Irish Grand National hero Our Duke heads the 10 runners for the
Unibet Irish Gold Cup, the feature race on day two of the Dublin Racing
Festival at Leopardstown on Sunday.
Trained by Jessica Harrington and owned by the Cooper Family
Syndicate from County Laois, Our Duke was a sensational winner of last year’s
BoyleSports-sponsored highlight at Fairyhouse but suffered from a back injury
when disappointing in the JNwine.com Champion Chase at Down Royal in November.
However, the Unibet Irish Gold Cup has been his target for
some time and both Harrington and jockey Robbie Power have recently expressed
their delight with how the horse has recovered from that injury. Bookmakers make
him the general 11/4 favourite for the Unibet Irish Gold Cup.
Anibale Fly looked set for the return to Grade 1 competition
when running out a ready winner of the Paddy Power Chase at Christmas and he is
one of three horses in the race running in the colours of JP McManus, with the
Jonjo O’Neill-trained Minella Rocco, a regular visitor to Leopardstown, also
taking his chance.
Champion trainer Willie Mullins saddles two in the race
including Djakadam and the intriguing Killultagh Vic, already a dramatic chase
winner at the track and a horse who made a successful comeback from a long
layoff when winning over hurdles last time.
Owners Gigginstown House Stud dominated the Christmas Chase
at Leopardstown in December and run three in Sunday’s Grade 1 feature: Alpha
Des Obeaux, the mount of Rachael Blackmore, Outlander and Sean Flanagan’s
mount, Valseur Lido.
Elsewhere the unbeaten Samcro will be one of 11 runners in a
mouth-watering renewal of the Grade 1 Deloitte Novice Hurdle, the third race on
Sunday’s card. The Gordon Elliott-trained six-year-old faces his stiffest test
to date because among his rivals on Sunday will be the Willie Mullins-trained quartet
Sharjah, Duc Des Genievres, Whiskey Sour and Real Steel, and last year’s
Cheltenham champion bumper runner-up Debuchet, trained by Mags Mullins.
Unbeaten records will already have been tested in the
Tattersalls Ireland Spring Juvenile Hurdle when Espoir D’allen lines up for the
first Grade 1 of the day. Trained by Gavin Cromwell, he is unbeaten in four
runs but like Samcro faces his toughest battle with the Mullins-trained Mr
Adjudicator and the Gordon Elliott-trained Farclas among five rivals.
Preceding the feature race is the penultimate Grade 1 of the
day, a thrilling-looking Flogas Novice Chase. The Henry De Bromhead-trained
Monalee fluffed his lines at Christmas when falling at Leopardstown but will
try and make amends here. He is one of 11 high-class young chasers in the field
with Sutton Place, Snow Falcon, Tombstone and Invitation Only all out to
enhance already lofty reputations.
Pat Keogh, Chief Executive of Leopardstown Racecourse, said: “Once again, the quality on offer on Sunday is quite extraordinary. We are delighted with our four Grade 1 races and you would go a long way to find such a strong supporting card. The Dublin Racing Festival has come together brilliantly. We can’t wait to be up and running.”