Horse Racing tips: Frank Hickey’s Dublin Racing Festival Saturday picks

Frank has previewed Saturday at the Dublin Racing Festival

Frank Hickey


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1.05pm – Gentlemansgame

This race has real depth. Gaillard Du Mesnil was beaten eight lengths by Holymacapony on his debut for Willie Mullins at Punchestown in November, but won at Leopardstown over Christmas by nearly 10 lengths in a very favourable time. Mullins won this race from 2012-2017 when it was run over 2m 4f but hasn’t won it in the three renewals since it was changed to 2m 6f.

Holymacapony is a point-to-point winner but was pulled up in a Grade 2 Novice Hurdle at Navan in which Ashdale Bob won and Fakiera was second. Ashdale Bob then fell in the Lawlor’s Of Naas Grade 1 Novice Hurdle, while Stattler was beaten by the re-opposing Vanillier at Naas on his hurdles debut over 2m 3f before winning nicely at Leopardstown over 2m 4f. Paul Townend has gone for Gaillard Du Mesnil.

Vanillier was second in the Grade 2 over just shy of 3m at Limerick at Christmas behind Farouk D’alene, but that race probably lacked depth. Fakiera won the Grade 3 Monksfield Novice Hurdle at Navan, shaping like a stayer and gave the same impression when second to Ashdale Bob after stepping up to Grade 2 company. The step up in trip will suit and he is crying out for 3m in my opinion. He wears cheekpieces for the first time.

Cape Gentleman won the Irish Cesarewitch on his second start for Emmet Mullins at the Curragh over 2m off a mark of 85. He’s only had three runs on the Flat in France as a three-year-old, but performed nicely on his hurdles debut at Punchestown over 2m4f. That form needs improving on here, but that is entirely possible.

GENTLEMANSGAME easily won a point-to-point last October, where he had Soldier Of Destiny back in third (the latter was fourth behind Cape Gentleman over hurdles and was second in a bumper behind Noble Yeats). Gentlemansgame then won by 21 lengths on his hurdles debut over 2m at Cork. The time was slower than It’s a Hardy Bloke on the same card, but he is full of potential and Mouse Morris is having a great season with 11 winners and a 15 per cent strike rate (he only had four winners throughout the 2019-2020 season).

I think it’s very significant that Mouse is willing to run Gentlemansgame at this level on just his second start under rules. He hasn’t had a runner in this in the last 10 years.


Dublin Racing Festival Leopardstown February 2, 2020



1.35pm – Chacun Pour Soi/Tornado Flyer (Each-Way)

CHACUN POUR SOI beat Min by nearly four lengths in this last year and it is difficult to see why things should be different this year. However, TORNADO FLYER was third in the 2018 Champion Bumper behind Relegate and won the Punchestown champion bumper the same year.

He then won a Navan Grade 3 over 2m1f last season as a novice and was third behind Faugheen at the Dublin Racing Festival before coming fifth in the JLT, beaten nine lengths. He was second off 150 in a top class handicap over 2m3f at Punchestown on seasonal reappearance – Daly Tiger won off 137, then won the Dan Moore off 147 and is now rated 157. Castlebawn West was third (off 147)and he won the Paddy Power Chase off 148 and is now rated 160.

Tornado Flyer was second in the John Durkan, only beaten a length by Min, but I don’t think he stayed when stepped up to 3m for the Savills Chase and was a well-beaten fifth.


2.10pm – Energumene

ENERGUMENE set a really fast time on chase debut at Gowran over 2m 4f while carrying 12st, nearly eight seconds quicker than 153-rated Annamix who was carrying 11st7lbs, and over 27 seconds quicker than 125-rated Hostage To Fortune carrying the same weight in a beginners chase. Energumene’s closing sectional was just as fast as Annamix, so it was a huge performance. He then won at Naas in a time of 4:17.00 carrying 11st10lbs, while Epson Du Houx won a handicap chase off 125 in 4:25.10 carrying 11st5lbs.

Unexcepted is the one unknown in the race and was impressive when slamming Jason The Militant on hurdles debut at Fairyhouse before being well beaten by Easywork in Limerick. She was impressive when making a chase debut at Tipperary where Entoucas was second and Rebel Gold was third. Rebel Gold won at Gowran last week, the fourth Born By The Sea won at Wetherby, the sixth Key Commander won a handicap off 109 and the 10th Aramax won at Fairyhouse. Captain Guinness had a heart issue that day but the form is working out really well.


Energumene wins at Naas 2021

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2.45pm – The Shunter

Entoucas’ chase form is second to Unexcepted at Tipperary, second to Blackbow at Naas, second to Sizing Pottsie in a strong handicap off 138 and fourth in the Dan Moore Handicap Chase off 138. His jumping needs to sharpen up but when it does he is going to win one of these, although that might not be until the Grand Annual Chase at Cheltenham next month.

THE SHUNTER was trained by John Clifford but switched to Emmet Mullins in June last year and caught the eye of the stewards and social media when fourth in a maiden hurdle at Thurles in July over 2m 4f. He was an easy winner up in Downpatrick in September over 2m 3f, beating the now 130-rated Tullybeg, and was a very easy winner over 2m5f over fences at Punchestown when beating Enjoy D’allen who has won his last two starts and is now rated 136.

The Shunter was fourth in the FTHM Novice Chase Grade 3 over 2m 4f and won the Greatwood Hurdle quite easily two weeks later off 128, beating Ballyandy by three lengths. A strong pace here will suit and if he can be anywhere within eight lengths of the lead at the second last he will be flying at the finish.

3.15pm – Saldier

Last year Honeysuckle won this by half a length from Darver Star, while Sharjah disappointed, beaten 11 lengths back in sixth. Honeysuckle is 9-9 over hurdles and if she wins this, it will be full steam ahead for the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.

Sharjah has won the Matheson Hurdle the last three years but has never won after the turn of the year. SALDIER is very lightly-raced, having only had seven starts over hurdles, but won the Grade 1 juvenile hurdle at Punchestown and looked like he was going to beat Espoir D’allen at Naas when he fell at the last in November 2018.

Espoir D’Allen won the Champion hurdle the following March, but Saldier won the Morgiana Hurdle on his reappearance – and sole start – last season with Petit Mouchoir, Klassical Dream and Sharjah behind him. He needed his reappearance at Christmas when sixth of seven in the Matheson Hurdle and will improve for that run.



Dublin Racing Festival: A runner-by-runner guide to the Irish Champion Hurdle

3.50pm – Drop The Anchor/He’s A Hardy Bloke

Charles Byrnes won this race the last three years with Thosedaysaregone and Off You Go twice. He has Advanced Virgo near the top of the market here after winning his handicap debut over hurdles last time at Fairyhouse off 121, and the six-year-old has now gone up to 131.

In the last seven years, JP McManus has won this four times but does throw plenty of darts at the board. Mark Walsh is on The Moyglass Flyer and you can see why – he won here in December 2019 off 121 and was off a year before reappearing in the same race when third behind Master McShee and Sea Ducor.

DROP THE ANCHOR wasn’t a complete natural with his jumping and took a while to get off the mark over hurdles, but has been better this season and won at Listowel off 122 while beating Getaway Gorgeous. He was brought down on his next start at Down Royal in a valuable handicap hurdle when he was still travelling well enough and last time out in the race Advanced Virgo won, he was just getting rolling when Eclair De Beaufeu fell at the second last, hampering him badly and causing him to lose at least six lengths. He did get rolling again and was only beaten three lengths in third. He has only gone up 2lbs for that run and Simon Torrens has had the ride on him all this season.


It’s worth mentioning HE’S A HARDY BLOKE, who was a point-to-point winner just over a year ago. He won his bumper at the third attempt in October in Clonmel and was third on hurdles debut, well behind Ballyadam, but bolted up in Punchestown over 2m beating Envious Editor and Captain Kangaroo.

He did the same at Cork in a Rated Novice Hurdle over 2m where he carried 11st12lbs, and what I like is the way he travels well within himself but when he is asked to go and win his race, the response is immediate. He now has enough experience that he might be capable of defying his opening mark, while Noel Meade did win this in 2017 with Ice Cold Soul.

4.25pm – Kilcruit

This is a brilliant race, even if Sir Gerhard hasn’t taken his chance. Letsbeclearaboutit and Ever Present will represent the Sir Gerhard form while Chemical Energy is two form two and his Down Royal defeat of On Eagles Wings looks good now, with On Eagles Wings winning first time over hurdles at Naas. The worry would be that he hasn’t been on ground this soft yet.

Whatdeawant was decent when beating the raging hot Ginto on debut at Fairyhouse but Todd Hamilton would suggest it’s third string. Ramillies was impressive here at Christmas, winning by 10 lengths, but he was well beaten last Christmas here – perhaps he needed time and he could be very good. Meanwhile, Noble Yeats looked really good at Thurles last time when powering away on testing ground to win by 19 lengths in an excellent time.

KILCRUIT was a talking horse after Tony Mullins bigged him up at a Cheltenham preview night before he had even ran, but he finished second on debut at Clonmel to Captain Kangaroo and then switched to Willie Mullins. He was an impressive winner at Navan on his first start for Willie, where he didn’t really come off the bridle, and the third=placed finisher that day, Ballycairn,  won a Leopardstown bumper over Christmas.

*All prices are bang up to date with our snazzy widget, while in-copy odds are accurate at time of publication but subject to change

Frank Hickey’s bet summary – Saturday, February 6

1.05pm – Gentlemansgame
1.35pm – Chacun Pour Soi/Tornado Flyer (each-way)
2.10pm – Energumene
2.45pm – The Shunter
3.15pm – Saldier
3.50pm – Drop The Anchor/He’s A Hardy Bloke
4.25pm – Kilcruit

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