Dublin Racing Festival Tips | Diamond in the Leopardstown rough

Punchestown Festival

The Dublin Racing Festival is on our doorstep in what is the final signpost on the road toward the Cheltenham Festival.

Ireland’s top trainers have prepared their top horses for two top days of entertainment, all kicking off with the Nathaniel Lacy & Partners Novice Hurdle.

With Sandown’s Grade 1 card on the same day, here are a few horses to keep onside on Saturday.


1:20 Leopardstown – Predators Gold @ 13/8 with William Hill

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In the opener, Predators Gold is a horse I have had on my radar all season and connections have opted to step the five-year-old back up in trip to a more suitable distance.

After his debut success over hurdles, jockey Paul Townend said he got a feel that made him think he was a Grade 1 horse and that was put to the test on his next start when he finished second to Caldwell Potter in the Grade 1 Future Champions Novice Hurdle.

The conditions that day were attritional, though he dealt with them well and showed that he is a horse who can compete at this level.

Of his five rivals, none have proven Grade 1 form in the book, though the horse who could improve to outrun his odds is Stellar Story who beat both Ile Atlantique and Caldwell Potter in the two-mile bumper.

However, with this uncertainty about the rest, Predators Gold looks like the one who could stamp his mark on the staying novice hurdle division.


3:00 Leopardstown – Joyeux Machin @ 20/1 with William Hill

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Paul Nolan’s Joyeux Machin is returning to Leopardstown for the first time since his second to Facile Vega in a bumper back in December 2021, and he could be well treated off 136.

The seven-year-old has run over fences since the middle of 2023, though he has failed to reach the heights that he promised as a novice hurdler.

Although returning from fences to hurdles isn’t necessarily positive, his third behind Inthepocket from his debut over hurdles is a nice piece of form and it’s only been six months since he last ran over hurdles.

His opening success over obstacles saw him finish strongly to beat Viva Devito, a horse who bolted up on his next start in a maiden hurdle, over two miles and he is still unexposed over three miles having won by seven lengths in May 2023 before his second to Minella Crooner over fences.

He has to put his last race well behind him, but his stint over fences has yet to convince, so a return to hurdles could see him put his best foot forward.


4:10 Leopardstown – The Folkes Tiara @ 6/1 with Boylesports

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Although he benefitted from the departure of Path D’Oroux, the way The Folkes Tiara he won at Leopardstown on Boxing Day was very taking.

He jumped beautifully coming into the home straight and did well to see it out with a few fast-approaching rivals in behind.

Furthermore, the eight-year-old was second to Final Orders over course and distance before he improved 17 pounds in December 2022 and he was then a good third to Dinoblue – a subsequent Grade 1 winner – in a two-mile handicap at Punchestown.

He is a nice improver and could continue to go that way off a workable mark.


4:10 Leopardstown – Grey Diamond @ 18/1 with William Hill

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Not many horses have moved from Sam Thomas to Gordon Elliott, though Grey Diamond is one who fits that criteria and could hit the frame at a big price.

The 10-year-old last won off a mark of 135 when bolting up at Haydock in facile fashion, so his mark of 136 – as well as Danny Gilligan’s five-pound claim – puts him on a competitive mark.

He was given plenty to do from the rear on his first two starts over in Ireland, though his last outing was promising as Jack Kennedy wasn’t asking many questions on the turn for home.

The Gris De Gris gelding is a good horse on his day, as shown by his third to Amarillo Sky and Fugitif at Cheltenham in November 2022, and he should be a fresh and firing horse on his third run for Elliott. Although this means I am putting up two horses in one race, both are big enough to play each-way.


British Runners

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As for the racing over in the UK, three horses look interesting over at Sandown.

The first comes in the 1:25 at Sandown as Diplomatic Ash looks like a big price at 16/1. The five-year-old is having his handicap debut and showed plenty of promise in novice hurdles behind Walks Like The Man and Idy Wood. A mark of 115 looks lenient and he has a nice pedigree as his mare, Carrigeen Lechuga, is a half-sister to Minella Indo and also achieved a rating of 130 on the track.

Over an hour later, I think Hermes Allen (11/8) could be too good in the Grade 1 Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase at 2:35. His run in the Kauto Star was good behind Il Est Francais and a drop back to two-and-a-half miles shouldn’t be a worry. He is the Saturday NAP.

Finally, in the £100,000 handicap hurdle at 3:10, I’m a fan of Transmission at 7/1 for Neil Mulholland. Of course, the recovery of Joe Anderson took all the limelight after his success at Plumpton, but the nature of his overall performance was very good. His maiden hurdle form with Inthepocket and Joyeux Machin suggests 125 is a lenient mark.

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