A trio of tips for a superb Dublin Racing Festival card


With snow and frost forecast, there is an 8am inspection planned for Musselburgh on Sunday – ITV are scheduled to show four races from the track – so I make no apologies for majoring on day two of the Dublin Racing Festival and a sensational Leopardstown card.

I will get around to the Scottish action later though, just in case.

I don’t have betting opinions in some of the Grade 1s in Ireland, so this is not the place to be if you want punting guidance in the five-runner Irish Gold Cup and the Flogas Novices’ Chase featuring a rock-solid odds-on jolly.

Mind you, do you really need anybody to tell you that Monkfish is a worthy 8/11 poke in the 15:10 and that credible dangers are thin on the ground, or that Minella Indo is a questionable favourite at around 7/4 against three higher-rated opponents in what is a underwhelming turn-out for the big one at 15:40?

Na.

I can’t see an angle into any of those contests – in truth there is very little to object to in the betting in either race – and, regardless, I actually think the “big one” is the Grade 1 Chanelle Pharma Novice Hurdle at 14:10.

What. A. Race. And a 16-runner Grade 1 race, at that.

A chance taken on a turn around in form

It is comfortably the contest that I have most looked forward to seeing this season – and I don’t tend to do positive, so perhaps these lockdown blues are taking hold of me – and I also can’t help feeling that Appreciate It could have more on his plate than his Betfair Sportsbook price of 8/11 suggests (the 4/5 went on Friday) suggests.

Don’t get me wrong, he looked a proper tool when beating Irascible by 9 lengths here over Christmas. But it just so happens that there may be one or two sharper implements in the 2m novice hurdle box.

Maybe unlikely, but there are still plenty of unknowns in here, perhaps even from his own stable (Wille Mullins runs six).

Last year’s Cheltenham Bumper runner-up Appreciate It (and winner of the Grade 2 bumper at this meeting last season) was not overly-impressive at odds of 1/12 when beating a 50/1 shot on his hurdling debut at Cork in November, but little did we know how good the 2 ½-length second would turn out to be.

It just highlights how easily you can bump into one (or nearly bump into one) in a seemingly lowly contest, let alone a Grade 1.

In fact, the Cork runner-up won his next two starts and is now rated 143, and re-opposes here. He is called Master McShee, and he is no forlorn hope to reverse the form.

Throw in the likes of Grade 1 winner Ballyadam, the keen but talented Blue Lord stepping down in trip, my 33/1 early December Supreme choice N’golo (I haven’t given up on him yet as he was given a lifeless ride last time) and any number of potential top-notchers, and we really have a race to savour.

I can see the case for laying the favourite at around 8/11 (you may even get filled at shorter the way his price is shortening) on the exchange and having the field running for you at odds-against, but the horse I am focusing on against the favourite is Irascible, who I suggested backing at 16/1 NRNB for the Supreme with the Sportsbook a few weeks ago on a Weighed In Podcast.

Of course, he has 9 lengths to make up with the favourite on their running here in December, but I can really see a strong pace and a big field suiting a horse who will stay further than 2m – he is bred along 3m lines – and that run last time can be marked up, too.

He went around the outside that day and wasn’t foot perfect, and he also met trouble in running on the run to the line (they omitted the last there). But he really found his stride late on and gave a strong hint that he was a lot better than the bare form.

His hurdling debut win at Clonmel from an odds-on stablemate has also been franked (and that victory came in a good time, too) and the issue for me is how to get with the horse here from a betting perspective.

Win-only on the exchange, or each-way at 10/1?

To be honest, my main play could be in the “without favourite” markets when they come online on Sunday morning, but I am happy to stick him up at 10s each-way, with the Sportsbook paying four places.

Two against the field in a competitive handicap

The other Grade 1 on the card is the six-runner Spring Juvenile Hurdle at 13:40.

I will admit to having a small bet on Ha D’Or at 20/1 earlier in week (apparently telling the truth annoys people, who would have thought that in racing?) as I thought that underestimated his claims after a promising third to top young pup Zanahiyr in the Knight Frank here in December.

He is said to have progressed well in the interim, and hopefully he has made enough strides at home to find the improve necessary to trouble those further up the betting, with Quilixios a market-topper I don’t mind taking on at the price. But I couldn’t recommend Ha D’or at around 8/1 now, for all we lost French Aseel at the overnight stage.

I love a handicap puzzle though, and I am keen on two in the opener. The temptation is to back them both each-way in such a deep 20-runner mares’ handicap but that description underlines how competitive this is = you could run well and finish eighth here – so I am going win-only on the pair in the 13:10.

DublinRacingFestivalHurdle1280.jpg

The more obvious of the pair is Mrs Milner, who I backed – along with the plenty of the others in my race-going circle, I think – to win this race last year, only for the horse to start slowly, make a mistake at the first (it wasn’t as bad as the in-running comment makes out) and never get into it.

It has been a bit annoying to see her run crackers in all her five races since, including a big-field handicap win at Galway over 2m, and she comes here after two good efforts over 3m.

She is actually 1lb lower than when just touched off a neck by On The Blind Side at Cheltenham in October – the winner is now rated 8lb higher – and she traded 2.021/1 in the run here last time, breezing into it rounding the final bend but just weakening out of it thereafter.

A strong pace at 2m2f with plenty of dig should see her go well, down in trip, and she is a bet at 10.09/1 or bigger.

The other horse is a wild old swing at 34.033/1 or bigger. Step forward, Heaven Help Us. I imagine you will get a fair bit better than 33s on the exchange.

She has been plying her trade over fences all season, winning over 2m on good at Fairyhouse in October, and being very highly tried in recent starts, most recently behind Monkfish and Latest Exhibition.

She actually returns to hurdles on a very attractive mark of 126, considering she was rated 136 going into her last start in this sphere, and that was in the Supreme, where she travelled really well into the race until 3 out, where she met trouble at that obstacle and again at the next flight.

And her previous hurdles starts last season included a Grade 1 second to Abacadabras over 2m at this course (in a time that makes her the pick of the clock here) and a Cheltenham win and placed efforts in Listed company.

A mark of 126 underestimates those form-lines and I am happy to take a chance on her. I am told trainer Paul Hennessy is also a top dog handler in Ireland (hopefully that isn’t just a part-time role for the police) and he puts cheek pieces on the mare for the first time and has booked a 7lb claimer, too.

I know he doesn’t have many horses but this is the first time he has used that headgear in recent years from what I could gather. Make of that what you will.

I like Damalisque in the 3m handicap hurdle at 14:40 as I think the step up in trip will suit this improver and half-brother to Eklat De Rire.

But, optimistically perhaps, I wanted a fair bit bigger than 5/1 given the depth of this handicap and the fact that he has gone up 12lb for his win at Navan last time. I can pass on a good word for Koshari, but the opening 20/1 with the Sportsbook has gone (I mentioned him on the Racing Only Bettor Pod on Friday) so no bets for me.

Brief thoughts on Musselburgh’s ITV races

The weather forecast for Musselburgh doesn’t look too promising – mind you, all of the UK looks a bit chilly for the foreseeable, especially on the east side (I sounded like a New Yorker then)- but hopefully it gets the nod because it isn’t a bad card at all.

In fact, the four ITV races are all each-way 1,2,3 races at the time of filing, though I wouldn’t expect that to hold true with eight and nine-runner fields, and you have to think some won’t travel if the snow arrives across the UK.

There are some interesting newcomers in the Scottish Triumph Hurdle at 13:55 in the shape of 80+ Flat handicappers off the flat, Carlos Felix and Wise Glory.

But nothing much floats my boat there or in the novices’ hurdles at 14:25 and 15:25.

That said, Belfast Banter is of some interest at 14/1+ in the Scottish Supreme, as I thought he shaped well from off the pace when fifth to Not So Sleepy in an Ascot handicap last time. However, he does have a penalty and the higher-rated Third Time Lucki could prove difficult to chin.

Musselburgh racecourse 1280x720.jpg

In the 3m2f handicap hurdle at 14:55 we see my old mucker Keeper Hill returning to Scotland after his third in the race last year.

And he does so off a 5lb lower mark and after shaping much better at Market Rasen last time, travelling much more kindly than of late.

But this is a very trappy little race – the dead-eight stops me from having an each-way interest at this stage, with the spectre of a non-runner – and I suspect I am talking about a to-be-abandoned meeting.

No, let’s just concentrate on that superb Irish card.

Even I am excited.