Two days of top class action at Leopardstown saw Dublin Racing Festival winners make their cases for going on and following-up at next month’s Cheltenham Festival.
Among them was Delta Work, who landed back-to-back Grade 1 successes when powering home to land the irish Gold Cup in emphatic fashion.
Having returned to winning ways when swooping late to land the Savills Chase over the same course and distance at Christmas, the Gordon Elliott trained seven-year-old confirmed form with Kemboy and Presenting Percy to clinch a notable big-race double.
Jack Kennedy kept the Gigginstown House Stud owned gelding just off the pace until creeping into contention three from home going well.
Kemboy then took up the running two out but, after a fine leap at the final fence, Delta Work forged clear on the run-in to beat Willie Mullins’ inmate by a comfortable 1 1/2 lengths.
It was a most taking display. The result saw bookmakers slash Delta Work for the Cheltenham Gold Cup on Friday, March 13.
He is now vying for favouritism with several firms. If successful, he will become the first since Sizing John in 2017 to complete the Gold Cup double.
Delta Work already has a fine record at the Cheltenham Festival having won the 2018 Pertemps Network Final.
He ran well there last year too when staying on to be third in a strong renewal of the Grade 1 RSA Novices’ Chase.
Judged on the way in which he got the job done at Leopardstown, Delta Work has every chance of following-up in chasing’s blue riband contest.
Honeysuckle maintains unbeaten record in irsh Champion Hurdle
Henry De Bromhead’s star mare Honeysuckle was forced to dig deeper than ever before to maintain her unbeaten record in the Grade 1 Irish Champion Hurdle.
In doing so, showed guts as well as bags of talent.
After being backed off the boards and sent off the 8/11 favourite, the six-year-old travelled strongly on the heels of leader and stable companion Petit Mouchoir in the hands of regular pilot Rachael Blackmore.
Honeysuckle looked set for a comfortable success when taking up the running approaching the final flight. She lost vital ground, however, when making a mistake but then rallied stronglu.
It was a power packed ride from Blackmore to get back in front close home, holding off the late challenge of outsider Darver Star by half-a-length.
As Petit Mouchoir was beaten a similar margin back in third, it’s questionable how strong the form is.
However, Honeysuckle showed that she clearly has a huge heart and a real desire to win.
Those attributes stand her in good stead should De Bromhead decide to run her in the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival on Tuesday, March 10.
Her handler wouldn’t commit her to that contest post race. she does hold an entry in the Grade 1 Mares’ Hurdle, which is also held on the opening day of Cheltenham.
The general feeling, however, is that she will be allowed to take her chance against the boys in the Champion Hurdle.
If that does prove to be the case, it would be folly to underestimate the chances of Honeysuckle in the day one feature.
She wasn’t the most impressive of Dublin Racing Festival winners, but remains unbeaten. She could take some stopping at Cheltenham.
Asterion Forlonge looks Supreme prospect among Dublin Racing Festival winners
Asterion Forlonge took the step up into Grade 1 company in his stride to land an impressive all-the-way success in the 2m Chanelle Pharma Novice Hurdle.
Having previously overcome a 648-day absence to make a winning debut over the obstacles at Thurles in November, before following-up in facile fashion at Naas, it looked a big ask on paper for the Mullins trained six-year-old.
However, defeat never really looked in doubt at any stage as jockey Danny Mullins took him to the front from flagfall.
Although Godron Elliott’s highly-touted Easywork loomed up and looked a brief threat three from home, Asterion Forlonge found plenty.
He forged clear between the final two flights to score easily by 9 1/2 lengths. In doing so, he maintained his unbeaten record in no uncertain fashion.
Asterion Forlonge had Mullins dreaming of more success in the traditional curtain raiser at the Cheltenham Festival – the Grade 1 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.
He is now vying for favouritism for that 2m contest, but the big question is whether Joe Donnelly will allow him to take his chance.
Shishkin also sports his black and yellow checked colours – which were carried to victory in last year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup by Al Boum Photo – and was the clear market leader prior to Asterion Forlonge throwing his hat into the ring.
As Shishkin’s handler Nicky Henderson has made no secret of the fact that he is his number one Supreme hope, it will be surprising if Donnelly does not keep the pair apart.
The advice, therefore, is to hold fire on backing Asterion Forlonge ante post and wait for final running plans to be confirmed if you are keen on his Cheltenham Festival chances.
Chacun Pour Soi powers to glory in Dublin Chase
Chacun Pour Soi resumed winning ways in the Grade 1 Dublin Chase at Leopardstown and confirmed himself a leading contender for the Queen Mother Champion Chase on Wednesday, March 11.
The lightly-raced Mullins trained eight-year-old, who carries the famous pink and green spotted colours of Rich and Susannah Ricci, looked a potential superstar when beating Defi Du Seuil at the Punchestown Festival last spring.
He was then surprisingly beaten by De Bromhead’s A Plus Tard on return to action in Grade 1 at Leopardstown over the Christmas period.
Many of the Mullins inmates were needing the run at the time, however.
Chacun Pour Soi clearly came on a bundle for that outing and breezed past stable companion Min to take up the running at the second last.
The son of Policy Maker then stretched clear but, following a slight mistake at the last, had to be kept right up to his work on the run-in to score by just under four lengths.
Chacun Pour Soi clearly has a huge engine. The way he ultimately finished off the race raises questions as to whether the stiff uphill finish at Cheltenham will play to his strengths
He is now second-favourite for the Grade 1 Queen Mother behind Defi Du Seuil, who has proven form over further than the 2m trip and a potent turn of foot.
It sets things up for a fascinating rematch between the pair, but there is also a certain Altior in the race. He has won the last two runnings of the Champion Chase.
Altior has his final prep run in the Game Spirit Chase at Newbury this Saturday. It’s a case of seeing how he performs there before deciding who you should back!