Welcome to the preview for the 2021 Dublin Racing Festival which is set to take place at Leopardstown this weekend. It’s become one of the highlights of the National Hunt calendar with two days of stellar racing with this year being no exception.
I’ll be previewing both days action sharing who I think the likely winner of each contest will be starting with Saturday’s card. So as ever, enjoy!
We kick things off at 1:05 with a Grade 1 in the form of the Nathaniel Lacy & Partners Solicitor Novice Hurdle over two miles and six furlongs. I think this can go to Willie Mullins with the potentially very smart GAILLARD DU MESNIL (5/2) who’s currently the mount of Paul Townend. Sporting the famous Donnelly silks he finished second on his stable debut and then followed up with a very taking display last time out at this track, travelling powerfully and dismantling a field. That propelled him to the top of Cheltenham markets and I think he’s got a big chance of enhancing said credentials here. There are a whole host of potential rivals, none more so than stablemate Stattler if he lines up as well Fakeira and Ashdale Bob who all look top prospects.
Next up is the 1:35 and it’s more Grade 1 action with the Dublin Chase over two miles and one and a half furlongs. I think this another one that can go to Mullins with the current Champion Chase favourite CHACUN POUR SOI (4/9). He’s looked a class a part so far this season having comfortably won a Grade 1 here by over 6 lengths the last day. If turning up in the same form he’ll be incredibly tough to beat in a race that he won last year. His main rival once again looks to come in the form of stablemate Min who’s a top servant for connections.
It’s another Grade 1 at 2:10 this time coming in the form of the Irish Arkle once again contested over a distance of two miles and one and a half furlongs. And once again I think this will go to Team Closutton with the Willie Mullins trained ENERGUMENE (4/5) who again is the mount of Paul Townend. He’s looked electric in both of his starts this term winning by a combined distance of over 26 lengths and has asserted himself as a potential threat to Shishkin at Cheltenham. He’ll need to win this well if he is to go on to merit such an accolade but I think he’s got every chance of doing so. If Unexpected lines up here I think he’s the main danger, he’s not been seen since an impressive win at Tipperary back in October.
We move into Handicap company now as the 2:45 brings us the Matheson Handicap Chase over two miles and one and a half furlongs. As expected, this is an extremely competitive affair of which a case could made for the majority of it’s sizeable field. I’ve taken a chance on one here at a big price and that’s JAN MAAT (20/1), he fell here last time and hasn’t been in the best form, however, he’s running off just a pound higher than his last winning mark and has the added bonus of Hugh Morgan’s five pound claim.
We’re back in Grade 1 company now at 3:15 with the Irish Champion Hurdle taking centre stage. I think this can go to last year’s winner HONEYSUCKLE (11/8) for Henry De Bromhead and Rachael Blackmore. She made her seasonal reappearance in November when winning the Grade 1 Hatton’s Grace and I believe she’ll come on a great deal from that and put in a bold showing in this contest once more. Her main rival looks to come in the form of Sharjah for Willie Mullins who was last seen when winning the Grade 1 Matheson Hurdle here over Christmas.
The penultimate race on the first day of the Dublin Racing Festival takes place at 3:50 and is the Ladbrokes Hurdle over two miles. Another extremely competitive handicap of which I’m taking a chance with CIEL DE NIEGE (10/1) for Willie Mullins and Jody McGarvey. He finally shed his maiden tag last time out after a string of solid efforts in top-level handicaps and he’s running here off what I think is a very workable mark, judging by what he’s produced in the past. He’s still relatively unexposed and has every chance in what is another wide open looking handicap.
Concluding the day’s racing on Saturday is the Grade 2 National Hunt Flat Race at 4.25 and this is actually one of the races of the weekend in my opinion. We have some of the best bumper horses in Ireland taking each other on here and I think it will be KILCRUIT (7/4) who will come out on top for the Mullins duo. A very nice prospect who has a lofty reputation, he won on stable debut by over 9 lengths and if building on that effort here I think he’s every chance of justifying said reputation and his place at top-end of the Cheltenham Festival betting.