The second Dublin Racing Festival looks set to beat the weather and go ahead at Leopardstown this weekend. Cheltenham Festival clues for the Champion Chase and Ryanair Chase may be found in the Dublin Chase, while the Irish equivalent of the Champion Hurdle also takes place on a stellar Saturday card.
Min may defend his Dublin Chase crown (15:10), but don’t read too much into the Willie Mullins trained eight-year-old dropping back in trip after landing the John Durkan at Punchestown. He was a ready 12-length winner of this event last year, but then bumped into old rival Altior at Cheltenham and couldn’t match his turn of foot.
While Min was next beaten when stepped up to 2m 4f at Aintree going down a neck to Politologue and then an out of sorts fourth in the Punchestown Champion Chase, he resumed winnings way on reappearance.
The John Durkan is usually won by a stayer, but the ground came up good in December and that meant Min got another try over two-and-a-half miles.
He acquitted himself well and that suggests the Ryanair might be next after this. Min definitely has the pace to win this, however, as he’s two out of two over course and distance, and is the one to beat at 5/4 with Coral.
Footpad and Saint Calvados still have something to prove
Mullins may run Footpad as well as or instead of Min, and he was last season’s leading two-mile novice chaser.
Little has gone right since, however, as he came to grief when not jumping with much fluency in a Grade 3 at Naas won by the re-opposing Saint Calvados on his first start of the campaign.
Footpad then got collared close home by Simply Ned, another lining up against him here, over course and distance last time out over Christmas.
Given the difference in age between the two, and the narrow half-a-length margin of victory, it’s more than likely the form could be reversed.
There are no hiding places at this level, however, and Footpad has been a costly horse to follow for punters. He’s yet to win in open company and, while the Simon Munir and Isaac Souede owned gelding still has huge scope for improvement, he’s still a bit short at 2/1 with Betfair for this.
Saint Calvados is going to find this much more competitive than his last trip across the Irish Sea. Is Simply Ned, who has two wins, two seconds and two thirds over course and distance, really the main danger?
Trainer Nicky Richards is in-form, so don’t be surprised if the now 12-year-old can still pull off a surprise at 9/1 with Ladbrokes.
Castlegrace Paddy one to consider each-way
Simply Ned is preferred to fellow veteran Special Tiara, who admittedly gets the good ground he needs to be seen to best effect.
Both of Gordon Elliott’s potential runners – A Toi Phil, who holds a handicap entry over further during this meeting, and Doctor Phoenix – have been well-beaten in their assignments this season so far, so can be disregarded.
This Dublin Chase is one race where each-way value is hard to find. With so many elder statesmen likely to go, however, Castlegrace Paddy fits the bill.
Pat Fahy’s eight-year-old was an impressive 16-length winner of the Grade 2 Hilly Way Chase at Cork and then just held a head for third over course and distance.
Ordinary World is open to as much progress as Castlegrace Paddy, so that form might be reversed too and the yielding ground on the chase course at Leopardstown is a big plus.
The former is one of two Henry De Bromhead horses that could line-up here, but whether all nine entered in midweek will go to post remains to be seen.
At 10/1 with William Hill, who still offer three places on the race, Castlegrace Paddy looks well worth considering each-way.
It’s a big ask for Simply Ned to keep going to well at his age and Min remains the one to beat, for all Footpad retains plenty of scope if he can put everything together.
Apple’s Jade favourite for four-timer in Irish Champion Hurdle
Earlier on the card is the Irish Champion Hurdle (13:25), and Apple’s Jade is in seemingly unbeatable form despite dropping back in trip from a facile three-mile victory over Christmas.
This Elliott trained tough mare has won back-to-back Grade 1 events over further than this 2m test with tons in hand.
Apple’s Jade has nothing to fear from the re-opposing Supasundae on their Hatton’s Grace Hurdle run as they meet off the same terms.
Jessica Harrington’s ultra-consistent eight-year-old has 20 lengths to find on the red-hot favourite here, but looks the obvious forecast choice given his record at the highest level.
The best book out there looks to be BetVictor, who go 5/4 Apple’s Jade and 5/2 Supasundae. You can get fractionally bigger odds for the latter elsewhere, but for forecast purposes both horses need backing with the same bookmakers.
Gigginstown House Stud have four of the six entries, but all of those go including Tombstone, who ran in the Limestone Lad when third to Espoir D’Allen last weekend.
Apple’s Jade is the clear pick of the quartet, as Petit Mouchoir needs to improve for trailing in last on his switch back to hurdles and 2018 Triumph Hurdle hero Farclas is likely to find this tough.
Mullins just has the one engaged in Melon, who is only two from nine over hurdles and needs to come on for finishing fourth to stable companion Sharjah in the Ryanair Hurdle over Christmas.
He’s a short price on what he’s actually achieved even at 3/1 with Coral and the others are all double figure odds.