The inaugural Dublin Racing Festival is the highlight of this week’s UK and Irish Racing, and thousands of National Hunt fans will be at Leopardstown on Saturday 3rd and Sunday 4th February for a two-day meeting in which 7 of the 15 races are Grade 1’s.
However, there’s also some decent racing in the UK, especially at Sandown which stages the Grade 1 Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase and the Contenders Hurdle. Meanwhile, Wetherby stages also the Grade 2 Towton Novices’ Chase on Saturday, whilst Lingfield stages the Listed Class Winter Derby Trial.
There’s also Listed Class action over jumps at Musselburgh on Sunday with the Bet365 Scottish Triumph Hurdle Trial.
Dublin Racing Festival Day 1
1.10 The Grade 1 Nathaniel Lacy & Partners Solicitors Novice Hurdle
1.45 The Grade 2 Dublin Chase
2.20 The Grade 1 Frank Ward Solicitors Arkle Novice Chase
2.55 The Sandyford Handicap Steeplechase
3.30 The Grade 1 BHP Insurance Irish Champion Hurdle
4.05 The Coral Hurdle
4.40 The Goffs Future Stars I.N.H. Flat Race
Best Of The Dublin Festival Day 1 Action
The first day of the Dublin Racing Festival kicks-off with the Grade 1 Nathaniel Lacy & Partners Solicitors Novice Hurdle, and Fabulous Sage will be trying to give Willie Mullins a seventh consecutive win in the race, though Gordon Elliott’s Dortmund Park is the early favourite.
Willie Mullins looks likely to win the Dublin Chase though as pitches both Yorkhill and Min into battle. The booking of Paul Townend suggests Yorkhill is the stable’s number one, and Ruby Walsh has always suggested this horse is a superstar.
Mullins also has the favourite for the Frank Ward Solicitors Arkle Novice Chase in Footpad, and he’ll be hard to beat if jumping as well as he did in his first two chases. However, he might not have things all his own way as Petit Mouchoir beat him on all 3 occasions they met over hurdles.
The third and final Grade 1 on the opening day is the Irish Champion Hurdle and, after drifting like his participation may have been in doubt, Faugheen looks set to take his chance with Paul Townend aboard. Expect the wheelbarrows of money to arrive if Mullins thinks Faugheen is back to his best.
Dublin Racing Festival Day 2
12.40 The Irish EBF Paddy Mullins Mares Handicap Hurdle
1.15 The Grade 1 Tattersalls Ireland Spring Juvenile Hurdle
1.50 The Grade 1 Deloitte Novice Hurdle
2.25 The William Fry Handicap Hurdle
3.00 The Flogas Novice Steeplechase
3.35 The Grade 1 Unibet Irish Gold Cup
4.10 The Chanelle Pharma Chase
4.40 The Coolmore NH Sires EBF Mares INH Flat Race
Best Of The Dublin Racing Festival Day 2 Action
Race 2 of Day 2 of the Dublin Racing Festival looks like another Mullins vs Elliott battle, with both trainers double-handed in the 6-runner field. Espoir D’allen put his unbeaten record on the line in the Tattersalls Spring Juvenile Hurdle, and he may have most to fear from Farclas, who has been tipped-up for the Triumph Hurdle by a few knowledgeable pundits of late.
Elliott also looks set to saddle potential superstar Samcro in the Deloitte Novice Hurdle and, if he’s as good as the rumours suggest he is, expect him to win this on his way to the Cheltenham Festival. Mullins takes him on though with Sharjah and Reel Steel, who looked to settle battle it out at Leopardstown over Christmas until both fell at the last.
The Floglas Novice Chase should also be a cracker with Sutton Place, Monalee, Al Boum Photo, Invitation Only, and Snow Falcon all highly-regarded, and all of them are prominent in the betting for races at the Cheltenham Festival.
The Irish Gold Cup also looks a great renewal of the race, despite the absence of Sizing John and Road To Respect, who reportedly head straight to the Cheltenham Gold Cup. That means last year’s Irish Grand National winner Our Duke is currently favourite, but he’s unlikely to have things all his own way with The likes of Anibale Fly, Djakadam, Outlander and the unexposed Killultagh Vic in opposition.
Best Of The UK Horse Racing Weekend Action
Sandown (Saturday 3 February)
There’s also Grade 1 action at Sandown this weekend in the form of the Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase (2.25), though it’s also attracted a disappointingly small-field, though that’s unlikely to bother owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede who are bidding for a four-timer in the race having won the last three renewals with Top Notch, Bristol De Mai and Gitane Du Berlais.
Buveur D’air has sadly chickened-out of a potential clash with Faugheen in the Irish Champion Hurdle but should win connections an easy £17,000 when he runs in the Contenders Hurdle (1.50). He’s set to face just two rivals and will be long odds-on to win this before hopefully heading to defend his Champion Hurdle Crown at the Cheltenham Festival.
Wetherby (Saturday 3 February)
There’s also Grade 2 action at Wetherby with the Towton Novices’ Chase (2.40) a 6-runner field that is headed by Ballyoptic. He’s the highest-rated chaser and hurdler in the field, but he’ll need to jump better than he did in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day if he’s to beat the likes of Captain Chaos and Vintage Clouds.
Lingfield (Saturday 3 February)
The Winter Derby Trial is, as the name suggests, a trial for the Winter Derby and it would be no surprise to see Victory Bond take this on his way to lining up in the Winter Derby. He was super impressive at Wolverhampton last time, but he has a few similarly rated rivals to contend with here in the shape of Elbereth, Red Label, Petite Jack, and Utmost.
Musselburgh (Sunday 4 February)
There’s also the Bet365 Scottish Triumph Hurdle Trial (1.25) to look forward to on Sunday, and Nicky Henderson’s exciting We Have A Dream will be looking to enhance his already glowing reputation by giving his trainer a third win in the race in 10 years.