The Dublin Racing Festival descends on Leopardstown this weekend with bumper crowds set to be treated to no less than eight Grade 1 races across the two days with plenty of Cheltenham Festival clues on offer. Last year’s DRF produced three subsequent Cheltenham winners so notebooks at the ready as we examine some of the key talking points ahead of the action from Dublin.
GIGGINSTOWN AIMING FOR FLYING START
It’s not long ago that Gigginstown House Stud looked set to exit stage left with Michael O’Leary reportedly keen to wind down operations but the Ryanair boss appears to have rediscovered his competitive edge with Gigginstown investing heavily in some highly promising youngsters.
Another unlikely headline was an O’Leary and Willie Mullins reunion with the famous Maroon and White silks once again been sported in the Closutton yard.
Connections will be hoping to start the DRF with a bang this weekend with Predators Gold and Storm Heart strong favourites in the opening two Grade One’s on Saturday.
Predators Gold was quickly chucked into Grade One company after impressive bumper and maiden hurdle successes at Punchestown with the 5-year-old enhancing his reputation further despite suffering defeat when second to Caldwell Potter in the Future Champions Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown over Christmas. Having kept on well following a final flight blunder, Predators Gold is set for a step up in trip tomorrow and is the choice of Champion Jockey Paul Townend.
Townend also opts to partner Storm Heart in the Grade One Spring Juvenile Hurdle at 1.50. The 4-year-old is a French flat winner who caused a huge stir when winning by over 20 lengths on his Irish and jumping debut at Punchestown last time.
NO MARINE AND WARRIOR BATTLE IN IRISH ARKLE
Irish racegoers were left disappointed when news broke earlier this week that there would be no head to head involving Marine Nationale and Gaelic Warrior with Willie Mullins opting to run his charge on the Sunday card instead.
As a result, Barry Connell’s Supreme winner from last season, Marine Nationale is now a firm odds-on to win the race that was won by subsequent Arkle winner El Fabiolo last season.
Marine Nationale looked a natural over fences when winning on Chase debut over the C&D last time out and is as short as 11/10 to replicate what El Fabiolo did last season by winning here and then at Cheltenham.
GALOPIN v FASTORSLOW IIII
The Irish Gold Cup is the setting for the latest showdown between defending Gold Cup hero Galopin Des Champs and his dual Punchestown conqueror Fastorslow.
Martin Brassil’s stable star proved his Punchestown Gold Cup win was no fluke when again upsetting the applecart in the John Durkan to leave the H2H scoreboard reading 2-1 in favour of Fastorslow.
However, not too many will be backing against the defending champion here after GDC put together one of his best ever performances in the Savills Chase last time with the 8-year-old as short as 6/4 to win the Irish and Cheltenham Gold Cup just as he done last season.
THE CHAMPION BUMPER WINNER IS BACK
Having suffered some setbacks in training this season, Cheltenham Champion Bumper winner A Dream To Share will finally make his reappearance in the Grade 2 “Future Stars” Bumper. Incredibly still eligible for a race of this nature, A Dream To Share is sure to be popular with punters on the day despite carrying topweight against some smart sorts and off the back of a lengthy layoff. An intriguing way to end day one of the DRF.