Notes From the Dublin Racing Festival
As the countdown to Cheltenham rolls on, last month’s Trials on the Gloucestershire course were followed hot on the heels by a trip across the Irish Sea to Leopardstown this past weekend for February’s traditional form pointer, the Dublin Racing Festival.
Two days of racing saw movers and shakers across the board, so what did we learn from the 2023 edition?
Galopin Des Champs primed for Gold Cup
There is one big conclusion we can draw from the past weekend: Galopin Des Champs looks close to a shoo-in for the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Romping to an eight-length win at Leopardstown, the 7yo now has three wins on the spin and seven in the last two years. During that time, the French gelding has failed to win on just one occasion; last year’s Turners’ where he fell at the last.
To date, Galopin Des Champs’ only other Cheltenham trip was victory in the Handicap Hurdle the year before, so those that say he cannot perform on that particular turf would be wrong.
To take the Gold Cup on March 17, the defending A Plus Tard stands in the way but with the son of Kapgarde yet to run this term, and with Noble Yeats and Ahoy Senor with more to prove, right now, we can only see Paul Townend as the winning jockey.
Galopin Des Champs 7/4 with Betfair and SpreadEx to win the Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup.
State Man makes State ment
Just how good is State Man?
After storming away to the Irish Champion Hurdle on Sunday by a victory margin of almost five lengths, Willie Mullins has trained yet another gem.
An 11/4 winner of last year’s County Hurdle, the 6yo has blossomed into one of the finest of his age with the exception of perhaps one other: the mighty Constitution Hill.
The big home hope of the festival and winner of the 2022 Supreme Novices’, taking on Nicky Henderson’s equine behemoth is the task now that awaits State Man in the Champion Hurdle and he has his work cut out.
However, the nature of Sunday’s win was eye-opening. After blasting away from the turn here, could we see a spectacular duel up the hill at Cheltenham? If State Man is within a length of Constitution Hill with a furlong to go, the roar will be epic.
State Man is 3/1 with Betfair to win the UniBet Champion Hurdle.
Honeysuckle set for Mares’ Hurdle
Perhaps the biggest loser at Leopardstown – if not a surprise – was Honeysuckle.
Formerly unbeaten only weeks ago, the legendary mare recorded her second loss in a row and a first defeat in the Irish Champion Hurdle. Having won every single race since debuting in April 2018 and a British racing icon of recent times, the 9yo has now gone from 17-0 to 17-2.
Beaten well for the second time, Honeysuckle’s participation in not only the Champion Hurdle but at Cheltenham was in serious doubt but Tuesday’s news that Honeysuckle will switch to the Mares’ Hurdle has brought a mixed reception.
The general consensus, however, is Rachael Blackmore – herself off-kilter – will now have a better chance to compete. Not only that, but that contest is set up as one of the races of the festival.
With runner-up to Honeysuckle in the Champion Hurdle last year, Epatante, defending champ Marie’s Rock – winner of her last four races including on New Year’s Day at Cheltenham – and a fast improving Love Envoi who has failed to win just once in eight career contests, the Mares’ is poised.
In the case of Honeysuckle, as owner Kenny Alexander was keen to state, there was no pressure for her to run at Cheltenham after a stunning career but now given the nod for March 14, Honeysuckle’s many, many fans will be hoping for a fairy-tale swansong.
Honeysuckle 9/4 to with bet365, William Hill and UniBet to win the Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle.
Mighty Potter the real deal
As one famed horse approaches the twilight of her career, another’s burgeoning reputation continues to grow as Mighty Potter underlined his credentials after destroying the field in the Ladbrokes Novice Chase.
Sent off at 11/10, Gordon Elliott’s gelding made it four wins in-a-row, with Davy Russell making a winning return to the Irish capital.
This time last year, the 6yo was timing his trip to Cheltenham well with 2/3 wins on the card and after we tipped him to do well in the Supreme Novices’, Mighty Potter was, sadly for us, pulled up – behind a rampaging Constitution Hill. Since then, its been an unbeaten story.
Though there remains a slight concern away from Irish shores, Mr. Potter could indeed be mighty in the Turners’.
Mighty Potter 6/4 with Ladbrokes and QuinnBet to win the Turners Novices’ Chase.