A perfect storm is brewing over Leopardstown this weekend. The track has been watered in the run up to this meeting. Willie Mullins has one eye on a charging Gordon Elliot in the Irish trainers title race. With no ground concerns, he has decided to empty the clip in chasing the Dublin Racing Festival cash.
Irish racing is richly endowed with two mile chasers at the moment. We’ve realistic aspirations of pulling off the Arkle/Queen Mother double in Cheltenham. All those aspirants show up on Saturday. The two races they contest should provide races to savour. Honeysuckle, Faugheen and Kemboy are just a sample of the stars who will strut their stuff on a stellar weekend for Irish racing.
However, a man cannot live by top-class racing alone so let’s try to back a couple of winners.
Notebook did me a good turn over Christmas. He’s favourite to follow up in the Irish Arkle at 14.00 on Saturday. He renews rivalry with Fakir D’oudairies. Melon, Bapaume and Cash Back are other worthy adversaries for Notebook.
Henry De Bromhead’s charge is currently the 7/4 favourite. That looks a perfectly fair price to me. My hunch is he will go off bigger though. This race has serious depth, there is a theory that Fakir was unlucky the last day, and plenty of people have a nagging concern about Notebook’s relatively lowly hurdle’s rating.
The Book has come to himself physically and found his true calling over fences. That explains the rapid improvement. To my eye he put the race in Leopardstown to bed between the last two fences and was comfortably on top at the line. I expect further improvement on Saturday. That should be enough to cope with the Mullins trio. He rates the nap of the meeting.
If, as I expect, he drifts to a bigger price we have the safety net of guaranteed prices.
Cobbler’s Way runs in the 2m 6f Novice Hurdle opener at 12.50. He reminds me a bit of Notebook. Same owner/trainer combo and another very impressive physical specimen. He was arguably a fortunate winner at this track over Christmas.
The Big Getaway made a hash of the last. Cobbler’s was fighting back tenaciously though and may have got back up. It’s decent form anyway. The Big Getaway is highly regarded and has bolted up since. It’s not form that compares with the market principals here of course.
We’re getting a double-figure price in an eight runner race though. I can see Cobbler’s improving plenty for the step up in trip. It may not be enough, but he looks a sporting each-way play.
Paddy throws an extra place bone our way in the Matheson Handicap Chase at 14.35 where he’s paying 5 places.
It doesn’t look all that strong a race given the prize money. Perhaps Charlie Stout can follow up his recent Fairyhouse win. It’s hard to see where this fairly exposed horse has found the improvement from. It’s hard to deny all the same. He was unlucky at this track over Christmas and then won a competitive handicap from out of the weights. Granted, it probably wasn’t a vintage Dan Moore he won but this race doesn’t look much deeper. That win means he’s effectively up 5lbs here.
That seems fair given the front two pulled 17 lengths clear of the third. Charlie’s slick jumping was a notable aspect of that Fairyhouse win. If he gets into a similar rhythm on Saturday, a top five finish should be within his compass. 8/1 looks a fair price about him winning.
On to Sunday. More high class, competitive fare. On a tricky card the best bet probably comes in the 2m 2f handicap hurdle at 12.55. Gavin Cromwell’s Jeremys Flame has finished second on her last three starts. She has run into some smart sorts though. Her second at Newbury on penultimate outing suffered a bit of a blow last weekend when the winner was a beaten favourite.
Mind you, the third and fourth in Newbury have subsequently given the form a solid look. She was the only horse to offer any resistance to the hugely promising Fiddlerontheroof last time out. She drops in class to a handicap on Sunday.
Her mark of 136 looks exploitable. The big field should help too. She can be keen in her races. Jonathan Moore should be able to bury her in the pack. That should aid with harnessing her energies. Hopefully she will see out the trip. 7/1 each way with the extra place is an appealing price.
We get six places in the 3m staying handicap hurdle at 14.30. It would be rude not to try an each way tickle. Jessica Harrington’s Silver Sheen appeals. He put in a remarkable shift to complete a hat trick in Warwick last time out.
That day headstrong tendencies saw the horse take up the running after four hurdles. The energy he had wasted early looked to have taken a toll as they turned for home. The horse showed great tenacity, and no little ability, to rally and get up on the line.
The big field on Sunday should help with getting Silver Sheen to relax. As a six-year-old off the back of just seven runs under rules this horse has obvious potential to stay ahead of the handicapper.
At shorter prices, I thought Kemboy would be very hard to beat in the Paddy Power Irish Gold Cup at 15.30 while Bigbadandbeautiful in the graded bumper at 16.35 would prove similar.
The odds are a bit skinny for my taste. Perhaps they might prove useful for the purposes of multis.