Road To Cheltenham: Eyecatchers From Dublin Racing Festival

Highlights and eyecatchers from last weekend’s Dublin Racing Festival featuring eight Grade 1 races and several handicaps which are sure to have provided plenty of clues for next month’s Cheltenham Festival.

Grade 1 Highlights (Saturday)

Nathaniel Lacy & Partners Solicitors “50,000 Cheltenham Bonus For Stable Staff” Nov Hurdle

Willie Mullins’ Closutton stable lost little time in stamping their authority on the two-day meeting, winning the first three races, all Grade 1’s. MINELLA COCOONER was the stable’s second string for the opening 2m 6f novices’ hurdle. Dictating matters from the front, Danny Mullins’ mount put in an impeccable round of jumping and never really looked like being reeled-in. The Ballymore (8/1 with bet365) and the longer Albert Bartlett (8/1 with Coral) are the two options for this talented staying hurdler, with the latter race possibly offering the best chance of success.

Racing TV “12 Euros Per Month This Weekend Only Spring Juvenile Hurdle

Following the defeat of ante-post favourite Fil Dor, the Triumph Hurdle is now dominated by two horses who were separated by half a length on their debuts in a Punchestown maiden hurdle on the last day of December, Pied Piper and the comfortable winner of this Grade 1 juvenile hurdle VAUBAN. The former was even more impressive at Cheltenham last week, albeit in lesser company, and the rematch, for which the pair are 5/2 joint favourites with Paddy Power, offers a mouth-watering prospect to the opening race on the final day of the festival.

Patrick Ward & Co Solicitors Irish Arkle Novice Chase

In the absence of the injured Ferny Hollow, this trial for Cheltenham’s Arkle looked to concern that horse’s stablemate BLUE LORD (3/1 with bet365) and the mare RIVIERE D’ETEL (9/2 with Coral). SAINT SAM (12/1 with Coral) took them along for most of the race until the two principals took over jumping the second-last. Half a length separated the pair at the line. But the mare looked unlucky to come off second-best after making a mistake at the final fence and then suffering interference by the winner on the run for home. The pair are expected to lock horns once again at the festival in which they are likely to face main British challenger EDWARDSTONE (3/1 with bet365) and possibly Third Time Lucki (8/1 with Betfair Sportsbook).

Paddy Power Irish Gold Cup

The Irish Gold Cup looked an open renewal beforehand and so it proved with the relatively unconsidered CONFLATED (now a best price 12/1 with bet365 to follow-up at Cheltenham) coming out on top. In his previous race, the eight-year-old had won a Navan handicap off a mark of 145. But there was certainly no fluke about his dominant victory here and Gordon Elliott’s charge now has to be considered a serious challenger for Cheltenham’s final day highlight.

Grade 1 Highlights (Sunday)

Ladbrokes Novice Chase

If a Cheltenham Gold Cup winner was in action at the weekend, the chances are it was the Willie Mullins-trained GALOPIN DES CHAMPS, one of the most exciting staying novice chasers of recent years. Already a 5/1 chance with William Hill for the 2023 blue riband of steeplechasing, the gelding will first take in the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase (6/4 with Unibet) or Turners Novices’ Chase (11/4 with Paddy Power) at this year’s festival. The former, longer race, looking the most likely at this stage.

Ladbrokes Dublin Chase

There seems to be two horses by the name of CHACUN POUR SOI at the moment. The one who is virtually unbeatable in his home country and the one who consistently underperforms when sent across the Irish sea. A 6/1 chance with Coral for next month’s Champion Chase behind Shishkin and stablemate Energumene, it remains to see which one turns up on the second day of the festival.

Chanelle Pharma Irish Champion Hurdle

As expected, something of a walk in the park for the best hurdler of any sex around at the moment. Hardened into a best price 4/7 with bet365 for a second Champion Hurdle at Prestbury Park, HONEYSUCKLE  is fast becoming a legend within the sport and it is hard to see anything lowering her colours next month.

Tattersalls Ireland Novice Hurdle

A disaster for bookmakers as SIR GERHARD becomes the sixth winning favourite of the day. Last season’s Champion Bumper hero made all of the running for a comfortable victory but didn’t always impress with his jumping. Unibet are a top price 9/2 for the Supreme Novices’ while Paddy Power quote the same price for the longer Ballymore. Connections will mull over both options in the weeks ahead and a decision is unlikely until the last possible moment.

Handicap Eyecatchers

BLACKBOW – A 14/1 chance with William Hill (non-runner-no-bet) and 20/1 with Paddy Power (ante-post) for the Grand Annual, Willie Mullins’ chaser had most of his rivals in trouble over an extended 2m 5f only to weaken under his big weight in the closing stages. Over the shorter trip of the Grand Annual, the nine-year-old, who was taking on the likes of Chantry House and Energumene last season, could take some catching with similar tactics.

AUTUMN EVENING – A 16/1 chance with bet365 (non-runner-no-bet) for the County Hurdle. Jessica Harrington’s charge came there swinging on the bit to take the lead in the 27-runner handicap hurdle on the Sunday, only to falter in the last 100 yards after making a mistake at the last. With a current mark of 140, the five-year-old should get into the County Hurdle with a nice weight and looks the ideal type for the race.