A helluva weekend. The Dublin Racing Festival was a triumph from start to finish. Not for me granted. I’m poorer in pocket. Richer in spirit of course. We won’t get bogged down in my sob stories. Suffice to say that eight of the 10 graded races were won by the favourite. I managed to back one of the losing jollies.
My brief is to review – with an eye to the future. There’s a lot to be said about the headline acts. It’s likely a number of the winners will repeat the dose at the Cheltenham Festival in five weeks time.
Chacun Pour Soi and Monkfish look like bankers. Honeysuckle was ultra impressive. It’s to connections credit that they’re going to bite the bullet, and have a crack at the Champion Hurdle. She may not end up having a racecourse bar named after her but will live long in the memory if getting the job done in March. You will have your own opinions on the big winners. My two cents is unlikely to change your mind. Instead, I will concentrate on a few horses who may have slipped under the radar, and could pay to follow for the remainder of the season.
The Shunter went off a well-backed favourite for the extended two mile handicap chase on Saturday. He gave supporters a good run for their money, but was probably a bit unlucky given how the race panned out. He tanked through that race. His exuberance probably cost him in the end. He has already shown a liking for Cheltenham.
The Grand Annual would look tailor made for him. He should relish the cover, and strong gallop, that race usually provides. The snag is he may not be high enough in the weights. He will get a few pounds for Saturday’s effort. The UK handicapper will probably add a few more. He might sneak in. If so, he would be worthy of serious consideration. It would be hard to see the current price being available on the day.
Paddy’s non runner, money back offer will cushion the disappointment should he fail to get in.
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Eclair De Beaufeu ran well on Saturday. He boasts a fine record at the Cheltenham Festival. He fell at the last when still in contention for the 2019 County Hurdle, and was runner up to Chosen Mate in last year’s Grand Annual. His hurdling is a worry. He again made a few mistakes at the weekend. He also looks like a step up in trip might help.
It would be no surprise if Gordon Elliot has one eye on the Coral Cup on the Wednesday. The extra distance of that race may just give the horse a bit more time to find a rhythm. He ran off 135 on Saturday. He was off 136 in the 2019 County. I don’t think the UK handicapper will be too punitive with him. If he gets to race off a rating that’s within a few pounds of his Irish mark, I envisage another big run.
Minella Times put in another solid shift on Sunday. His second to Off You Go was backing up his runner up effort in the Paddy Power at Christmas. Both Off You Go, and Castlebawn West had the back class to make them dangerously handicapped. Minella Times was unlucky to run into them. Given how strong he was at the line over three miles, the Kim Muir would look the race for him in Cheltenham. There are a couple of wrinkles.
He will get another bump in the weights. He doesn’t have a lot of wiggle room. The ceiling for the Kim Muir is 145. I’m fairly confident he will qualify. The race may not be open to amateurs this time around. That’s probably not ideal as this horse’s big field experience would be useful in that scenario. It’s going to be an asset either way. He’s an improving chaser with further scope stepping up in trip.
He looks a fair price all the same.
Cheltenham Festival 2021
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