Dublin Racing Festival day 2 preview: Irish Gold Cup heads four Grade 1s at LeopardstownPublished on: February 1, 2019Author: Jamie Clark
Another stellar Sunday of jumps horse racing in Ireland takes centre stage this weekend at Leopardstown. The Dublin Racing Festival has no concerns about wintry weather and goes ahead with a vintage renewal of the Irish Gold Cup the main event (15:35).
This 3m steeplechase can provide punters with clues for the Cheltenham equivalent in six weeks’ time, and the betting is headed by ratings topper Road To Respect. Noel Meade’s stable star lost vital ground when stumbling over course and distance last time out, so you get the sense he would’ve been closer than third to Kemboy.
He was held just a head for second by Monalee and official figures have 8lb between the pair. Provided he gets a clearer passage through this race, then Road To Respect looks more than capable of reversing the form on Henry De Bromhead’s charge.
That’s because he won the Savills Chase here in 2017 and tasted Grade 1 glory in the Champion Chase at Down Royal when running out a 16-length victor. Road To Respect is 11/4 with 888Sport to resume winning ways here, though whether he sets the standard is open to question.
Al Boum Photo is one of two engaged for Willie Mullins and, although he has failed to complete on three of his seven chase appearances, he’s also won as many other outings over fences. They include a very strong for the grade Listed victory last time out.
The third horse home Invitation Only has since come out and landed the ultra-competitive Thyestes Chase at Gowran Park. That confirmed the Ryanair Gold Cup form from last Easter where he filled the same spot in-behind Al Boum Photo.
Bellshill may want further now
He only has three-quarters of a length to find on Monalee from the Flogas Novice Chase run on this card 12 months ago. As Al Boum Photo is now rated 4lb superior to that one, again there is every chance of turning the tables.
At 11/4 with Coral in this, he is preferred to stable companion Bellshill, who had no excuses for a below par fourth in the Savills Chase on reappearance. There was no checking of his momentum like that of Road To Respect and, having contested the Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse last season, it may be that Mullins’ other mount simply needs further.
Bellshill was beaten just a length in that 3m 5f stamina test, but did deliver at Punchestown in their Gold Cup in April. He just looks to have a bit to find to justify his current lofty rating, but could come on for the run here in December and general odds of 4/1 reflect that.
Monalee is another that needs to produce more. He chased home Presenting Percy in the RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, then fell at Punchestown, was third to Snow Falcon in a Down Royal Grade 2 on reappearance and second to Kemboy here when last in action.
These efforts probably make him solid enough as an each-way bet at 8/1 with Boylesports, but there is a nagging doubt that he might not just quite get home over three miles. There is certainly value for places elsewhere in the field of 10.
Anibale Fly an each-way fancy
Cheltenham Gold Cup third and Aintree Grand National fourth Anibale Fly commands respect in staying chases, even though conditions may be sounder than ideal. His shrewd handler Tony Martin could have won this with him 12 months ago, but for a heavy fall when still going well two out.
Anibale Fly had previously won the Paddy Power Handicap Chase over course and distance in impressive style, and his reappearance run over way too short a trip can be disregarded. That looked like a pipe opener for running at Christmas or in this, so the 11/1 available through Coral is the recommended each-way bet here.
The remaining five all have something and more to prove. Balko Des Flos has seen his form fall off a cliff since landing the Ryanair Chase for owner Michael O’Leary and Gigginstown House Stud.
Edwulf, meanwhile, also represents JP McManus and won the race 12 months ago, but needs soft or heavy ground to be seen to best effect. It was something of a fluke that Joseph O’Brien’s charge won the race, and of the owner’s two in this renewal, Anibale Fly is the clear preference.
Joining those are three for Gordon Elliott, but Outlander, The Storyteller and Noble Endeavor are all massive prices here. The latter has the most to find on official figures, while the former is the elder statesman in the line-up at 11.
Of the Elliott trio, then, it’s The Storyteller who looks open to further progress. He is the one most likely to outrun odds of 25/1 with Boylesports. Al Boum Photo and Road To Respect are the ones that should be high on your Irish Gold Cup shortlist.
La Bague Au Roi could take all the beating in Flogas
The other Grade 1s on the card including the Spring Juvenile Hurdle which should shape the Triumph Hurdle betting for Cheltenham, are no less competitive, but the Flogas Novice Chase over 2m 5f (15:00) is particularly intriguing.
This pits the top staying novices from either side of the Irish Sea against one another, as Delta Work attempts to give British raider La Bague Au Roi a 7lb sex allowance.
Both the Elliott trained gelding and Warren Greatrex’s tough mare are three from three over fences, and have recorded big race wins over further. Delta Work has done nothing but improve throughout his career and regular pilot Russell is four from seven on him.
His Drinmore success over 2m 4f at Fairyhouse looks very strong form as both he and the runner-up Le Richebourg have come out and won Grade 1 races here at Leopardstown since. He has the re-opposing Mortal well-held on Christmas Festival form and is thus the leading Irish contender for this at 13/8.
However, La Bague Au Roi is equally versatile after landing the John Francome over two-and-a-half miles at Newbury and then following-up in the 3m Grade 1 Kauto Star at Kempton last time out. The mare beat the best of the British novice stayers in Topofthegame, Santini and Bags Groove, so looks the value bet at 9/4 with Unibet.
Official figures have Delta Work rated 5lb superior to La Bague Au Roi, but he is giving her 7lb. It leaves her 2lb well-in on the favourite here and the Greatrex yard is bang in-form, so that makes her well worth considering.
Grade 1 winner Hardline a big price
It’s more than just a two-horse race, however, and the improving Winter Escape has claims of his own. This McManus owned eight-year-old is three from four since joining current trainer Aidan Anthony Howard and gave a whole stone and a 2 1/4 lengths beating to the useful A Plus Tard in the second of his Grade 3 victories.
He’ll need to step up on that, but Winter Escape is in form and cannot be ruled out at 5/1 with William Hill. Gigginstown obviously has more strings to their bow than just Delta Work, however, and besides the aforementioned Mortal is Hardline.
A gutsy victory where he outbattled Getabird to win a Grade 1 at Limerick over Christmas gives him bigger claims than odds of 10/1 with 888Sport suggest here. Mortal is available at a similar price and, while the drop back in trip might suit and trainer O’Brien has his team in good order, the preference of the pair is Hardline.
After winning the Mayo and Connacht Nationals, and taking two big hikes in the weights, Kaiser Black gets a crack at elite company here. It’s a different ball game to handicapping, so the Doyle team are in the market at 33/1.
Jetz represents Jessica Harrington’s stable, but is well-held on his last three runs behind Delta Work, Hardline and Winter Escape. He can’t be fancied to reverse any of that form, and the rank outsider is Riders Onthe Storm.