Big Weekend: Looking forward to Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown

Friday, February 01, 2019
Big Weekend Dublin Racing Festival

Race of the Week 1

This may seem an insane exercise on Dublin Racing Festival weekend, with €1.8m in prizemoney on offer, and a programme at Leopardstown that includes eight Grade One events. It is hard to argue against the focus on Apple’s Jade in the BHP Insurance Irish Champion Hurdle, Min in the Ladbrokes Dublin Chase, La Richebourg in the Frank Ward Solicitors Arkle Chase, Road To Respect in the Unibet Irish Gold Cup and the significant challengers they will face.

However, the Tattersalls Ireland Spring Juvenile Hurdle looks as packed with potential champions as any juvenile or novice event we are likely to see this season. At least six of the 11 contenders appear to have big shouts and what is intriguing is that three pairs comprising that sextet have already crossed swords.

Only a short head separated the Gordon Elliott stablemates Coeur Sublime (2nd) and Chief Justice (2st) in a Grade Three contest at Fairyhouse on December 2, Joseph O’Brien’s Sir Erec just prevailed by a neck after a thrilling duel with the Willie Mullins-prepped Tiger Tap Tap on December 27, and the Elliott-trained Surin had a nose to spare over O’Brien’s Gardens Of Babylon at Fairyhouse on January 12.

That makes separating them very difficult indeed. We’ll know a lot more afterwards but whoever lands the €73,750 for connections will definitely have earned it.


Race of the Week 2

The Flogas Novice Chase contains three horses that have won Grade Ones over the larger obstacles already this year. Gordon Elliott’s Delta Work was very impressive in bagging two of them in December, his stablemate Hardline was Limerick’s inaugural Grade One victor at Christmas, while welcome overseas raider, the Warren Greatrex-trained mare La Bague Au Roi has been successful taking on the geldings, most recently attaining top-tier glory at Kempton on King George day.

The progressive Winter Escape has to be thrown into the mix too, effortlessly prevailing on his last three starts, the latter two in graded class, and advertising the talents of Curragh trainer, Anthony Howard in the process.

It is also interesting to see Jack Doyle, who has established himself as one of the leading jockeys in America for a number of years now, making a very rare appearance on his native soil. It is sure to be a special day as he rides in a Grade One contest for his father, the point-to-point master, Pat Doyle.

The winner of major handicaps on his last two runs, Kaiser Black is stepping up considerably in class but taking on the big boys on the biggest stage won’t hold any fears for the Suirview Stables contingent.


Auction series spin-offs

The emergence of the auction series of races sponsored by Irish EBF, Foran Equine (Flat) and Connolly’s Red Mills (NH) for more affordable horses has proven a boon for trainers and owners, and it is no surprise they have been widely welcomed. As they evolve, the hope is that they contribute to the positive trend of increase in new owners and horses in training, as illustrated in this week’s industry statistics released by Horse Racing Ireland.

The significant rise in the number of syndicates in particular has added an energy to parade rings and it is easy to recall the celebrations when the Patrick Prendergast-trained Cedars Of Lebanon won the final of the Foran Equine Irish EBF Auction Series at Naas in October. The €11,000 purchase netted €70,800 for that victory alone and there was a further windfall when she was sold to race in America.

The Big Dog was triumphant in the Red Mills Auction Maiden Hurdle at Gowran Park on Thyestes Chase day, taking the spoils easily despite a bad blunder at the last. He has the final of this series to look forward to now at the Punchestown Festival, but in the meantime, trainer Peter Fahey has been emboldened enough by that performance to aim the strapping Mahler gelding bought for €28,000 at the Grade One Nathaniel Lacy & Partners Solicitors €50,000 Cheltenham Bonus for Stable Staff Novice Hurdle. It’s the stuff of dreams for the Kellys who own The Big Dog, Damien and Colin.

The Big Dog also holds an entry in the Ballymore and Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdles at Cheltenham and with the sponsors offering that €50,000 bonus for stable staff of the victor, if he or she goes on to be victorious in any race at the March festival, the Fahey team will be completely invested!

You don’t always have to spend lavishly to have a chance.

The Tattersalls Ireland Spring Juvenile Hurdle looks as packed with potential champions as any juvenile or novice event we are likely to see this season.

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