Many were sceptical when plans for the Dublin Racing Festival were first floated but as we head into this years edition there is no doubt that these two days at the start of February are now one of the most eagerly anticipated on the calendar. And it’s not only on these shores that the DRF has caught the imagination with Kevin Blake reporting in his latest ATR’s blog that 20% of the pre-sale tickets sold by Leopardstown for this weekends festival have been to UK based racegoers. With no less than eight Grade 1 races to come over the two days and with roughly €2 million in prize money up for grabs it’s easy to see why the DRF is one of the hottest tickets in town!
The action gets underway at 1.20 on Saturday with the Grade 1 Nathaniel Lacy & Partners Solicitors “50,000 Cheltenham Bonus For Stable Staff” Nov Hurdle (2m6f). Willie Mullins has won 7 of the last 10 running’s of the race with the Closutton maestro potentially set to give bookmakers a nightmare weekend as he holds the favourite in no less than EIGHT of the 15 races.
The champion trainer has both Grangeclare West and Quais De Paris in the opener with the former perhaps not right when a disappointing 5th in the Lawlor’s of Naas last time while the French recruit won a fairly average maiden hurdle on bottomless ground at Tramore last time. Trainer Barry Connell enjoyed his first ever top-level success with Marine Nationale in the Bar One Racing Royal Bond at Fairyhouse before Christmas and the Kildare handler has the favourite Good Land in the first with the 7-year-old beating some really useful rivals at this course last time including Willie Mullins Embassy Gardens who bolted up by over 30l’s in his most recent start. It’s great to see some British trained horses over as well with Nigel Twiston-Davies’s Weveallbeencaught beating a subsequent winner at Cheltenham on New Years Day.
The Grade 1 action keeps rolling with the Donohue Marquees Spring Juvenile Hurdle up next at 1.55. Current Triumph favourite Lossiemouth will bid to extend his unbeaten record to 4/4 and give both Willie Mullins and owner Susannah Ricci back-to-back wins in this 4-year-olds contest after Vauban won last year on route to Cheltenham Festival success.
Willie Mullins was perhaps a slightly fortunate winner of last years Irish Arkle after the Gordon Elliott trained mare Riviere D’etel badly blundered the last to hand the race to Blue Lord but Mullins has an incredibly strong hand in this years renewal with former Supreme winner Appreciate It, last years Supreme favourite Dysart Dynamo, and Grade 1 runner up over hurdles El Fabiolo all potential runners in the 2.30. The winner of last seasons Martin Pipe at Cheltenham Banbridge needs to bounce back from a below-par run in the Bar One Racing Drinmore with his trainer Joseph O’Brien last winning this race in 2019 with Le Richebourg.
The day one feature is due off at 3.05 with Cheltenham Gold Cup favourite Galopin Des Champs one of the main attractions of the entire weekend in the Irish Gold Cup. The National Hunt Challenge Cup winner Stattler should come on for his run at Tramore on NYD when just pipped by former Gold Cup hero Minella Indo while former winner Kemboy is another big player.
The first handicap of the weekend takes place at 3.40 with a big-field expected to line up for the Grade B 3m hurdle contest. The following race at 4.10 is also a Grade B but this time we are over fences with the JP McManus owned A Wave Of The Sea seeking a hat-trick of wins in the contest.
Saturday’s card concludes with a Grade 2 bumper (4.40) in which Champion bumper contender Fascile Mode will bid to back up his striking debut over the C&D just after Christmas. Facile Vega, who we will see in action on Sunday, of course, won this race last year on route to Cheltenham glory.
- Bar One Racing will be price boosting the live show favourite in every race at Leopardstown this weekend across all betting channels (shops, online, Telebetting).
- Meanwhile, check out these Willie Mullins hot pots for the Dublin Racing Festival