Charlie McCann: Dublin Racing Festival Fallout

Henry De Bromhead saddled the runner up in the Irish Gold Cup and facile winner of the Irish Champion Hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival (DRF) courtesy of Minnella Indo and Honeysuckle. A successful meeting one would conclude; but that does not tell the whole story.

Minella Indo jumped and travelled superbly well behind Conflated in a below par renewal of the Irish Gold Cup although jockey Robbie Power met slight interference on the Gold Cup winner at a time when Davy Russell was making his bid for glory. 

On the face of it, it was a terrific prep for a return to his beloved Cheltenham where he will appreciate the additional quarter of a mile, but I was slightly underwhelmed with his finishing effort given he was being run down on the run in by doubtful stayer Janadil who would have finished second in another stride. I thought he finished tired.

Honeysuckle did not have to be at her brilliant best to land a third Irish Champion Hurdle in a time that was slightly slower than that clocked by Sir Gerhard over the same C&D later in the day although comparisons between the two races are difficult given the novices’ “passed the hurdle on the right-hand side” two out due to the low sun. Is it really 40 years since that 80s classic by Musical Youth? 

De Bromhead saddled 12 runners at the DRF, and I think it is worth reflecting on the efforts of their representatives other than Minella Indo and Honeysuckle. 

Three of the other ten runners over the weekend were pulled up and the other seven were beaten an aggregate of 333 lengths! Yes, they were the seven horses who finished the course, and they were still beaten by an average of well over 40 lengths. 

I appreciate that the DRF is fiercely competitive, but I think we can upgrade the performance of Minella Indo from the weekend. If the yard show signs of turning the corner between now and the start of the Cheltenham Festival, then the 2021 Gold Cup winner is overpriced at 6/1 with Bet365 NRNB to retain his crown. He is as short as 4/1 with 888sport and that is the price I feel he will start on the day although I suggest we continue to monitor the form of the stable in the run up to the Festival.

What race will Galopin Des Champs run in?

All three G1 novice chases at the Festival promise to be absolute crackers and Willie Mullins faces a difficult decision – but hardly sleepless nights – in deciding what race next year’s Gold Cup winner Galopin Des Champs will contest at Cheltenham next month. He has winning hurdling form at the track in last season’s Martin Pipe over 2m 5f and both his chase successes have been at that intermediate distance.

That said Mullins hinted that Galopin Des Champs would step up to three miles – the distance of his Punchestown Grade 1 novice hurdle victory from last spring – in the immediate aftermath of his win at Leopardstown last weekend over 2m 5f+ in a time that was nearly eight seconds quicker than that recorded by Birchdale – who carried 33lbs less – in landing the competitive handicap chase later in the card.

Last year’s Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle scorer Bob Olinger – who is, let’s not forget, trained by Henry De Bromhead – is a best price of 11/10 with Paddy Power for the 2m 5f Turner Novices’ Chase or Evens with Bet365 NRNB & BOG – with the layers, seemingly, of the opinion that Galopin Des Champs will take on Scotland’s Ahoy Senor and the Paul Nicholls’ trained Bravemansgame over three miles next month. I’m not convinced and, while I appreciate Bob Olinger has a wonderful engine, I suspect the fast fluent jumping of Galopin Des Champs will have the market leader in trouble in the initial stages of the race. 

Ahoy Senor was spectacular in the G2 Towton Chase at Wetherby last weekend while Bravemansgame has been entered in the Denman Chase at Newbury at the weekend although he is doubly entered and is also amongst the five-day acceptors for the opening novices’ handicap chase on the card. Mullins doesn’t need to make a quick decision and I wonder if he, too, will be casting more than the odd glance at the form of the De Bromhead stable in the run up to Cheltenham.

An easy win for Facile but does the son of the wonder mare Quevega deserve to be so short for the Champion Bumper?

Facile Vega is likely to drift on the day from a best price of Evens with Betfred – NRNB – at the time of writing, but yes, I was blown away by the nature of the Grade 2 winner and he is by some distance the most likely winner of the race at this stage.

Going into the weekend I was in the camp of stablemate Mercurey for the Champion Bumper, but Facile Vega travelled like a class act and quickly put his race to bed. Envoi Allen won the corresponding race in 2019 before landing the Cheltenham Bumper and he went off 2/1 on the day having won his three previous starts for Gordon Elliot. 

Given winning jockey Patrick Mullins was at pains to say that punters and pundits should not forget stablemate Redemption Day, who won his sole start at Leopardstown over the Christmas period, I expect Facile Vega to drift but he may only have to replicate the form of his DRF success to follow up next month. He is another hugely exciting prospect for the yard.