irish Champion Hurdle (Grade One)
Faugheen, affectionately known as ‘The Machine’, won this in 2016. After his win, he got injured but came back at the start of this season and won the Morgiana Hurdle but was pulled up here at Leopardstown over Christmas. No one know what was up with him so he could go close or flop again. Mick Jazz won that race over Christmas and won a listed hurdle this time last year. Melon comes from Willie Mullins’ yard, like Faugheen, and won a Grade Two first time out this season before coming over to England and finishing behind My Tent Or Yours and The New One in the International Hurdle. The only English challenger is Defi Du Seuil from Philip Hobbs’ yard. He disappointed in his return to action but is back now and Hobbs wouldn’t send him over if he wasn’t. Jezki can’t be ruled out as he won the Istabraq Hurdle well in the early part of the season.
Sunday’s Big Races
Tatterstalls Ireland Juvenile Hurdle (Grade One)
Gavin Cromwell’s Espoir D’Allen has won all of his four starts (two graded). He has beaten Mitchouka twice and the latter has won three times over hurdles and never out of the top three spaces. Mr Adjudicator comes from Willie Mullins’ yard and has ran once over hurdles, quite impressively by seven and a half lengths.
Deloitte Novice Hurdle (Grade One)
Samcro seems an exciting sort and he has won all five of his starts. He has won them by a combined fifty four lengths. Sharjah fell at the last when leading and has won on both of his previous starts so could be a threat to Samcro. Whiskey Sour won that race after being left in front and is a course and distance winner. He won his previous start like Paloma Blue, who was successful in National Hunt flat races last season and it took him three attempts to get his head in front. In that race, he stayed on well up the run-in to win by twenty one lengths.
Flogas Novices Chase (Grade One)
Sutton Place won his Chase start from subsequent winner Kemboy by three and three quarter lengths. If he replicates his hurdles form, he would be a great chaser. Highest rated in the field, Invitation Only, fell in his first novices chase that Monalee won but won his other two. The latter won a beginners chase by six lengths but fell last time out. Al Boum Photo beat Invitation Only over hurdles but, like Monalee, fell last time out when ahead. Snow Falcon won a flat race in August and ran over fences for the first time in November. On his only win over fences, he won by twenty eight lengths to the only other finisher.
Unibet Irish Gold Cup (Grade One)
Last year’s winner Sizing John isn’t here this time around but his connections have Our Duke who didn’t impress behind Outlander on his first start this season. He won the Irish Grand National and he has a 66% strike rate at Leopardstown. Outlander won a Grade One on his second start this season before finding Bristol De Mai’s ability to handle bottomless ground at Haydock too much and followed up with a good third in the Leopardstown Christmas Chase with Djackadam pulled up. Djackadam is a good horse but he’s not really fired this season and was outpaced. Anibale Fly won the Grade B Paddy Power Chase last time by seven lengths. Killiltagh Vic has won his past five including two chases. Last time, he won over hurdles and comes back chasing now.