Brendan Duke: Let’s chisel out some winners for the Dublin Racing Festival

It's the biggest weekend in the Irish racing jumps calendar and Brendan Duke has been sifting through the form book for some winter warmers ...

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I’m the bringer of good news and bad news. Bad news is that temperatures will fall to -2 on Friday night. The good news is that the first day of the Dublin Racing Festival (DRF) will probably go ahead.

Perhaps it’s the proximity to the coast, maybe the sheltered location, could it even be the exorbitant property prices? Whatever the reason, Leopardstown seems to get a good class of weather. More bad news is that the planned 48-hour decs have been shelved. The good news is that running plans are reasonably well established. I should be able to give a solid guesstimate on the likely price of selections.

It rained all night, and there looks to be plenty more up there. My hunch is the ground will be yielding, perhaps even soft. Hopefully we can chisel out a couple of winners to make the DRF profitable.

*Note: there has been a change to Saturday’s running order at Leopardstown

Saturday’s highlight is the Irish Champion Hurdle. Apples Jade should win. The strong pace she will ensure, will aid the cause of Supasundae. She seems to have his measure though. Melon continues to live up to his name. As Jerry Seinfeld says, “fruit’s a gamble, I know that going in”.

Even if the equine Melon is on a going day, he will still struggle to run down AJ. The rest aren’t good enough. Hopefully she sluices up, and gives connections a Cheltenham dilemma.

Min and Footpad dominate the Dublin Chase betting. I’m expecting both to show up. The ratings suggest there isn’t much between them. It’s hard to shake the impression that Footpad is overrated though. Last year’s crop of two-mile novices were pretty ordinary. He couldn’t have jumped better over course and distance at Christmas. Simply Ned still managed to run him down.

Saint Calvados looks the pace angle. I’m not sure his jumping is good enough. Min is a worthy favourite, and hard to oppose. I will be having a few quid on Simply Ned in the betting w/o market.

It doesn’t make much sense, but at 12 he seems better than ever.

There was no shame in a narrow defeat to Sceau Royal in November. The winner is very talented, and Ned was conceding weight. He should have the race run to suit on Saturday, and I’m fairly confident he can confirm the Christmas form when running down Footpad.

Footpad-Leop-Xmas

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The meeting starts with a hot novice hurdle at12.50pm. The exciting Battleoverdoyen heads the betting. Salsaretta is respected with her mare’s allowance, and Dunvegan is considered a live Cheltenham prospect.

I will be backing Derrinross to see them all off. He probably brings the strongest form to the party. Recent rain will have aided his cause. The trip is arguably on the sharp side. That could be misleading though. He seems the type to just keep finding for pressure. He will likely make this a good test from the front. Discretion maybe the better part of valour until Friday’s declarations are known, but he’s 11/2 now.

Wonder Laish is probably a bit short in the 2m handicap hurdle at 3.45pm. An 8lb rise for his Fairyhouse win looks stiff. Connoisseurs of jumping technique will be salivating over him. It’s hard to believe there is a more efficient hurdler in training.

Whether he can run fast enough in between them is another matter.

Kemboy-Xmas-18

We’ll move onto Sunday. The Irish Gold Cup at 3.35pm looks an open affair. Hopefully Kemboy shows up. I’m sceptical about the merits of his Savills Chase win.

It’s hard to believe Gigginstown will allow Sunday’s race to develop into a crawl again.

Road to Respect was severely compromised by the pedestrian gallop over Christmas. He’s probably the one to beat. I’m going to chance a few quid e/w on Outlander. He should be around 25/1. He finished 5th in the Savills Chase where he set the pace, but went far to slow for his own good though.

Having fallen away before the home turn, he rallied up the straight. Expect a more attacking ride this time.

He loves Leopardstown, and can outrun his odds.

Horse-Racing-generic-(R)

Speaker Connolly looks worthy of support in the Leopardstown Chase. He should be around 7/1.

His owner Barry Connell loves Leopardstown more than Outlander. The Speaker delivered over course and distance at Christmas. This is a better race, and he’s up 11lb in the weights.

He’s totally unexposed though and bolted up the last day.

The runner up Poker Party gave the form a good boost when winning in Naas last weekend.

The Speaker made a few novicey mistakes the last time. That was understandable, given his inexperience. I expect an improved performance on Sunday. If that transpires, he will take plenty of beating.

*Prices correct at time of posting

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What do you think?