Dublin Racing Festival: 5 races that will provide Cheltenham Festival clues

We'll be hunting for pointers at Leopardstown this weekend.

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Ireland destroyed the home team at the Cheltenham Festival last year and it looks likely to happen again at next month’s meeting if Paddy’s antepost betting markets are anything to go by.

A whole host of clues for the 28 races comprising the four-day fiesta have been dropped throughout the season but time is running out for contenders to lay down a marker ahead of the March madness.

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Some of the last remaining pieces are set to fall into place this weekend as the brightest and best of the Irish National Hunt scene descend on Leopardstown for the Dublin Racing Festival.

We’ve taken a look at five renewals that should provide some helpful punting pointers for Cheltenham 2022.

Spring Juvenile Hurdle

Date: Saturday, February 5 Time: 13:35

The Triumph Hurdle is shaping up to be a three-way battle between Gordon Elliott pair Pied Piper and Fil Dor, and Willie Mullins’ Vauban. Pied Piper beat Vauban by ½l in a 3-Y-O Maiden Hurdle at Punchestown on New Year’s Eve so we’ll be able to tie the trio’s form together when the latter faces Grade 2 winner Fil Dor over two miles at Leopardstown.

Icare Allen, Ben Siegel, Vadaly and The Tide Turns are available at bigger prices for the Triumph and their performance on Saturday could provide some decent clues for those considering an each-way flutter.

Irish Arkle Chase

Date: Saturday, February 5 Time: 14:10

All the signs were pointing to 2020 Champion Bumper winner Ferny Hollow scoring for a second time at the Cheltenham Festival in the Arkle Chase but injury to Willie Mullins’ emerging star has blown the race wide open.

The new market principals are set to feature in the Irish equivalent including Mullins trio Blue Lord, Haut En Couleurs and Saint Sam plus Gordon Elliott’s Riviere D’etel. A dominant performance by one of the four would shake up the antepost betting and indicate which is the best of the Irish contingent ahead of facing Britain’s leading challengers, Edwardstone and Third Time Lucki. It’s also worth noting that Mullins’ stable jockey has plumped for Blue Lord.

Future Stars I.N.H. Flat Race

Date: Saturday, February 5 Time: 16:25

Champion Bumper joint-favourite Facile Vega will face a stiff test of his credentials up against Gordon Elliott’s Itswhatunitesus and Peter Fahey’s The Big Doyen, who are both in the top 10 of our antepost book for the Cheltenham contest.

Willie Mullins boasts a strong hand for the Bumper with Mercurey, Redemption Day and Pink In The Park also among his possibles so a strong performance on Saturday from the wonderfully bred Facile Vega – by Walk In The Park out of Quevega – would surely book his place at next month’s fiesta and make him the one to beat.

Facile Vega wins at Leopardstown

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Ladbrokes Novice Chase

Date: Sunday, February 6 Time: 13:20

Galopin Des Champs delivered one of the best performances of the season when scoring by 22l on debut over fences at Leopardstown in December. It’s still not clear whether he’ll go for the Turners or Brown Advisory at Cheltenham but we’ll get a better assessment of his ability as he faces a whole host of quality performers on his second chase start.

Fury Road claimed Grade 1 honours on his last start, Master McShee won the Faugheen Novice Chase in December, Capodanno only went down by 4¾l to Bob Olinger in last month’s Kildare Novice Chase, while Beacon Edge scored in the Drinmore Novice Chase in November. If Galopin Des Champs adds another 1 to his form figures then the hype is real.

Tattersalls Ireland Novice Hurdle

Date: Sunday, February 6 Time: 15:35

The Supreme Novices’ Hurdle is shaping up to be one of the hottest races of the Cheltenham Festival with the likes of Constitution Hill, Jonbon and Dysart Dynamo in the mix. Sir Gerhard is a shade behind the trio in our antepost betting amid the possibility of being rerouted to the Ballymore.

Last season’s Champion Bumper winner made a successful start to life over flights in December but this represents a significant step up – and we’ll be able to tie some form together. Colonel Mustard went down by 2¾l to Jonbon at Ascot in December, while Three Stripe Life suffered a narrow 1½l defeat to Mighty Potter in the Paddy Power Future Champions Novice Hurdle. A win should see Sir Gerhard heading to the Supreme but failing to score would further cloud the Cheltenham picture.

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