The Dublin Racing Festival is packed full of quality, with the opening Grade 1 novice contest giving a real flavour of what is to some over the weekend at Leopardstown. The race lost some of its allure with Battleoverdoyen not appearing among the declarations. The Closutton operation is represented by Salsaretta who was thought good enough to run in the Mares’ Novice Hurdle at Cheltenham on her debut for the stable but I think he is vulnerable in this contest.
Relegate took the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham last season but she hasn’t been very impressive in either start over hurdles. There are definitely lots of races to be won with her but maybe not at this level.
Dunvegan was a decent bumper horse and won his maiden hurdle in quite impressive fashion at Fairyhouse in early December. Pat Fahy has always really liked him and he looks like a great each way bet.
The Irish Champion Hurdle is another mouth-watering contest and even though Melon has only won twice, he has some very strong back form including a runner-up finish in the Supreme Novice’s Hurdle at Cheltenham on only his second start and another runner-up spot in the Champion Hurdle last season. He was disappointing on seasonal debut in the Ryanair Hurdle Mullins said of Melon recently:
“He’s taking more work so we’re giving it to him and we see improvement at home. If he shows that improvement on the racetrack, he has a major chance.”
Supasundae took this twelve months ago and was one of the most consistent horses in training, with placings in Garde 1’s in each of his starts. Jessica Harrington’s inmate has finished second on both his starts this season and if Apples Jade were to disappoint he could pick up the pieces.
Apple’s Jade is bidding for a four-timer of victories this season and has looked as good as ever this year. She is versatile when it comes to ground and seems at home over this trip. This looks like her biggest test this season and might struggle to maintain her seasonal unbeaten record.
The Grade 1 Dublin Steeplechase looks like an absolute cracker with Simply Ned who caused a shock when mowing down Footpad late on over Christmas reappearing. He may have to settle for a place behind Min, who looks the standout runner in the field. Saint Calvados makes the trip across the Irish Sea for this but he was outclassed behind Altior and Un De Sceaux most recently.
The Ladbrokes Hurdle looks like an ultra-competitive handicap but it may prove wise to follow the Charles Byrnes trained Wonder Laish, who has won his last two starts in taking fashion. He is a horse on a real upward curve and heads many ante-post markets for the County Hurdle at the festival. There are lots more horses with chances, namely Off You Go and Try Again but Wonder Laish is my idea of the winner.
Selection: Wonder Laish
Le Richebourg looks the answer in the Frank Ward Arkle, he was an impressive winner of a Grade 1 at Leopardstown over Christmas when beating Us And Them and there is no reason he can’t confirm that form. Knocknanuss had his unbeaten record come to an end last time out and I don’t think he’s quite as good as connections once thought. The each-way value in the race is Mengli Khan who’s jumping needs to improve but he has the ability to feature.
Selection: Mengli Khan