Donn McClean has two interesting bets for day one of the Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown.
Donn's best bets:
Take three separate National Hunt days, top class National Hunt days at a top class racecourse, one from early January, one from late January and one from mid-February, and fuse them together into one weekend. Stage it in early February, about five weeks after Christmas, about five weeks before Cheltenham, and give the prize money a boost. You think that would work?
It worked last year all right, the inaugural year. The racing was enthralling. As well as that, eight horses who ran at last year’s Dublin Racing Festival went on and won at the Cheltenham Festival.
The racing looks intriguing this year too. The BHP Insurance Irish Champion Hurdle, the feature on Day 1, is fascinating, with Apple’s Jade set to race over two miles for the first time since she was beaten a nose by Irving in the 2016 Fighting Fifth Hurdle. Lots of water has passed under the bridge since then, Gigginstown House Stud's remarkable mare has won nine of her 12 races since, including three Hatton’s Grace Hurdles and two Christmas Hurdles and one Mares’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.
But in Melon and Supasundae, the Gordon Elliott-trained mare faces two worthy adversaries who are both proven over two miles. Melon was beaten a neck by Buveur D’Air in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham last March, and Supasundae won this race last year and the Champion Hurdle at Punchestown in April, both over the minimum trip. You’re just dying to see how it’s all going to pan out.
It will also be fascinating to see how the Frank Ward Solicitors Arkle Chase pans out. You know who’s going to lead anyway. Knocknanuss. Gary Moore’s horse is fast, and he adds the cross-channel element.
He could lead from flagfall and last the whole way home. He did so at Newbury in November, and he beat all except French star Master Dino at Plumpton last time, over a distance that was probably longer than ideal. It’s great that Gary Moore is taking him over to Leopardstown.
Le Richebourg sets the standard though, and it’s a high standard. Beaten just a neck by Delta Work in the Grade 1 Drinmore Chase at Fairyhouse in early December, JP McManus' horse stepped forward from that when he stepped back in trip at Leopardstown’s Christmas Festival, over today’s course and distance, to land the Grade 1 Racing Post Novice Chase.
Joseph O’Brien’s horse was very good that day, when he had his stable companion Us And Them back in second place, with Voix Du Reve a neck further back in third and Mengli Khan another length and a half behind in fourth.
Mengli Khan and Voix Du Reve were both higher in the market that day than JP McManus’ horse. Mengli Khan had been impressive in winning his beginners’ chase at Punchestown on his seasonal debut and, a 150-rated hurdler, he could get closer to Le Richebourg today.
However, the value of the race could be Voix Du Reve. Willie Mullins’ horse was a little keener than ideal out in front that day at Leopardstown. He did make all to win his beginners’ chase at Galway in October, and he was impressive in making all to win the Grade 2 Craddockstown Chase at Punchestown in November. However, he could do better if he can settle nicely behind the fast pace that Knocknanuss will surely set.
He had Hardline seven lengths behind him in second place in the Craddockstown Chase, and Hardline went out next time and beat Us And Them by 10 lengths in a Grade 3 race at Navan. Then he went to Limerick’s Christmas Festival and he beat Getabird by half a length in the Grade 1 Matchbook Betting Exchange Novice Chase.
Voix Du Reve does have almost five lengths to find with Le Richebourg on their running over today’s course and distance at Christmas, but he was a 145-rated hurdler and he is already a better chaser. He is a likeable and progressive novice chaser who goes well on goodish ground, and he may be a little under-rated by the market.
Try Again may also be a little under-rated by the market in the Ladbrokes Hurdle. Paul Flynn’s horse was impressive in landing a handicap hurdle over today’s course and distance at Leopardstown’s Christmas Festival. He settled well that day, he travelled well around the home turn, and he stayed on well to win nicely from Share The Honour.
The handicapper raised him by 8lb for that win, and by another 2lb for his run at Fairyhouse last time, but he won with plenty in hand at Leopardstown, and he has a nice progressive profile.
He could only finish third behind Éclair De Beaufeu in that Fairyhouse race, but he was held up that day off a pace that was not overly strong. While it never looked like he was going to get to the winner, he finished off his race strongly, he just failed to catch Oscar Den for second place, and that was after getting in a little tight to each of the last two Easyfix hurdles.
Éclair De Beaufeu is a danger – one of many – but Try Again meets Gordon Elliott’s horse on 10lb better terms today for a five-length beating at Fairyhouse. That gives him a real chance of exacting his revenge.
The fast pace that they should go will help, he is a winner over the course and distance, and the goodish ground should be ideal. In a hugely competitive handicap hurdle, he could run a big race.