Dublin Racing Festival: All you need to know
A look at Leopardstown’s flagship meeting
The fifth edition of the annual Dublin Racing Festival sees some of the very best equine talent descend on Leopardstown to put their Cheltenham Festival credentials to the test.
The two-day meeting at the venue just outside of the Irish capital takes place on February 5-6 and has been a breeding ground for Prestbury Park winners since its inception.
It is also a firm favourite of supporters alike, with many making the trip across the Irish Sea to enjoy the action accompanied by a few pints of ‘the black stuff’.
What are the feature races?
There are 15 races at the Dublin Racing Festival and for the first time it is the Irish Gold Cup that headlines the Saturday action.
Defending champion Kemboy (3/1) is the favourite for the feature and Willie Mullins’ 10-year-old has a phenomenal course record, only once outside of the top three in seven appearances at the Dublin track.
Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Minella Indo (7/2) is next in the betting alongside Frodon (7/2), who is an interesting raider for Paul Nicholls and there could be some real movement in the Cheltenham betting depending on the outcome.
The unbeaten mare looked as good as ever when returning at Fairyhouse in November and will be partnered as always by Rachael Blackmore.
Day one highlights (Saturday)
As well as the Irish Gold Cup there are three more Grade One races on Saturday afternoon.
Gordon Elliott pair Ginto and Hollow Games could lock horns again in the opening Nathaniel Lacy & Partners Solicitors “50,000 Cheltenham Bonus For Stable Staff” Nov Hurdle over 2m6f. The unbeaten Journey With Me also features amongst the initial entries for a race which has been won by some top stayers over the years and often provides a key guide to the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle in March.
The Grade One Spring Juvenile quickly follows and Fil Dor gets the opportunity to immediately hit back at stablemate Pied Piper, who was ultra-impressive at Cheltenham this weekend. The Pied Piper form is also put to the test with Vauban in the line-up. The Closutton youngster was beaten just half a length by Elliott’s Triumph Hurdle favourite at Punchestown on New Year’s Eve.
Mullins looks to have a great chance of winning the Irish Arkle for the fifth time in eight years and could saddle any of Blue Lord, Haut En Couleurs or Saint Sam. The race could determine Closutton’s leading Arkle contender now Ferny Hollow is out injured.
There could be huge implications for the Champion Bumper also if all of the big guns entered stand their ground at the declaration stage.
Facile Vega and Redemption Day were both impressive course-and-distance winners for Mullins at Leopardstown’s Christmas meeting, but they could come up against the unbeaten American Mike, who appears to be following the Envoi Allen/Sir Gerhard route to Prestbury Park and has looked top-class so far.
Day two highlights (Sunday)
Honeysuckle is the obvious standout attraction on the Sunday of the Dublin Racing Festival, which kicks off with a mares’ handicap hurdle which provided three Cheltenham Festival winners (Mrs Milner, Telmesomthinggirl and Heaven Help Us) in 2021.
That is quickly followed by the first of four Grade One races where Galopin Des Champs (4/9) will be looking to follow in the footsteps of Monkfish and book his ticket to Prestbury Park following his impressive novice chase debut over course and distance at Christmas.
One. Horse. Race. 🤯
Galopin Des Champs blows the field apart to win the Ballymaloe Relish Beginners Chase 🥇
— ITV Racing (@itvracing) December 28, 2021
British raiders Greaneteen (3/1), Sky Pirate (12/1) and Editeur Du Gite (12/1) look to knock Chacun Pour Soi (4/6) off his perch in the Dublin Chase, but the two-time champ could prove tough to beat on home turf and in a race Mullins has won every single time it has been run.
Before Honeysuckle struts her stuff, former Cheltenham Festival winner The Shunter and Grand National hero Minella Times could run in the green and gold of JP McManus in the 2m5f handicap chase at 2.25pm.
Sir Gerhard looks to establish himself as the Mullins number one for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle as he attempts to become the Closutton handler’s ninth winner of the Tattersalls Ireland Novice Hurdle in the last 10 years.
Some of Mullins’ best have won this in the past and joining last year’s Champion Bumper winner in the line-up could be stablemates El Fabiola, Statuaire and Dinoblue.
Key Dublin Racing Festival stats
Last year 11 Cheltenham Festival winners ran at the Dublin Racing Festival before scoring at Prestbury Park so it makes sense to have the notebook open and a keen eye to spot those who could strike at March’s showpiece.
However, of those 11, only four (Honeysuckle, Appreciate It, Monkfish and Quilixios) actually won their race at the Dublin Racing Festival, suggesting it may be wise to keep an open mind to those amongst the beaten horses.
Vanillier and Galopin Des Champs were both beaten in novice Grade One contests over hurdles before winning at Prestbury Park, while the Spring Juvenile has proven to be a great guide for both the Triumph Hurdle and Fred Winter over the years.
All odds and market correct at date of publication