A mixed day from a punting perspective on day one of the inaugural Dublin Racing Festival and a couple of major question marks from before racing remain unanswered, not least of which regarding the enigma that is Yorkhill. But that’s a discussion for another day. For now, it’s all about day two…
12.40 – Irish Stallion Farms EBF Paddy Mullins Mares Handicap Hurdle
A race run in memory of his father, Willie Mullins will be desperate to win this 2m 2f handicap and throws three darts at it. The favourite is Contingency, who won twice early in the season, but I wonder about the strength of those races and she’s short enough for me at 2/1. Meri Devie, meanwhile looks handicapped out of it having to shoulder top weight. Instead I like the chances of Court Artist, a mare with form in the book having finished a close-up third behind Cap Soleil in listed company at Haydock last time out, while Liam Gilligan takes off a very handy seven pounds.
Selection – Court Artist 12/1ew
1.15 – Tatterstalls Ireland Spring Juvenile Hurdle
I was very much looking forward to seeing Stormy Ireland in this contest and believed the 58-length Fairyhouse winner could have given Espoir D’Allen a real run for his money. As it is, the Mullins filly is conspicuous by her absence and it’s difficult to see any other result than Gavin Cromwell’s star four-year-old underlining his dominance as Ireland’s number one juvenile. I have read some people tipping up Farclas, who was second to the favourite at Christmas, but although the Elliott horse might improve for that run it’s important to remember he was getting weight from Espoir D’Allen that day and meets him today on level terms, so I really can’t see him improving that much.
The JP McManus juvenile has been overpriced for the Triumph all season for me, mainly due to the ridiculously short price about the owner’s other young star, Apple’s Shakira and although it’s difficult to compare the two I wouldn’t be surprised if Cromwell’s contender turns out to be the better of the pair come March. That is, of course, after he passes his latest test on home soil on Sunday.
Selection – Espoir D’Allen Evens
1.50 – Deloitte Novice Hurdle
Gordon Elliott put the cat amongst the pigeons when he nominated Samcro for this two-mile contest rather than Saturday’s 2m 6f novice hurdle, but what it has done is make this the day when we find out for sure just how good the son of Germany is. A far tougher race, he now faces the likes of Sharjah, Real Steel and Debuchet, the latter of which is a fascinating contender with a whole load of improvement likely from his disappointing hurdling debut in December. Indeed, if we assume that Samcro is a freak and will win before going on to romp home in the Ballymore, then it could be that the performances behind him still might shake up the top of the Supreme market such is the strength of this race. Debuchet, for sure, is overpriced at 33/1 for the Festival opener, while I still think that Real Steel could be a serious contender on 13 March, having not run his race for half of that crazy contest when he fell alongside Sharjah over Christmas. The French import can be backed at 20/1 for this Sunday’s race and even though Samcro will probably win, the each way value makes him the bet for me.
Selection – Real Steel 16/1ew
2.25 – William Fry Handicap Hurdle
Hennessy winner Total Recall reverts to hurdles off a mark 31 pounds less than his chase rating so it doesn’t take me to point out that he has obvious claims here. There are of course no guarantees that he’ll be as good over timber but in reality he won’t have to be and can run miles below his chase form and still win with something in hand.
Selection – Total Recall 11/8
3.00 – Flogas Novice Chase
One of the best races of the weekend, this is a contest that may well include the winner of the RSA come Festival week. I’ve made no secret on social media of the fact that I think the bookies majorly overreacted to Presenting Percy’s recent win by making him a 3/1 favourite and I’ll be shocked if he justifies that status come the day. The fact that Sutton Place can still be backed at 20/1 for the RSA is a major oversight in my book as he could well be a quarter of that price on Sunday afternoon. A smooth winner on his chasing debut at Fairyhouse on New Year’s Day, he should come forward for that and can start to show some of the potential that he has always had. Monalee, meanwhile, is another leading RSA contender and can bounce back from his fall at Christmas, while Invitation Only is also above Presenting Percy in my reckoning and has done nothing but impress in his last two races. It promises to be a cracker but I’m just favouring Sutton Place and urge you to take some of that RSA 20/1 before the off.
Selection – Sutton Place 10/3ew
3.35 Unibet Irish Gold Cup
It’s not often you go into a Cheltenham Festival with a genuine shout of landing with a 66/1 shot, but if Killultagh Vic can go close at Leopardstown on Sunday then that is what those who followed my antepost advice regarding the Willie Mullins horse for the Gold Cup will have on their hands. I have no doubt that he will have improved for his first run back from a long layoff, while the return to fences is also a major plus, but the question remains whether he can win on Sunday on his first run over the bigger obstacles for over two years. It will be a tremendous training performance from Mullins if he can do it and i’m prepared to take the chance he can with doubts surrounding the return of Our Duke and question marks aplenty about most of the rest of the field. It’s a division that is crying out for someone to take hold of it and Killultagh Vic could be the answer.
Selection – Killultagh Vic 5/1ew
4.10 – Chanelle Pharma Handicap Chase
There has been lots of discussion about the lack of British raiders to the festival but one of the few is Harry Fry’s Hell’s Kitchen and he is a strong favourite in this 2m 5f handicap chase. A good winner over Christmas at Kempton, the form of that victory has since been franked too by second placed Mister Whitaker’s win at Cheltenham last week. I’m going to take him on with a horse I think could be very well handicapped though in the shape of Vieux Morvan for Joseph O’Brien. The trainer has already tasted success this weekend, with surprise package Tower Bridge in the meeting opener, and skipped the Thyestes Chase to wait for this contest. Fifth behind Anibale Fly at Leopardstown at the Christmas festival on his first start since arriving from France, he is unchanged on his mark of 133 and off 10st 5lbs should go close.
Selection – Vieux Morvan 8/1ew
4.40 Coolmore N.H. Sires EBF Mares Flat Race
Not the most straightforward task if you’re looking at the last to get out of trouble, although Willie Mullins holds a strong hand with favourite Colreevy. My selection though comes from a different Mullins source – Mags, who runs daughter of Milan, Motown Girl. Although beaten by Getaway Katie Mai on her debut, whom she reopposes here, she showed a huge improvement next time out when trouncing a field at Limerick by nine lengths in December. The second that day, Minnie’s Secret, has since won twice to give some substance to the form and at a double figure price she looks a very interesting each way punt.
Selection – Motown Girl 12/1ew