The second running of the two-day Dublin Racing Festival starts on February 2nd at Leopardstown. With eight Grade 1 races among a host of other classy contests, and prize money totalling €1.8m, a superb weekend in Ireland looks guaranteed.
Below, are six horses who may well be worth keeping onside over the two days.
DALLAS DES PICTONS - WILLIAM FRY HANDICAP HURDLE, SUNDAY
A mark of 130 may underestimate the ability of DALLAS DES PICTONS (8/1) who looks set to run in the William Fry Handicap Hurdle on Sunday. The Gigginstown House Stud-owned and Gordon Elliott-trained trained French recruit showed his slightly disappointing November running at Naas to be all wrong when finishing second in a strong maiden at Leopardstown over Christmas.
A step up in trip came 20 days ago at Punchestown when he bolted up over 2m4f at 6/5. As his price suggests, he didn’t need to be at his best to win but having been slightly outpaced and maybe still a bit green under Jack Kennedy, the son of Spanish Moon came home well to win by ten lengths.
The six-year-old now takes a step up to 3m for the first time in his career, and that is an unknown. If he happened to thrive over the distance, off his current mark, he could go close. Given how he hit the line at Punchestown, having been slightly tapped for toe, I’m hopeful his stamina will hold out.
LA BAGUE AU ROI - FLOGAS NOVICE CHASE, SUNDAY
Hats off to trainer Warren Greatrex and owners Mrs Julien Turner/Andrew Merriam who will travel their Grade 1-winning novice chaser LA BAGUE AU ROI (9/4) to Leopardstown on Sunday to compete in the Flogas Novice Chase. For rolling the dice and taking on the best Ireland has to offer in their own back yard, I hope they are at least rewarded with covering the costs.
There is a fair chance the mare will win too, and for me, she should be favourite. Her form over fences is right on a par with the market leader Delta Work, but the fact she is in receipt of the 7lb mares’ allowance means she should be shorter than the 9/4 on offer.
La Bague Au Roi has the size and scope to be a better hurdler than chaser, and she has put that theory into practice this season, going unbeaten in three runs. Last time out she turned over geldings Topofthegame and Santini in the Kauto Star Novices' Chase, despite Kempton not being her ideal track and throwing in the odd left jump.
A switch to Leopardstown’s right-handed galloping course is positive for this sound-jumping mare. Versatile with regards tactics, should she handle the travel to Ireland with aplomb, she will take plenty of beating.
MOON OVER GERMANY - GOFFS HANDICAP CHASE, SATURDAY
The lightly-raced MOON OVER GERMANY (5/1) has clearly had his fair share of problems, the eight-year-old only seeing the track 11 times. Coming into this season, Philip Reynolds’s horse hadn’t raced since July 2016.
Now in the care of Henry de Bromhead, Moon Over Germany has seemingly been nursed back to health and has returned to training in good order. He started his campaign behind high-class novice Getabird at Punchestown, showing a fair aptitude to jump fences.
He then ran over this course and distance at Christmas behind stablemate Paloma Blue, and interestingly, attracted a fair bit of market support, returning a starting price one and a half points shorter than last season’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle fourth. Once again, he jumped well, but just didn’t have the class of the winner late in the race.
On Saturday, he runs in his first handicap chase so, the Goffs Handicap Chase, and with a solid-jumping, strong travelling nature this test could suit him well. He does carry his head a bit off, but hopefully he’ll prove well enough handicapped that he doesn’t have to battle hard. That would be ideal!
PALOMA BLUE - FRANK WARD SOLICITORS ARKLE NOVICE CHASE, SATURDAY
With the likes of Articulum, Knocknanuss, Us and Them and Voix Du Reve all set to contest the Grade 1 Frank Ward Solicitors Arkle Novice Chase on Saturday, PALOMA BLUE (9/1) may get his perfect set-up; a strong-run race on nice ground.
Last season’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle fourth has long had the stamp of a chaser, and given Henry de Bromhead’s fine record of producing accurate jumpers, the son of Stowaway rated as an exciting novice chase recruit this campaign.
He’s been a slow-burner however, disappointing on his debut run and not jumping as well on the track as he has reportedly schooled at home. Last time out at least, over this course and distance, the son of Stowaway took a significant step forward. In terms of form, he is now gong the right way.
His jumping needs to improve on what we’ve seen, I’m under no illusions here, but his trainer has been working hard in that department in the interim and he is sure to get a lead this time around, which may well be key to all aspects of his game improving.
Paloma Blue is the type of horse that will continue to improve with racing, and looks a sporting each-way play against the market leaders Le Richebourg, who has been on the go since the summer, and Knocknanuss, who will be taken on for the lead.
PETIT MOUCHOIR - BHP INSURANCE IRISH CHAMPION HURDLE, SATURDAY
A return to more prominent tactics may see PETIT MOUCHOIR outrun his price and at least finish second to Apple’s Jade in the BHP Irish Champion Hurdle. Henry de Bromhead’s two-time Grade 1-winning hurdler, both of which came over this course and distance, and once in this race, made a belated return to action over Christmas in the Ryanair Hurdle, surprisingly switched to hold-up tactics.
That strategy change at least saw the eight-year-old have a kind introduction to the campaign, having ended last season disappointingly thanks to a gruelling effort in the Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices' Chase on the back of an interrupted year. Under Rachael Blackmore, the grey travelled with his usual zest 35 days ago and jumped satisfactory. It was an effort that will hopefully put him right for this weekend’s race.
It would be no surprise to the son of Al Namix dominate from the front with Apple’s Jade just in behind, or just in front. On unseasonably quick ground, they may just get away from Supasundae, while in the betting without Apple’s Jade market (15/2 with one bookmaker), he offers a sounder value alternative ahead of Melon.
TIGER TAP TAP - TATTERSALLS IRELAND SPRING JUVENILE HURDLE, SUNDAY
The likes of Chief Justice and Coeur Sublime still have the better form over the potential horses, Sir Eric and TIGER TAP TAP (11/4) but there isn’t a huge gulf in class between them and there is a feeling the first two home from their December 27th clash can improve passed the Tattersalls Ireland Spring Juvenile Hurdle form horses.
Only a neck separated Sir Eric and Tiger Tap Tap over this course and distance at Christmas, but there is a solid case to be made for the Willie Mullins inmate turning the form at a bigger price. Having just the third start of his career and his first over hurdles, Tiger Tap Tap showed plenty of promise against a more experienced and seasoned winner.
The fact he conceded a marginal track position and a marginal first run while covering more ground in various parts of the race, to only go down a neck to a horse who is more streetwise was a fair effort. Further encouragement can be taken from the wonderful attitude he showed in trying to claw back the tough winner.
In a race lacking pace, Ruby Walsh may elect for a more positive ride and instead of sitting behind Sir Eric, will try and lead him and the field a merry dance. He may just be the one to come out on top by a neck on Sunday.