Horse Racing tips: Our early 4 to follow at the Dublin Racing Festival

PPTV's Rob Catterson puts up a few ante post picks for the Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown.

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*Odds quoted on the widget are Future Racing / Antepost prices which means that if your selection does not run in the race for whatever reason – you will lose your stake under traditional Antepost rules

The Dublin Racing Festival has been a huge addition to the Irish racing calendar and some of Ireland’s best National Hunt horses will compete in the eight Grade 1 races over the two day extravaganza on February 6 & 7, with over €1.8 million in prize money up for grabs.

However, since 2018, only six horses have won at the Dublin Racing Festival and gone on to victory at Cheltenham a month later, which is surprising as the gap between both seems perfect. Only one of the Grade 1 winners last year, Honeysuckle, went on to follow up at Cheltenham and just three of the big race winners – Latest Exhibition, Appreciate It and Faugheenmanaged to be placed at the Gloucestershire track a month later. That number may has risen as another Grade 1 winner, Chacun Pour Soi, was a late withdrawal on Champion Chase day.

So it’s not a given that whoever wins at Leopardstown will deliver at the Cheltenham Festival, but these are huge races themselves and Paddy has priced up the eight Grade 1 races at the Dublin Racing Festival.

Here’s 4 who may just boost their Cheltenham chances.

Dublin-Racing-Festival-Preview

13:05 Saturday: Nathaniel Lacy & Partners Solicitors Novice Hurdle – Holymacapony

The first Grade 1 of the weekend has a poor record in producing Cheltenham Festival winners since it changed to a 2m 6f contest. Although in saying that, both Latest Exhibition and Fury Road contested last year’s renewal and they both ran with huge credit in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle.

This year’s contest could attract another classy line-up. The Willie Mullins pair of Gaillard Du Mesnil and Stattler currently dominate the betting after their Christmas wins and the Closutton handler knows what it takes to win this race, having won it six times on the trot between 2012 & 2017.

However, there’s every chance that he’ll want to split up his high-class pair and with Monkfish having won the WT O’Grady Memorial Novice Hurdle at Thurles en route to winning last year’s Albert Bartlett, there must be every chance that Stattler goes there on Sunday instead. Farouk D’alene was a gutsy winner of the renowned Albert Bartlett trial at Limerick’s Christmas meeting, but had a hard race and even if he does line up, that run may have left it’s mark on him.

The interesting one is HOLYMACAPONY, who bombed out when hot favourite for an eagerly contested Grade 2 at Navan prior to Christmas. Prior to that, he comfortably beat Gaillard Du Mesnil at Punchestown in November – a performance that launched him to the top of the Albert Bartlett betting at the time.

Henry De Bromhead could offer no excuse for his Navan flop and the fact that he’s already a confirmed runner here suggests that might be a one-off. There’s no doubting that he offers excellent value and given that Paddy Power is non runner money back on all Cheltenham races, backing him for the Albert Bartlett mightn’t be a bad idea either.

14:10 Saturday: Irish Arkle Novice Chase – Unexcepted

Of all the main novice races at the Cheltenham Festival, it’s the Arkle Trophy in which Willie Mullins holds his best recent record in. Having trained four of the last six winners – along with two runners-up – it’s a department in which he’s better than any other trainer. So, ahead of the Irish Arkle Novice Chase at the Dublin Racing Festival, it’s no surprise that he dominates the market.

Following his stylish win at Naas at the start of the month, Energumene heads the betting at the time of writing and should he remain unbeaten over fences, there’s no doubt that connections will be fancying a crack at Shiskin on the second Tuesday of March. Mullins has taken this race en route to Cheltenham with three of his four Arkle winners, suggests that Energumene is likely to line up.

To date, Energumene hasn’t had much to worry about over fences but should his stable companion UNEXCEPTED take him on at Leopardstown, then he’s likely to have a proper race on his plate. The JP McManus-owned seven-year-old was hugely impressive on his chasing debut at Tipperary in October, when he had the measure of Captain Guinness a long way from home. He hasn’t run since, but no horse since Well Chief has won the Arkle with just one run over fences and this race would fit in perfectly in terms of Cheltenham.

In a race where very few horses are likely to run, Unexcepted could win the battle for the early lead (if his Tipperary triumph is anything to go by) and he’s well capable of lowering the colours of his stable companion before an assault on the Arkle Trophy at Cheltenham in March.

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Sunday 14:30: Tattersalls Ireland Spring Juvenile Hurdle – Quilixios

Given that Irish horses are dominating the Triumph Hurdle betting, this Grade 1 showpiece is likely to have a huge amount of bearing on the betting for the Cheltenham feature – should all the principles take their chance of course. Last year’s renewal had very little bearing on what happened at Prestbury Park, but should the big two in the market line up here, then punters are in for something special.

Zanahiyr has been a revelation this season and his performance in the juvenile hurdle on Hatton’s Grace Hurdle day was exceptional in every way possible. He then followed up in a similar contest at Leopardstown’s Christmas meeting and while that race wasn’t run to suit, he showed plenty of class to win. That was his third run of the campaign and similar to what Gordon Elliott did with Farclas before he won the 2018 Triumph Hurdle, you won’t see him over-raced ahead of the big day.

That would leave French Aseel as the one to beat, but judging by Willie Mullins’ comments at the weekend, he isn’t a certain runner ether. He blew away his opposition when winning on his hurdling debut at Christmas and has left Ellmarie Holden’s yard for the Irish champion trainer’s stable. It would be odd for him to go to Cheltenham with only one run – but Mullins did it with Burning Victory last season, so watch this space.

Should Zanahiyr not run, then it’s highly likely that QUILIXIOS will head Gordon Elliott’s challenge and the son of Maxios has been foot perfect in his two starts over timber so far. He hasn’t been seen since bolting up at Down Royal in late October, so he’s likely to have been aimed at this race for some time and there’s likely to be more improvement to come. Remember, it wasn’t that long ago that he was clear favourite for the Triumph Hurdle and victory here could send him to Cheltenham with a major chance.

Delta Work wins Paddy Power Irish Gold Cup

Sunday 15:40: Paddy Power Irish Gold Cup – Delta Work

From Beef Or Salmon’s third win in 2007 to Bellshill’s match success over Road To Respect in 2019, the Paddy Power Irish Gold Cup has never disappointed and there’s every chance that we’re in for another cracking contest. With the Christmas king A Plus Tard already confirmed as an absentee, there will be plenty of competition to taste major Grade 1 success here and there’s also every chance that most of the runners from this season’s Savills Chase at Christmas will lock horns again.

Likely favourite on the day for this ultimate prize is Minella Indo, but backing a horse on the back of a fall in such a competitive contest takes plenty of courage. And there are two further reasons why Henry De Bromhead’s charge is vulnerable in a race like this. Firstly, he’s yet to win a Grade 1 race over fences and he’ll be taking on plenty of horses which will have won at the top level over the bigger obstacles. Also, he’s only had four completed starts over fences and that inexperience might have contributed to his fall at Christmas. For many, he still has to prove that he’s up to this standard.

Only a length-and-a-half separated Kemboy and Melon in the Savills Chase and given that they’re likely to try and dictate again, it’s hard to separate them. Perhaps the fact that Melon is open to more improvement over fences might give him the edge to turn the tables on his stable companion.

In searching for the winner however, the answer to that puzzle might be DELTA WORK. There was plenty of confidence behind him before he unseated Sean Flanagan in the Savills Chase and prior to that, he’d won all of his previous three starts over course and distance – all at Grade 1 level too.

Despite not hitting the massive heights that some might have expected, there’s every reason to suggest that he’s still as good as ever and it’s at this time of the year when he’s at his best. Five horses have won back-to-back running’s of this race and there’s every chance that Delta Work can join that list of historic Irish Gold Cup champions.

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