Horse Racing tips: Frank Hickey’s fab fancies for Saturday’s action at the Dublin Racing Festival

Frank is siding with Janidil in the Paddy Power Irish Gold Cup (15:15).

Frank Hickey Byline image


* All prices are bang up to date with our snazzy widgets, while odds in copy are accurate at time of publishing but subject to change.

13:05 – Eric Bloodaxe

Hollow Games looks sure to improve for stepping up another 2f and will appreciate if this is run at a strong gallop. His only defeat was last time in the Grade 1 Lawlor’s of Naas when third behind Ginto and Grand Jury. Grand Jury was probably a little fortunate to finish in front of Hollow Games in that Naas race and with Henry’s not on fire, I’d take Hollow Games to reverse here.

Whatdeawant was behind the both of then in Naas and has a little to prove for me now. Bronn and Minella Cocooner also represent Willie Mullins but both are unexposed and will need to improve (which is entirely possible). Since the trip for this race was moved from 2m4f to 2m6f, Joseph O’ Brien has had three runners in the race, having the winner in 2018 with Tower Bridge and his Rhinestone was a close second the following year.

He has Eric Bloodaxe here who beat Ferny Hollow in a bumper at Fairyhouse on his debut. He is 2-3 over hurdles, with his defeat being a Grade 2 at Navan when well beaten by Ginto. On his hurdles debut at Naas he won easily, beating subsequent winners like Supreme Jet, Hiaou and My Design. He easily won the Grade 2 at Limerick at Christmas over 2m7f. It was probably a weak renewal and he will need to improve but we know he stays and he has a bit of class. He also has a first time tongue tie.


13:35 – Betting Without Fil D’or and Vauban – Ben Siegel

I have no doubt that Fil D’or sets the standard and the fact that the ground has a bit of juice in it is a positive for him. It is significant that Gordon thinks that he is better than Pied Piper after what Pied Piper did at Cheltenham last week. He is 3-3 over hurdles for Gordon, easily winning the Knight Frank Grade 2 here at Christmas. Vauban has been all the rage for the Triumph both before his debut run at Punchestown when half a length behind Pied Piper and since that horse won at Cheltenham.

People believe he would have won on his debut had he jumped the last cleanly and he was a Listed winner on the flat in France. That is too simplistic a view, as Pied Piper wasn’t fully would up that day in Punchestown and improved hugely for the experience and we don’t know if Vauban will take a similar jump forward here. He probably needs to. Willie runs Icare Allen (a good winner of a maiden hurdle here at Christmas), Vadaly (who won on debut in Dieppe in France last August and has the mares allowance) and Il Etait Temps, who was beaten in two bumpers in France last year. Gordon also runs The Tide Turns, who is rated 77 on the flat on won well on his hurdles debut at Punchestown last month. A line through HMS Seahorse would suggest he has a bit to find with Vauban here. It is very difficult to pick between Fil D’or and Vauban but at the prices you probably would side with Fil D’or who has less to prove. For a bet I will recommend the Betting Without Fil D’or and Vauban market.

Ben Siegel improved in handicaps on the flat last year, starting off in handicaps off 55 and ending up rated 78. He was impressive enough in the manner of his win at Punchestown in November when he won by 4.5l with the likes of Prairie Dancer, Doctor Brown Bear (ties in with Icare Allen and Fil D’or), Doctor Churchill, Gentleman Joe and Brazil behind. That maiden hurdle has been won by the likes of Aspire Tower, Landofhopeandglory and Analifet in the past. Connections (Noel Meade and the owners) had Jeff Kidder last season, who won the Fred Winter and the Grade 1 at Punchestown. I’m not saying he will win but I liked his attitude at Punchestown and he might be worth siding with in the market without the top two, with the price looking fair enough.

14:10 – Haut En Couleurs

Haut En Couleurs made his debut for Willie in the Triumph off a near six month absence and ran a cracker, arguably travelling best of all to be third beaten under 4l. That was a decent renewal of the Triumph. Second Adagio was an excellent second in the Greatwood off a mark of 147. Zanahiry won a Grade 2 in Down Royal and was only beaten a neck in the Grade 1 Matheson hurdle at Christmas. Fifth Tritonic won a valuable handicap hurdle at Ascot off a mark of 141.

He was 1/3 when making a winning chase debut here at Christmas, winning easily from Gentleman De Mee (135 over hurdles) and Mount Leinster (rated 135 over fences). He jumped a bit out to his left, which he can improve on but it was alarming. He should improve plenty for that. Willie has Blue Lord who Paul Townend rides and Saint Sam here also and both are unbeaten over fences.

Blue Lord won a Fairyhouse and at Naas when plenty of the fences were omitted. Saint Sam won well at Fairyhouse beating Thedevilscoachman by 9l. I do think Saint Sam shapes like he could be more effective when he steps up in trip. Riviere D’etel is 3-4 over fences with the only defeat being a 3.5l second to Ferny Hollow here in the Grade 1 at Christmas. She gets a 7lbs allowance here. Whoever wins this is likely to be Arkle favourite.

14:45 – Unexpected Depth & Enjoy D’allen (each way)

This looks a really competitive renewal of the race and so it should be with €59,000 going to the winner. The likes of Panda Boy, Dunboyne, Good Time Johnny, Wahtsnotoknow, Future Regem, Priory Park and Rightplacerightime all will have their supporters and you can make a case for all of them. However, I am taking two against the field. Unexpected Depth carries joint top weight here but he was second in this last year off just a pound lower (141) and wears first time cheekpieces here. He was also third in the Pertemps Qualifier at Leopardstown last season off a mark of 138.

He was behind a number of these here at Christmas but that was his reappearance and he wasn’t disgraced in 9th, particularly when you consider he was held up out the back and he went the whole way round and covered a huge amount of ground. He should improve for the run and with a better run, he would have hit the frame alright. Enjoy D’allen is at the bottom of the weights off a mark off 116, which actually leaves him a pound out of the handicap. That doesn’t tell the whole story but he has improved massively for the switch to Ciaran Murphy, going from a mark of 119 over fences to placing in the Paddy Power at Christmas off a mark of 145 and now being rated 148.

That leaves him a massive 32lbs lower here and while it isn’t as straight forward as saying he has 32lbs in hand, as he is clearly a better chaser, he actually hasn’t had the opportunity to show if he has improved over hurdles. His only run for the yard over hurdles was when 7th of 19 at Fairyhouse in November but that was over an inadequate trip of two and a half miles and as it was his reappearance, I have no doubt it was a prep run with the Paddy Power in mind. If he can run to within a stone of his chase form here, he is bound to go close and there was a significant market move for him on Thursday evening.



15:15 – Janidil

Asterion Forlonge is by far the most interesting here, as he bolted up in a Punchestown handicap at the festival last season off a mark of 152, winning by 14l and then looking like he was going best of all when he unseated three out in the John Durkan. I felt he was going to win nicely that day. In the King George, he again was running a huge race when he fell at the last when looking booked for second. He did win over hurdles here as a novice but there is that question mark about going left handed and his propensity to make a mess of a fence.

Delta Work has looked a shadow of his former self for a while now. Kemboy is solid and Paul Townend picks him but he is 10 years old now and isn’t improving. We know where we stand with him and he will face competition for the lead from Frodon. Minella Indo is on a retrieval mission after two disappointing runs in Down Royal and in the King George. It’s interesting that Robbie Power rides considering he has only had three rides since returning from injury. It appeared that Janidil didn’t stay in the Savills Chase at Christmas but I am going to give him one more chance here, as from a pure ability perspective, he is not as far behind the likes of Asterion Forlonge as the betting would suggest.

He was only 2l behind Allaho in the John Durkan, easily beat Franco De Port, Asterion Forlonge and Conflated in the Grade 1 Novice Chase at Fairyhouse at Easter. His only starts at 3m were a fifth in Monkfish’s Albert Bartlett when he was held up off the pace to get the trip and he was then 7.5l fifth in the Savills Chase at Christmas. Maybe he won’t get the trip but I think the price compensates for that unknown and he looks worth chancing for me.

15:50 – Stansfield

This is not a very deep race considering there is €59,000 to the winner. The British trainers missed a trick here as the 2m handicap chasers wouldn’t be the strongest bunch in Ireland at this stage of the season and the ones that will be players in the Grand Annual will likely be novices who haven’t had many runs in handicaps to show their hand. Mount Leinster makes his handicap debut off 135 and he could be very well treated but he is only 1-8 over jumps and is short enough considering.

A Wave Of The Sea won this race last year but is 9lb higher now and has been running over 3m this season. It is a big ask now dropping sharply in trip. Stansfield is probably not good enough to win a race of this grade, even allowing for the fact that it looks a renewal lacking in depth. That said, he has run some fair races over fences when staying on his feet. He was going nicely at Naas (albeit most of the field were also) when he fell three out last time.

He ran well enough in a rated novice chase at Leopardstown last March when third and prior to that he had beaten Cavalry Master (rated 138 now) in Down Royal on heavy ground. Sam Ewing looks like making into a top class jockey and in the last few weeks he has had winners over jumps at 40/1 and 7/1 and places at 20/1, 15/2, 13/2, 40/1 and 50/1. He gets in here off 10st1lb and looks worth a fiver each-way at a huge price, particularly when Timeform have just 6lbs separating the top and bottom rated here.



16:25 – Sandor Clegane

Five of the seven come into this race unbeaten. Facile Vega is by Walk In The Park out of Quevega, so is certainly bred for the job and he was mightily impressive at Christmas when winning by 6l and the second has come out and won at Navan since. The Big Doyen is 2-2 and was impressive at Punchestown in November but he has to concede 3lbs to the field here which won’t help his cause. Itswhatunitesus steps in as American Mike’s replacement and he was very impressive when getting off the mark at Navan in early December.

The form as a whole probably isn’t strong but the second Killer Mode won a bumper on his next start and ran well in maiden hurdles since behind some nice types. Sandor Clegane attracted some support ahead of his debut at Punchestown in early December and won by 15l. The race probably wasn’t the strongest but the fourth has won a maiden hurdle since and 8th has placed on his next two bumper starts. Sandor Clegan clocked 3m55.1 while carrying 12st. The rated novice hurdle was won by Top Bandit (11st5lbs) in 4m8.7 (nine hurdles). I’ll have a small punt on Sandor Clegane.

Frank Hickey’s best bets:

13:05 – Eric Bloodaxe
13:35 – Betting Without Fil D’or and Vauban – Ben Siegel
14:10 – Haut En Couleurs
14:45 – Unexpected Depth & Enjoy D’allen (each way)
15:15 – Janidil
15:50 – Stansfield
16:25 – Sandor Clegane

*All prices are bang up to date with our snazzy widgets, while odds in copy are accurate at time of publishing but subject to change




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