What a couple of days in store at the Dublin Racing Festival. They’re massive contests in their own right but we’ll all be a lot wiser about the pecking order of the Irish horses for the Cheltenham Festival after this weekend.
We kick off with a Grade 1 novice hurdle on Saturday (12.40pm). Commander of Fleet has been screaming out for a step up in trip and was not disgraced in a slowly run affair at Fairyhouse behind Quick Grabim before Christmas.
Lat year’s Champion bumper winner Relegate is better than she has been showing and Ruby Walsh has not lost faith in her. She could improve in this better race.
The running order was changed late last week so the feature race on the card, the Irish Champion Hurdle 1.25pm is now the second race, and Apple’s Jade will be all the rage after some very impressive wins this season.
The worry though is the two-mile trip.
When she last ran over it, she was beaten in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle by Irving, in November 2016. Her tendency to jump a little to the right will come under the microscope too.
Melon ran a little ‘flat’ last time on his seasonal bow, but was second in the Cheltenham Champion Hurdle last year. Maybe he just comes alive then?
I am going to go for some value with Supasundae who won this contest last year for the Jessica Harrington team. He’s tough and versatile and always runs his race. He’ll expose any chinks in the favourite’s armour.
I think the floodgates will open for the Willie Mullins team this weekend as the stable’s form has really picked up in the last few weeks.
The 2m hurdle is very competitive (2pm) but Uradel could take this with Ruby Walsh in the saddle. One at a bigger price is Tudour City who will be having some of my cash each-way as he loves these big handicaps. He carries a slight health warning as he has to pounce late, but is a threat on his day.
The bumper has been promoted on the card (2.35pm) and the result should have an impact on the market for the Festival. Gordon Elliott’s Envoi Allen was very impressive in all his three starts and sets a good standard. I am going to take a punt against him at odds-on with Josph O’Brien’s Embittered.
He was really impressive at Punchestown and if there’s a muddling pace, he could benefit as he has lots of speed, if it turns into a sprint for home.
Mullins’ Min will be odds-on in the Grade 1 Chase (3.10pm) as Footpad wasn’t declared. He bolted up last year and will take some pegging back based on his Punchestown run over 2m 4f on his seasonal debut. Nicky Richards’ Simply Ned is the one for the forecast as he just loves this track and beat Footpad here at Christmas.
The Frank Ward Arkle Chase (3.45pm) will be a speedily-run affair. Gary Moore’s Knocknanuss and Willie Mullins’ Voix Du Reve don’t hang about and that could set the race up for Le Richebourg and Mengzi Khan.
I was really impressed with Le Richebourg’s jumping at Christmas and that just swings the vote in his favour. I have a soft spot for Mengli Khan who is very talented but disappointing last time. He could be at least placed, at a decent price.
In the finale at 4.20pm, I’m going with De Plotting Shed at a big price each-way. He’s so frustrating, has yet to win a Chase – but is talented. Ted Walsh’s Kildorrery looks the one to the one to beat with Ruby booked.