Folks we are back over obstacles for the start of the Dublin Racing Festival and we are spoiled for choice but some excellent contests. This will be a pointer for many to Cheltenham next month so hopefully we can get a winner or two on the board.
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1.05 NATHANIEL LACY AND PARTNERS SOLICITORS “50K BONUS FOR STABLE STAFF” NOVICE HURDLE 2M 6F
While much of the attention in this race will be around Gaillard De Mesnil it is his stablemate STATTLER who really impressed me last time and could improve again.
The ground should be no issue as he won on debut on heavy ground beating Jimmy Jimmy by over six lengths. His next two runs were in decent bumpers where even though he was beating he looked to get readily outpaced over two miles and battle on again.
On his hurdling debut at Naas he looked awkward and never really travelled but still battled away and was coming back at them towards the finish. He improved off the back of that with an impressive victory at Leopardstown when beating Glens Of Antrim over Christmas.
Just in comparison with Gaillard De Mesnil, Stattlers time was quicker over the same track and trip and I think he always looks like he will benefit over further.
Should be hard to keep out of the frame.
1.35 DUBLIN CHASE (GRADE ONE) 2M 1F
Since winning at Naas and Punchestown in electric fashion CHACUN POUR SOI has always appeared to have the world at his feet.
He does everything effortlessly and looks to have a massive chance to take another step towards Cheltenham here. He will be looking for back to back wins in this race and his stablemate Min looks the only one that might put it up to him.
On ratings Chacun Pour Soi is five pound higher and that class should see him through. Both his starts this season have been impressive when winning at Cork and at Leopardstown over Christmas.
There is not much more to say about this horse other than his price will be short and he takes plenty of beating.
2.10 PATRICK WARD & SOLICITORS IRISH ARKLE NOVICE CHASE (GRADE 1) 2M 1F
While Shiskin looks electric across the water there is only one horse for me that may give him a race at Cheltenham and that is ENERGUMENE who will head the market here.
With ground conditions likely to suit and blunt the speed of many of the others I think Paul Townend can set his own fractions and gallop away from them. He won over 2m 4f on his debut at Gowran Park over the larger obstacles and then dropped back in trip at Naas where I thought he was even more impressive.
He jumped well up front and galloped his rivals into submission to beat Captain Guinness by an ever widening margin. The fact that he stays further really comes into play and should be the same this time around.
Will be extremely hard to beat here and should go to Cheltenham as the leading Irish hope in the Arkle.
2.45 MATHESON HANDICAP CHASE (GRADE B) 2M 1F
Most of the handicaps over the weekend are very competitive affairs and this is no different but the one that stands out to me here is THE SHUNTER trained by Emmet Mullins and due to be ridden by Brian Hayes.
The last time we seen this horse was when he was impressive at Cheltenham over hurdles with Robbie Power on board when he landed a bit of a touch to win snugly.
Back over larger obstacles now this looks to have been a plan put in place as his chase mark is two pounds lower than his hurdle mark. The last time we seen him over fences is when he finished fourth in a Grade Three Novice Chase in Cork.
His price may contract massively towards the off time so I would keep a close eye on the market.
He looks to have been laid out for the race and will be one of the main protagonists here.
3.15 CHANELLE PHARMA IRISH CHAMPION HURDLE (GRADE 1) 2M
This looks an excellent race and I am going slightly left field with my selection here as I was really impressed with him over Christmas and thought he ran a cracking trial for this race.
PETIT MOUCHOIR while getting on in years seems to have been rejuvenated by the switch to Gordon Elliott and looks overpriced here due to the fact that he ran well in this race last year and much of his best form is around Leopardstown.
Away from Leopardstown we seen him finish third to Aramon in the Galway Hurdle and Aramon was thought highly of in terms of a Champion Hurdle so that was a very good run.
If we go back to Christmas we seen Petit Mouchoir get slightly caught on heels and get outpaced before two out but the way he ran on towards the finish really impressed me.
He was only beaten a length in this race last year behind Honeysuckle under similar weight terms.
The mare will be very difficult to beat but Petit Mouchoir might be the one to give her plenty to think about.
3.50 EXTENDED HANDICAP HURDLE (GRADE B) 2M
This race has normally been very competitive in recent years and it is the exact same this time around with the market headed by Advanced Virgo trained by Charles Byrnes.
The horse that stands out for me and has run well in a big field handicap before is CIEL DE NEIGE trained by Willie Mullins.
He ran an absolute cracker of a race for me at Fairyhouse when he finished fifth in a race won by Advanced Virgo but the weight difference this time around should see him get much closer. He was given 17lb last time and was only beaten just over four lengths, this time around there is a 10lb pull in the weights and that could make all the difference.
Ciel De Neige went to Limerick and broke his maiden hurdle status last time at very short odds and that for me was a very shrewd move by Willie Mullins. I think it was a massive confidence boost for the horse to get his head in front and we could see a big performance this time around.
In terms of handicap form he was a very creditable second in a very good race at Newbury last season when he was second behind the Paul Nicholls trained Pic D’Orhy.
With luck in running here he will be very hard to keep out of the frame and looks a solid each way selection.
4.25 GOFFS FUTURE STARS (C & G) INH FLAT RACE (GRADE 2) 2M
With the defection of Cheltenham bumper market leader Sir Gerhard the market for this race has proved volatile in recent days and it looks a very tricky puzzle to solve.
Barry O’Neill comes in for the ride on RAMILLES with Patrick Mullins picking Kilcruit as the best of the Mullins battalion. Ramilles hadn’t been seen since Christmas 2019 before running over Christmas and he was nothing short of breathtaking with the way he travelled and galloped all the way to the line.
He will likely improve again and his price could tumble before heading to Cheltenham in March. It could be a case of him outstaying the likely market leader Kilcruit and I think at the prices Ramilles looks the way to play this race.
I would have a small play antepost for Cheltenham just if it comes up slightly softer this horse may relish conditions.