Dublin Racing Festival – 5 to Follow
The Dublin Racing Festival is set to take place at Leopardstown on Saturday 2nd and Sunday 3rd February. Over 1.8 million euro will be up for grabs across fifteen races. Many horses will put their Cheltenham credentials and sky-high reputations on the line over this action-packed weekend. The main event of the weekend will be the Unibet Irish Gold Cup, due off on Sunday at 3:35. The very best of Ireland’s staying chasers will line up, bidding for a generous pot and a prominent place in the Cheltenham Gold Cup conversation. The Unibet Gold Cup will be the eighth and final Grade 1 contest over the weekend, virtually guaranteeing we will see some stars in at least one of these Grade 1 this weekend for today and also the future. Many will use this upcoming weekend at Leopardstown to gain clues for the Cheltenham Festival in March, and rightly so. However, while it is always important to look ahead to the future, there is no point in missing the present. There will be plenty trainers arriving here for their respective horse’s season target. Over the fifteen races, there are plenty of excellent betting propositions to get stuck into. Here are five horses you should have on your side this week at the Dublin Racing Festival.
Horse: Come to Me
Trainer: Willie Mullins
Entered: 12:50 Saturday – Nathaniel Lacy & Partners Solicitors 50,000 Cheltenham Bonus for Stable Staff Novice Hurdle (Grade 1) – 2m 6f
Price: 16/1 (Coral) – Between 12 & 14/1 Generally
Analysis: The uncharacteristic early season struggles Willie Mullins has suffered has had a serious effect on preparations for the upcoming spring festivals. Willie Mullins was not the only trainer to have suffered a virus throughout the winter months. Many trainers based in Leinster have struggled to ready their horses due to the breakout of influenza across the equine industry. The breakout of influenza, coupled with the uncharacteristic lively ground caused by a an extremely hot summer and relatively dry winter has resulted in traditional winter preparations being scuppered. One of many horses who has suffered this season is Come to Me. After attracting a colossal amount of market support at Naas last time out, Come to Me ran extremely poorly, finishing a distant last after being sent off at 3/1. However, Come to Me was reported to be coughing by an on-course vet post-race. This information enables us to give Come to Me a pass for that effort, not to mention this run would have occurred during the peak of the influenza outbreak. Mullins would have been ignorant of the virus at this period of time and there is a chance Come to Me may need some more time to get over this dose. However, it is no secret that connections think Come to Me is well above average. Willie Mullins has resumed business as usual to the point where the stable cat would probably get its head in front. Do not be surprised to see a much-improved performance form Come to Me and any Willie Mullins horse that may have under-performed unexpectedly over the winter months.
Horse: Tudor City
Trainer: Tony Martin
Entered: 3:45 Saturday – Ladbrokes Hurdle (Grade B Handicap) – 2m
Price: 14/1 (Sky Bet) – 12/1 Generally
Analysis: When a big pot is available, trainers like Tony Martin command the utmost of respect. There are few better trainers in the game at executing a long-term plan then Tony Martin. All you have to do is go back to last year when Martin masterminded Anibale Fly’s victory in the Paddy Power Chase before improving immensely to finish third in a Cheltenham Gold Cup. Tudor City has been consistent all year and the John Breslin owned seven-year-old was a touch unlucky not to scoop a big pot at Fairyhouse in December after jockey Robbie Colgan dropped his whip at a pivotal part of the race. Tudor City was not given the hardest of times over this course and distance in December, finishing in an eye-catching fifth. The Bookmakers have priced Tudor City up at about the correct price but it would come as little surprise if Tudor City was shorter than 10/1 by Saturday morning. A win here would set up a potential tilt at the County Hurdle at the Cheltenham festival, a track where Tudor City has performed well in the past and this potential plan being set up by Tony Martin is not past the ability of Tudor City.
Horse: Sassy Diva
Trainer: Shane Crawley
Entered: 12:40 Sunday – Irish Stallion Farms EBF Paddy Mullins Mares Handicap Hurdle (Grade B) – 2m 2f.
Price: 14/1 (Bet 365, Coral, Ladbrokes) – Between 10/1 & 12/1 Generally
Analysis: It’s not every day where you can look through the form and find what appears to be a glaring mistake by the handicapper. This improving mare has shown excellent form in her last two starts but the handicapper has not adjusted her handicap mark accordingly. Following an easy win at Ayr in November, Sassy Diva then attempted to give the now 130 rated Tintangle 5lbs. Sassy Diva only failed to beat Tintangle, losing out by a head. Last time out, Sassy Diva tried to give the antepost favourite for Mares Novices Hurdle at Cheltenham, Honeysuckle 3lbs, Sassy Diva was beaten by just over 3 lengths that day. Sassy Diva will go into handicap company off a mark of just 116. This looks like a scandalous mark which will translate to a very low weight. Tintangle, who is also in this race suffers a 19lb swing at the weights for just a head based on their running in November. Off a weight just North of ten stone, there is nothing not to like about Sassy Diva here. Another interesting trend pointing towards the chances of Sassy Diva is looking back on how last year’s renewal of this particular race was won. Alletrix won last year’s race for Jessica Harrington after being campaigned in races won by high class horses, most notably behind Willie Mullins’ very smart mare, Laurina. Just like Alletrix (who will probably run in this year’s renewal off a bigger weight), Sassy Diva has finished behind the well regraded Tintangle and the potentially top-class Honeysuckle. It would come as a major surprise if 14/1 was available by the weekend.
Horse: Road to Respect
Trainer: Noel Meade
Entered: Unibet Irish Gold Cup (Grade 1) – 3m
Price: 100/30 (Betfair) – Between 11/4 & 3/1 Generally
Analysis: By far the shortest priced runner on this list is Noel Meade’s stable star, Road to Respect. Last year’s winner looked as good as ever when winning in facile fashion to start his season in Down Royal last November. Nothing went according to plan at Leopardstown over the festive period when Road to Respect endured a nightmare route over the three-mile trip, especially on the exit out of the back straight when Road to Respect was checked by another horse. Shortly after, Sean Flannagan was lucky not to end up on the turf after Road to Respect stumbled on the flat, losing plenty of momentum in the process. It was a minor miracle that Road to Respect managed to finish third behind Kemboy and Monalee. Even though Kemboy was able to record a dominant performance despite the struggles of Willie Mullins during December and early January, there is no horse in Sunday’s field that would have been able to finish third after dealing Road to Respect’s circumstances. Expect Michael O’Leary’s prime Gold Cup hope to go very close here.
Horse: Vieux Morvan
Trainer: Joseph O’Brien
Entered: 4:10 Sunday – Abbey International Leopardstown Handicap Chase (Grade A) – 2m 5f
Price: 12/1 (Ladbrokes, Sky Bet, William Hill) – Between 10 & 9/1 Generally
Analysis: Rounding off our five to follow list will be Vieux Morvan. Joseph O’Brien’s ten-year-old ran a blinder last time out at Leopardstown over three miles in the Paddy Power Chase to finish second. The handicapper reacted by bumping up Vieux Morvan four pounds. Last year, Vieux Morvan was desperately unlucky to bump into Last Goodbye, who ran away with this race by nine lengths, Vieux Morvan beat the third placed finisher that day by the same margin. This is an extremely rare occurrence in such a competitive race. Both Last Goodbye and Vieux Morvan will reoppose off a much higher weight but one would trust Vieux Morvan to go close here following his effort when largely unfancied last time out. It is very likely this race has been the plan for a quite a while. Last year, Vieux Morvan went off at just 5/1 for this race and it would come as no surprise if he was a similar price by Sunday afternoon.
An honourable mention must be given to Alan Fleming’s Speaker Conolly who will more likely then not run in this race also. Vieux Morvan is only selected ahead of Speaker Conolly as he is a bigger price but Speaker Conolly, who is best priced at 8/1 is also a horse you should take under serious consideration.