We are just one more sleep away from the inaugural Dublin Racing Festival and we’re here to provide you with all you need to know.
What is it?
Held at Leopardstown on Saturday 3rd & 4th February, the timing is crucial as it is perfectly positioned between the festive racing programme and the Cheltenham Festival. With three completely new races added to the racing programme, and over €1.5 million of prize money on offer the organisers of the Dublin Racing Festival have been rewarded with some of the best horses in the game entered for the two day event. Unfortunately, few British trainers have bought into the festival due to a complete focus on delivering horses for ‘The Festival’. You can’t help but feel this is a missed trick from the british trainers who are reticent to change routines to suit the new racing programme. For sure you can expect a strong English contingent to compete in 2019.
Top Jockeys to watch out for
With no Ruby Walsh in action due to injury, Paul Townend looks set to feast on a plethora of Willie Mullins favourites. Mounts across the two day festival include:- Faugheen in the Irish Champion Hurdle, Footpad in the Irish Arkle Novice Chase and Yorkhill in the Dublin Chase as well as the intriguing Killultagh Vic in the Irish Gold Cup on Sunday. Away from the Grade 1’s, Townend has even got the best-backed horse of the weekend when he partners Ladbrokes Trophy winner Total Recall off a 31lb lower hurdles mark than his chase rating in the 3m handicap hurdle on Sunday.
The current leader in the Irish Jockey’s title (with 89 wins). He’s had a winner at each of the last 12 Cheltenham Festivals and last year bagged two of the eight Grade 1’s that have been brought together to form the heart of the Dublin Racing Festival. Russell has an important ride on Petit Mouchoir in the Irish Arkle Novice Chase vs the impressive Footpad.
Few are going into the festival in better form than Jack Kennedy who has eight wins from his last 22 rides. Kennedy has crucial rides on Outlander in the Irish Gold Cup, Farclas in the Juvenile Hurdle as well as Samcro who is the favourite for the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham in the Deloitte Novice Hurdle.
Yorkhill or Min
Every fan of racing is looking forward to this fantastic clash between two stablemates. Yorkhill certainly has a lot of questions to answer following his Christmas Chase (Grade 1) flop where his jumping was poor and frequency in which he proves ‘difficult to ride’. However, it does look a good move to drop him in trip albeit a pretty severe drop from three miles to 2m1f.
On the flip side, Min looks an out and out two miler. Admittedly, he was expected to perform far better than he did over the Christmas period where the stewards demoted his win to second place as a result of interference. Given how Mullins campaigns his horses, you expect improvement from Min after his Leopardstown demotion last time. He was keen that day, doing too much too soon, but if he just settles a little better significant improvement should be forthcoming. Min can be backed at odds generally of 5/2 whilst Yorkhill can be found at odds of ⅚.
Faugheen or Another
Star two miler Faugheen will face seven rivals when he bids to get his season back on track in the Irish Champion Hurdle on the first day of the Dublin racing Festival. The ten-year-old was pulled up in the back straight when last in action in the Ryanair Hurdle at the same track in December and is a general 4/1 second favourite behind Buveur D'Air to land the Champion Hurdle in March. On his best form, Saturday’s rivals won’t see which way he goes. He’s a genuine mid-170s hurdler at his very best and there doesn’t look to be a rival against him that could achieve a number anywhere near that this weekend. The question is whether his poor performance in his last race is just a blip or a sign of the end. In which case, it brings Melon, Defi Du Seuil and Mick Jazz right into the equation.