Architect Tips reflects on a dramatic two days of racing action at Leopardstown for the Dublin Racing Festival, just five weeks out from the Cheltenham Festival.
After a high-quality weekend of racing, particularly in Ireland, in which the Dublin Racing Festival took place at Leopardstown across Saturday and Sunday, we look back at the two-days to reflect on what Cheltenham clues were unveiled, as well as delve into what we might have learnt from the action heading into the Festival next month.
There were many highs and lows in regards some of the leading fancies, as some enhanced their Cheltenham Festival credentials, whilst others ran below expectations and, with only four five to go until the Festival gets underway, the complexion of some of the ante-post markets has certainly changed based on certain performances, some for the better, some for the worst.
Grade 1 Nathaniel Lacy & Partners Novice Hurdle
- Good Land to take aim at the Ballymore
- Absolute Notions and Sandor Clegane to take up the Albert Bartlett
- Weveallbeencaught ran well below form
The first race on the opening day of the Dublin Racing Festival was the Grade 1 Nathaniel Lacy & Partners Novice Hurdle.
It is fair to say it wasn’t the strongest of renewals with the likes of Willie Mullins pair - Grangeclare West and Quais De Paris plus British raider Weveallbeencaught all disappointing but there was no discrediting the performance Barry Connell’s Good Land produced, who certainly boosted his Cheltenham Festival credentials and must be considered a player next month.
He was stepping up markedly in grade from a Maiden Hurdle success and although he raced quite keenly in the early stages, he moved through the gears when the race started to develop. In the end, he proved far too strong for his rivals, where he kept the staying-on Absolute Notions at bay in second to score by a length and a half.
Based on the winners display, I don’t see why he won’t adapt to the shorter trip in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, as he doesn’t lack pace and the surroundings of Cheltenham’s course should play to his strengths. He is now as short as 4/1 for that intended target and must have strong claims if able to continue his improvement.
The second, Absolute Notions, could now be Albert Bartlett bound given how well he stayed on in the closing stages, whilst the third - Sandor Clegane, who was pushed out to 10/1 for the Albert Bartlett, didn’t disgrace himself and isn’t one to give up on should conditions be on the softer side next month.
As for Weveallbeencaught, I am not sure connections will even take him to next month’s Cheltenham Festival now, as it looked unlikely before he even ran this weekend, given his handler stated it might take too much out of him and that looked the case. His performance was too bad to be true, as he didn’t jump well, over-raced, and was beaten imminently as soon as his rider asked for his efforts.
He isn’t one to give up on, especially when he sees a fence at some point in the future, and it was a brave move by his handler Nigel Twiston-Davies to even come over to Ireland. Clearly, better was expected and while he didn’t run to his capabilities, he has only had three starts over hurdles and his best days are ahead for him. Maybe a break will do him good now before seeing where he goes next.
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Grade 1 Donohue Marquees Spring Juvenile Hurdle
- Gala Marceau gains revenge on Lossiemouth
- Paul Townend adamant the best horse finished second
- Tekao the new favourite for the Boodles
Whilst many shock defeats happened over the two days, the first one of those came in the Grade 1 Spring Juvenile Hurdle when the 1/3 favourite - Lossiemouth - lost her unbeaten record as stablemate Gala Marceau, who was more than lengths adrift of the former when the pair met in the Knight Frank back in December, took the spoils under a good ride from Danny Mullins.
It proved to be a controversial race though, as Lossiemouth’s stablemate - Jourdefete - badly hampered her at the third last after a bad mistake, which saw her shuffled to the rear of the field. Forced to cover ground by coming wide around the field, by the time she eventually got clear daylight, the winner had already flown and maintained the gallop to win by two and a half lengths.
It is possible the Rich Ricci-owned Lossiemouth would have won if she endured a better trip but her performance in defeat can be marked up and jockey Paul Townend was quick to express that the best horse finished second and the result will be different at Cheltenham next month. To some extent, I agree, but the winner clearly improved a lot from when they first met.
The former, Lossiemouth, is now out to 15/8, while Gala Marceau is halved in price from 10/1 into 5/1. Could the pair fight it out for a third time at Cheltenham? It is possible. Despite the favourite getting beaten, I don’t think she did any serious harm to her Triumph Hurdle credentials but now that she will arrive into Cheltenham on the back of her turnover, the brits will fancy their chances.
Whilst the front two pulled clear of the remainder, I was really taken by the way Tekao travelled through the race, who actually looked like winning as they turned into the home-straight. He ultimately finished 10 lengths adrift of Willie Mullins pair but it was a creditable effort nonetheless and that saw him shoot to 6/1 favourite for the Boodles next month. It’ll be interesting to see what mark he gets!
Grade 1 Goffs Irish Arkle Novice Chase
- El Fabiolo the biggest danger to Jonbon
- Appreciate It needs a trip
- Don’t give up on Saint Roi
- Dysart Dynamo too keen for his own good
Given Willie Mullins fantastic record in the Grade 1 Irish Arkle, it was difficult not to envisage him winning the race again as he had four runners in this year’s field. The race was won by El Fabiolo, who despite a strange round of jumping, alongside racing keenly, had loads left in the bank jumping the final fence, and he powered to an impressive success under Daryl Jacob.
He was very impressive on his chase debut at Fairyhouse and despite making a howler of a mistake at one fence in this race, it didn’t stop him from confirming himself as a leading candidate for the Arkle at Cheltenham next month, winning by 10-lengths. Should Jonbon backers be a tad cautious now? I should think so, as El Fabiolo is sure to be an even stronger horse next month.
Let’s not forget, he was beaten only a neck by Jonbon at Aintree in a Grade 1 over hurdles and has already achieved more than he did over hurdles in this sphere after two starts. He is now as short as 9/4 for the Arkle and I’m glad to have found some value for that race now having tipped him for that race in my ante-post column at 6/1 with only Jonbon seemingly standing in his way.
It will all come down to who jumps better on the day as both consume an enormous engine but if he jumps well, I think he will give Nicky Henderson’s charge a lot of trouble. The favourite was Appreciate It could only finish third. He seemed tapped for toe once the pace quickened and while he briefly looked like he was staying on, he was eventually collared for second by Banbridge, who flew home from absolutely nowhere.
Maybe the Turners Novices’ Chase over further would suit Appreciate It better than the Arkle but no doubt Willie will make a late decision. His stablemate, Saint Roi - another ante-post tip of mine for the Arkle unfortunately unseated his rider at the fifth. To be fair, I thought he jumped the fence fine but Mark Walsh slipped out of the side door. He didn’t really have a hard race though, which might actually turn out to be for the better ahead of his main target next month.
He is a Cheltenham Festival winner and a Grade 1 winner over fences, so while his recent start at the Dublin Racing Festival proved inconclusive, I am still sweet on his chances next month. He is out to 25/1 but he doesn’t know that! While Dysart Dynamo once again failed to settle in Grade 1 company and needs to learn this trade if he’s to make it in the top tier!
Grade 1 Irish Gold Cup
- Galopin Des Champs still too short for Gold Cup
- Fury Road could be a great bet in the Ryanair
- Stattler will be better suited to the longer trip in the Gold Cup
Galopin Des Champs was tested for the first time in the Grade 1 Irish Gold Cup and while many thought it would be stablemate Stattler to do that, instead it was Fury Road, who was the first horse to get him off the bridle so far in his career over fences. Fury Road did his best when upsides Galopin at the last fence but the Gold Cup favourite found another gear on the run-in to score by eight lengths.
His price for next month hasn’t really changed much, as he is still available 13/8. He is the one to beat but I do think his price remains on the short side. I’m happy with the way Stattler performed, another ante-post tip of mine for the Gold Cup, who was doing all of his best work in the closing stages which saw him take second. Next month’s feature will be right up his alley.
While it might be asking a lot for him to win, I will be surprised if he doesn’t at least close the gap on the winner should they meet for a third time. Additionally, he is 8/1 from 16/1 for the Cheltenham Gold Cup, and luckily I advised the latter before his price diminished this past weekend. I think there is still some juice left in his price as I cannot see him out of the frame.
As for Fury Road, he ran a stormer to finish third (almost second). On the back of his display over the weekend, I think he has the Ryanair Chase written all over him, in which he is available at 8/1. I can’t see his stamina holding out in a Gold Cup, so the drop in trip seems a good move and with that race looking wide-open and the possibility of dual winner Allaho not being at his imperious best due to an interrupted preparation, he is a standout at this stage.
Grade 1 Ladbrokes Novice Chase
- Mighty Potter much too good
- Gaillard all set for the National Hunt Chase
- James Du Berlais no-show
Mighty Potter put in a very impressive performance in the Grade 1 Ladbrokes Novice Chase and the bookmakers were quick to react to that performance, installing him as 13/8 favourite for the Turners Novices’ Chase at the Festival next month. He was up against five horses from the Willie Mullins stable but Davy Russell appeared to look confident at all stages and his mount jumped beautifully throughout.
Everything else in the field tried to lay down a challenge but after the final fence, he lengthened away to score by an impressive eight-and-a-half lengths. His victory here meant he now has four Grade 1 wins to his name already but I wouldn’t be rushing into backing him at Cheltenham, especially how poorly he ran in last season’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle but he is undoubtedly the one to beat.
If he runs to his best next month, the rest could be playing for minor honours. I liked the way Gaillard Du Mesnil finished his race in third, staying on well, and that should have put him right for the National Hunt Chase next month. He is now 7/4 favourite. James Du Berlais, who was one of the leading fancies, trailed home last and is out to 20/1 for the Turners Novices’ Chase.
Grade 1 Ladbrokes Dublin Chase
- Gentleman De Mee bounces back to form
- Blue Lord had an off-day
- Complexion of the Champion Chase market changes again
Blue Lord, who was sent off the odds-on favourite, was fully expected to land the Grade 1 Dublin Chase before heading into the Champion Chase as one of the leading fancies for the feature on day two. That said, he was comprehensively beaten into second, as stablemate Gentleman De Mee recorded another Grade 1 success over fences, who bounced back from three heavy defeats this season under a good front-running ride from Danny Mullins.
Hindsight would suggest he was a big price here given he beat Arkle winner Edwardstone by four and a half lengths at Aintree last term but his form this season prior to this race left a lot to be desired, hence why he wasn’t trading shorter in the betting. Nevertheless, Danny Mullins - who replaced regular rider Mark Walsh, stole the show and his mount has now been backed into 10/1 for the Champion Chase next month, whilst Blue Lord, who finished a surprisingly laboured second, was pushed out to 10/1.
I wouldn’t give up on him though as he’s a lot better than he showed here. However, whether connections go up in trip with him to tackle the Ryanair Chase or stick to the Champion Chase remains to be seen, but he would still have an each-way squeak in both of those events. His defeat the weekend has certainly changed the complexion of the Champion Chase ante-post market though, as what once looked a two-horse race, now has an open feel about it.
Grade 1 Irish Champion Hurdle
- State Man enhances Champion Hurdle claims
- Honeysuckle - Mares’ or retirement
- Vauban still on course for next month
While it might still prove an impossible task to beat Constitution Hill in next month’s Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham, the Willie Mullins-trained State Man certainly cemented his status as the leading Irish hopeful against the favourite, winning the Irish version in fantastic style from the front, where he jumped and travelled well, and quickened away from the field to score by more than four lengths. His performance can be further upgraded as he was giving seven-pounds to the defending champion as well here and is now 3/1 for the big one next month.
As expected, three-time winner Honeysuckle attracted late support before the off and while she couldn’t land an historic fourth win in the race, she ran a blinder to finish second, holding off Vauban in the closing stages. It is reported she will either head for the Mares’, for which she is available at 7/2 or head off into the sunset for a well-deserved retirement. She owes nobody anything, so if this is the end of the road, it has been fantastic seeing her throughout her career. A superstar mare.
Vauban ran a good race in third but again, his jumping wasn’t exactly fluent, but this run should have put him straight for next month’s target and he remains about the same price as beforehand, around the 8/1 and 10/1 mark. If he can brush up his jumping, he has the class to serve it up to the big two.
Having put up both State Man and Vauban as ante-post tips for the Champion Hurdle a while back, I thought both of them did their Cheltenham credentials no harm, especially the winner, who boosted his prospects by a large extent.