The two-day Dublin Racing Festival has quickly established itself as an integral part of the jumps season and there are four Grade 1 contests to look forward to at Leopardstown on Saturday.
Chacun Pour Soi is a short price favourite for the Champion Chase and is unbeaten in two starts so far this season. He had over 3L in hand of Min (1.35) in the corresponding race 12 months ago, but that race was run on good to soft ground and that was the last time the selection met with defeat having won two Grade 1’s in the interim period. The chase course was given as yielding to soft on Friday but there was rain forecast for Friday evening and ahead of racing today.
I was not as impressed as others with Chacun Pour Soir when he scored here over C&D over Christmas – jumped out to his right on occasions – and I hope to see Patrick Mullins make plenty of use of Min on the forecast soft ground. The ew selection – 4s with Boylesports – won the corresponding race three seasons ago but he is taken to show he is no back number. I would also recommend the 10/11 about Min in the market without the odds on market leader at William Hill.
My two against the field in the valuable 2m 1f+ handicap chase are Entoucas (2.45) and Epson Du Houx – 6s with Unibet 5 places – with marginal preference for the JP McManus owned 7-year-old who remains a maiden in four starts over fences but was not knocked about once his chance had gone at Fairyhouse last time when he made significant mistakes at the fifth and seventh fence. The each way recommendation – 13/2 with William Hill 5 places – will need luck in running but I feel he has the ability and scope to be much better than his current mark.
The Irish Champion Hurdle will decide whether Honeysuckle goes for the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham next month or the Mares race over an additional half mile and I think the decision will be made for her as I feel she will lose her proud unbeaten record today.
The mare receives 7lbs from the geldings but was all out to win the corresponding race 12 months ago and her last three successes have all come by half a length. She is a wonderful race mare, but I was disappointed with what I felt was a laboured effort when scrambling home in the Hatton’s Grace at Fairyhouse on her reappearance.
Sharjah (3.15) finished runner up in the Champion Hurdle back in March and ran away with the Matheson Hurdle over C&D over Christmas when he travelled like much the best horse in the race and went past Saint Roi between the last couple of flights like he was standing still. The selection is 9/4 with 10bet.
I thought Saint Roi would win the 2021 Champion after his runaway win in the County Hurdle last year, but he has failed to make the necessary improvement and it is hard to see how he can reverse the form with his stablemate although he didnt jump as well as the winner last time.
On Sunday and no novice hurdler has impressed me as much as Appreciate It (2.10) and I will be disappointed if he loses his unbeaten record over timber. The selection finished runner up in the Champion Bumper back in March and at the start of the campaign I thought he was more of a Ballymore horse, but he showed he has the speed for the minimum trip when a 9L winner of the Future Champions Novice here over Christmas. A repetition of that run will make him very tough to beat.
Only five go to post for the Irish Gold Cup which is slightly disappointing despite the quality of the quintet with Al Boum Photo again keeping his powder dry for his hat-trick bid at Cheltenham next month. Minella Indo (3.40) fell at the eighth in the Savills Chase here over the Festive period and I will be disappointed and out of pocket if he cannot beat Kemboy and Min who filled the places at Christmas behind the selection’s stablemate A Plus Tard. The selection is 7/4 with BetVictor.
A bigger danger is Delta Work who unseated his jockey at the ninth last time but won this corresponding race 12 months ago and will have the race run to suit with Melon, Kemboy and Minella Indo likely to ensure a decent gallop. I recommend a Rod Laver on the Elliot horse.
Sandown was due to face a 3pm inspection on Friday to see if today’s card could go ahead but the forecast was favourable, and I would be surprised if the meeting was abandoned.
Shan Blue (1.50) drops back in trip half a mile in the Scilly Isles Chase having made most to land the Kauto Star at Kempton on Boxing Day. There are 17 fences to be jumped over 2m 4f at the Esher track, however, and the jumping of Shan Blue has been his biggest asset so far in his three chase successes so far this term. He gets the nod ahead of Hitman and Messire Des Obeaux in a terrific renewal of this G1 contest. The Dan Skelton-trained novice is 11/4 with BetVictor.
There is a good card at Musselburgh and in the Veterans’ Handicap Chase for conditionals’ Dubai Angel (1.29) can build on what I thought was a promising comeback at Newcastle on his first start for Dr Richard Newland. The 10-y-old has won over 3m over hurdles but I am convinced a drop back in trip to 2m 6f will suit and Charlie Hammond takes off a valuable 3lbs. The each way recommendation is 13/2 with 10bet.
Aloomomo looks the obvious danger with Kevin Brogan booked for Sandy Thompson.