The inaugural Dublin Racing Festival takes place at Leopardstown this weekend with 7 Grade 1s in total, and here is my preview for the main races on Day 1 at Leopardstown! Be sure to follow me on twitter @JakePriceTips for tips from Musselburgh, Sandown and Wetherby alongside updates throughout the day.
13:10 Grade 1 Novice Hurdle – 2m6f
We start as we mean to go on at Leopardstown with the Grade 1 2m6f Novice Hurdle. Dortmund Park has claims but had a hard race 13 days ago. Carter McKay is drastically up in trip, so Fabulous Saga looks a good bet in ideal conditions.
Fabulous Saga should put in yet another bold showing using his front-running tactics. The dour Willie Mullins stayer won a Grade 3 event at Cork by 70l before winning a Grade 2 at Limerick on the 29th December. Paul Townend takes the ride (choosing over Carter McKay) and although faces a slightly shorter 2m6f here, has won over timber at 2m4f before. Another positive to take from his Grade 2 win last time was that he picked up when headed by Delta Work, which shows how game this horse really is. Fabulous Saga is top weight today but having had a nice break and progressing up the Grades, his ability to stay out the trip strongly will put him right into contention. Dortmund Park faces a quick turnaround from a hard slog at Thurles, and the 2lb he gets from out selection shouldn’t be enough to see him back in the winners enclosure. Carter McKay is of interest, however is second string on jockey bookings and hasn’t been over a trip this far since his point-to-point days. The rest have a lot to prove in the company, but Moyross has won over further and could be a decent each/way bet at a big price.
Back Fabulous Saga to win @ 7/2
13:45 Grade 2 Dublin Chase – 2m1f
The Grade 2 Dublin Chase is the second race of the day at Leopardstown, and it looks a thriller. Yorkhill returns to 2m and will be taken on by stablemate Min, Simply Ned & Special Tiara. I’m expecting a much improved Min to show up here.
Min finished first past the post over this course and distance in December, but was rightfully demoted to second after interference with Simply Ned. The pair re-oppose here, but I am expecting a much better performance from the Rich Ricci charge who possibly fell victim to a poor Willie Mullins spell of form over Christmas. This Grade 1 winner will be suited by a much stronger pace in this race, which Yorkhill and Special Tiara will ensure is set. Stablemate Yorkhill is the choice of Paul Townend, and is being stepped back down to 2m1f after disappointing over 3m at Christmas. Improvement will inevitably come from it, but it is a tough ask first time back over this trip. Champion Chaser Special Tiara will ensure a good pace is set, and this will be a cracking renewal of the Dublin Chase.
Back Min to win @ 9/4
14:20 Grade 1 Irish Arkle Novice Chase – 2m1f
The third race of the day is one I have been waiting for – it’s the Grade 1 Irish Arkle and it’s Footpad vs Petit Mouchoir! These heavyweight Novices’ take each other on for the first time, and I will be cheering on the Gigginstown horse.
I must start off by saying Footpad has been incredible so far – the way he jumps is fantastic and he is the deserving favourite on what has been achieved so far to date. Having said this, Petit Mouchoir has always had his measure over hurdles and his Chase debut at Punchestown didn’t suggest this couldn’t be the case over fences. The dashing grey has been out with a ‘minor’ issue since his debut in October – which is the obviously concern – however this break in what has been a wet winter so far might have done him some good in the long run – especially when we get to the spring festivals. Davy Russell rides the Champion Hurdle 3rd and Henry de Bromhead should have him in good shape for this long term target. It’s only his second start over the larger obstacles so it’s obviously a big step up im class, but that is factored into his price. Demi Sang, Tycoon Prince and Any Second Now will ensure the race is no walkover, and it promises to be a fascinating renewal.
Back Petit Mouchoir to win @ 11/4
15:30 Grade 1 Irish Champion Hudle – 2m
The feature race of the day (if that’s even possible!) is the Grade 1 Irish Champion Hurdle. Faugheen faces a return to action after pulling up over course and distance in December, and will face strong opposition in Defi Du Seuil & Melon.
The enquiry into what happened to Faugheen has so far failed to bare any fruit, but there is no doubt if the real machine shows up then this should be his for the taking. One of Willie Mullins stable stars Faugheen made the perfect return when scoring at Punchestown after 665 days off the track, but was another to flop during a tough period for the Champion Trainer. If all is back in working order here then he should win, however there are some very good opponents lining up. Melon ran a belter despite pulling hard in the Grade 2 International Hurdle at Cheltenham in December, finishing 3rd to My Tent Or Yours. He will definitely be a danger if the selection isn’t 100%. Defi Du Seuil is a fascinating runner after blowing up on his seasonal reappearance at Ascot over a trip too far. Back to 2 miles today will be right up his street, and Philip Hobbs’ Triumph Hurdle winner is reunited with Richard Johnson for this race. With all three of these wanting to state their case for the main event at Cheltenham next month, this promises to be a scintillating renewal. Elsewhere, Supasundae and Bapaume look to be running at the wrong trip, and both look to have better chances at winning the 3m Stayers Hurdle next month.
Back Faugheen to win @ 6/5
– Jake Price
13:10 – Fabulous Saga @ 7/2
13:45 – Min @ 9/4
14:20 – Petit Mouchoir @ 11/4
15:30 – Faugheen @ 6/5