Tony Keenan's Irish Angle

Our Irish expert Tony Keenan looks forward to this weekends Dublin Racing Festival, as well as putting up an ante-post selection in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

  • Wednesday 29 January
  • Blog
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Cheltenham Gold Cup Pointer

Ante-Post betting, particularly on Cheltenham, tends to get a bad rap these days but that might be a generalisation and not every price posted ahead of the big meeting is a bad one; there are overreactions to performances that see horses shortened too much but there can also be underreactions.

One such case looks to be SANTINI for the Gold Cup after his Cotswold Chase win; he may not have been a good bet for the Festival at 10/1 before Saturday but he looks a decent one now at 13/2 as that run proved quite a bit.

Chiefly, he showed his wellbeing having been off the track since an underwhelming return at Sandown in November, given a breathing operation in the interim. It is possible to pick holes in the performance by viewing Bristol De Mai on a downward trajectory and the ones in behind didn’t run to form but there were plenty of positives from the winner.

While never the type to travel strongly on the bridle, he looked pretty comfortable with the pace, responding quickly to encouragement from the saddle to stay with Bristol De Mai, and his jumping was good overall with only one, or two if you’re being picky, mistakes from which he was able to recover easily.

In any case, this Gold Cup is hardly packed with flawless jumpers, Al Boum Photo, Kemboy and Delta Work among those with issues in that area, and Santini has as much if not more potential to improve than any of them, especially when granted a stamina test, his finish on Saturday again the strongest part of his race.

It seems strange to say about an eight-year-old but there is also a chance that he hasn’t had a race really run to suit him yet; last season’s Kauto Star and RSA tested speed more than stamina and he did well to finish so close in either while Saturday’s race was a fair test, no more. A well-run Gold Cup could be just what he wants.

I admit to being a sucker for a second-season chaser for this race but Santini does tick quite a few other boxes such as handling the track, being open to improvement and in the right hands while he is a consistent sort too; on his bad days he finishes in the frame of Grade 1 races.

There are plenty of good Irish contenders for the race, Al Boum Photo chief among them and there is a chance there is more to come from him, but the Savills Chase form from Christmas looks suspect. Monalee may have improved but he has seemed below Grade 1 class since going into open company and was a little closer up than ideal with things not going his way after going hard in the middle part of the race.

Perhaps Sunday’s Irish Gold Cup will provide more clarity on that front but my suspicion is that Kemboy will improve markedly for this Christmas run and win carrying that forward to Cheltenham might be another matter as it may not be his track.

Mt Leinster to Shine


Since the start of January, Willie Mullins has had 26 winners from 82 runners, a strikerate of 31.7%, figures that seem to give the lie to any sort of stable form issue earlier in the winter, it appearing that many of his runners simply needed the run at that time.

It is likely a little more complex than that with the other major players Elliott, O’Brien and De Bromhead throwing most of their resources (successfully) at Christmas and having a relatively quiet January with those horses now set to run again in the coming weeks.

Whatever way you look at it, things are set up for another competitive Dublin Racing Festival and Mullins seems sure to add to his total of nine winners over the first two years of the meeting, the trainer having many obvious chances like Sharjah, Chacun Pour Soi, Kemboy and Faugheen.

One feature of the last month is now the stable’s novice hurdlers have come to life and a less-heralded runner with a chance this weekend is Mt Leinster in the Chanelle Pharma Novice Hurdle on Saturday.

A decent if not particularly progressive bumper horse last season, he has improved for hurdling this term, shaping well on debut at Gowran in November when second to the race-fit Easywork (an easy winner since) despite not jumping well and the ground being softer than ideal.

He built on that at Christmas when running away with a maiden hurdle in a good time on St. Stephen’s Day, the form since franked by Exit Poll and Botani who were well-beaten, and I remain unconvinced about likely favourite Abacadabras. The rain staying away this weekend would be a help but that seems likely looking at the forecast with continued watering planned.


Irish Amateurs to Watch


Mullins seems sure to have multiple runners in most if not all races over the weekend with son Patrick likely to be on board against the professionals on a few occasions. The rules of racing in Ireland allow amateur jockeys to have 21 rides in a season against the pros excluding those horses owned by themselves or their immediate family so the best of them do tend to be selective in the mounts they take.

Following Faugheen’s recent Limerick win, Willie Mullins commented that it is often significant when Patrick takes a mount in such races and the figures would support this with the table below looking at the top amateurs taking rides against the pros from the start of the 2014/15 season to present in Ireland.

Patrick Mullins has healthy returns as does Jamie Codd and to a lesser extent Derek O’Connor, the last-named coming off a big race win aboard Ok Corral in the Skybet Chase at Doncaster last Saturday. It might be something to look out for at Leopardstown this weekend.

Top Irish Amateurs against Professionals since 2014/15

Jockey Winners Rides Strikerate Level Stakes Places Actual/Expected
P. Mullins 27 108 25.0% +48.38 47 1.10
J. Codd 11 40 27.5% +12.75 19 1.44
D. O’Connor 7 47 14.9% +22.38 14 0.98


Tony Keenan's Irish Angle
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