Dublin Festival 2021:
Saturday 6th February.
Nathaniel Lacy & Partners Solicitors ’50k Cheltenham Bonus For Stable Staff’ Novice Hurdle (Grade 1)
Won in decisive fashion by Gaillard Du Mesnil, who travelled sweetly throughout the race and despite getting caught slightly off the pace. He made ground up easily when asked for his effort picking up the long time leader, before powering clear to win by 5 lengths. He looks to have booked his place for the Ballymore Novices Hurdle at Cheltenham and will surely be a major player on the day. The runner up, Gentlemansgame seemed to really appreciate the step up in trip and having been slightly outpaced when the leader was sent for home, he stayed on very nicely into 2nd place and looks a potential Albert Bartlett candidate. As does Stattler who came 3rd having done all the donkey work out front. He plugged on well once past by the front two and is likely to benefit from a longer trip. Fakiera who finished 4th, perhaps put up as promising effort for the Albert Bartlett as the two that finished in front of him, as he was tapped for toe a far way out and had to be driven along by Jack Kennedy for quite some way. To his credit he kept on gamely and finished strongly to be closing on the 2nd and 3rd all the way to the line. He’ll most definitely appreciate 3 miles at Cheltenham and bar the winner is the one to take out of the race with Cheltenham in mind. A mention also for Ganapathi in 5th, who travelled nicely and put himself into contention for a place turning for home, but he didn’t stay and will be better when returning to a shorter trip; he may be one for the handicap route.
Ladbrokes Dublin Chase (Grade 1)
An impressive performance from Chacun Pour Soi, who travelled and jumped well throughout, coming round the home turn full of running, when his opponents were hard at work. Eased between Notebook and Fakir D’Oudairies approaching the final flight, he quickened away to win comfortably. He sets the standard in the 2 mile chase division this season and will be a tough nut to crack in the Champion Chase. His main market rival, Min, clipped one fence on the far side, then went straight through the next fence, doing well not to fall; He was swiftly pulled up. Hopefully he’s fine and will be seen at the Festival once again, but this was hardly an ideal preparation. In finishing 2nd, Fakir D’Oudairies lost nothing in defeat, in getting his season back in track having disappointed on his previous outing. He looks very much as though 2m4f would be his ideal trip, and he stayed on well to pull clear of the rest of the field, whilst not having the pace to cope with the winner. This would have been an ideal preparation for Cheltenham, where he’ll surely be aimed at the Ryanair Chase.
Patrick Ward & Company Solicitors Irish Arkle Novice Chase (Grade 1)
Making all, Energumene never looked in trouble and despite being allowed to dictate on his terms he was in a different league to what was a decent field. He travels sweetly, jumps really well and efficiently, has a high cruising speed and can quicken when required. It’s going to be a fascinating clash between him and Shishkin in the Arkle. Captain Guinness was still travelling well when falling 2 out, but he’d been well beaten by the winner previously with no reason why he’d turn the tables. Of the horses to finish behind the winner, Blackbow jumped and ran far better than he had on his previous start, whilst Franco De Port was almost ridden to achieve a best possible pacing rather than be ridden to win the race and may be flattered slightly. Darver Star, 3rd in last seasons Champion Hurdle, just doesn’t seem to have taken to fences.
Matheson Handicap Chase (Grade B)
A competitive handicap chase won by Wave of the Sea, winning for the first time over fences, from stablemate Top Moon, who showed vast improvement on anything he’d done over fences this season; but was on a very workable handicap mark compared to his hurdles rating last year. Top Moon finished as well as anything and could be of interest next time now he’s shown a liking for fences. Epson Du Houx travelled well for a long way before fading approaching the final flight. He’s done all his racing on a soft surface and could be interesting when encountering a better surface.
Chanelle Pharma Irish Champion Hurdle (Grade 1)
Having tracked Petit Mouchoir for the first half of the race, Honeysuckle took up the running in the back straight and when increasing the tempo of the race, she gave herself a nice 4 length lead approaching the 2nd last flight. She flew the 2nd last hurdle and when asked to quicken around the home turn put a few more lengths between her and her rivals, all of whom were struggling to make any inroads into her lead. Steady over the final flight, she galloped all the way to the line with win by 10 lengths from Abacadabras with the same distance back to Sharjah in 3rd. Whilst she perhaps had the run of the race, there was no denying the quality of the performance and she deserves to go for the Champion Hurdle as one of the leading contenders. Abacadabras was much better here than last time, and he’s sure to take another step forward, but he has a good deal of ground to make up on the winner. Sharjah disappointed in this last season, so is well capable of bouncing back at Cheltenham and he’ll appreciate better ground come March so shouldn’t be written off.
Ladbrokes Hurdle (Extended Handicap Hurdle) (Grade B)
A progressive winner in Drop The Anchor who was arguably a little unlucky on his previous 2 outings having won on his return at Listowel. He’s an improving type and can continue to be competitive, depending on the handicappers reaction. Champagne Gold ran really well on handicap debut and dropping back in trip following a 3rd place in a Grade 3 over 2m4f. Very lightly raced, he should continue to improve and looks to have plenty more to offer. Of those that didn’t get involved in the finish, Eskylane ran better than his finishing position suggests, as he was held up out the back way off the pace. Never in a position to get competitive, he stayed on nicely and can be seen to better effect another time.
Goffs Future Stars (C & G) I.N.H. Flat Race (Grade 2)
All about one horse and the breath-taking performance from Kilcruit who blew a fair field apart in win with his head in his cheat by 12 lengths, without ever coming off the bridle. Letsbeclearaboutit, the runner up had run 2nd to Sir Gerhard the time before, so the form and performance look to have plenty of substance. Justifiably cut into a short price for Cheltenham, it’s hard to imagine wanting to take him at the Festival, such was the class and quality of this performance.
Sunday 7th February.
Irish Stallion Farms EBF Paddy Mullins Mares Handicap Hurdle (Grade B)
A fine performance from Heaven Help Us, landing a nice prize for connections and a much deserved win for a really likable mare. Whilst the race may not have much if any impact on Cheltenham, it was a day in the sun for connections.
Tattersalls Ireland Spring Juvenile Hurdle (Grade 1)
Just a small field and but for the winner and runner up, nothing else really got involved in the race. Quilixios, is clearly talented and he travelled through the race with ease, showing far too much pace for the runner up to win by a fairly comfortable 5 lengths. Whilst this was a good performance and perhaps he’ll be better for a bigger field and more cover, he just didn’t give the impression he had a huge amount left in the tank. That said, he deserves to be one of the market leaders for the Triumph and is now 3 from 3 over hurdles for Gordon Elliott. Saint Sam made the running and looked like a bit of a sitting duck when the winner loomed large. To his credit he kept on pretty well, as one assumed the 3rd would also catch him, but Saint Sam pulled away from that one inside the final 100 yards, staying on well again close home. He doesn’t have the class and speed of the winner, but in a strongly run race with more of an emphasis on stamina, he’s a very capable young hurdler.
Chanelle Pharma Novice Hurdle (Grade 1)
A pillar to post victory for Appreciate It, who looks to stay 2 miles very strongly and would almost be better suited by more of a test of stamina. That said, he now won 2 Grade 1 hurdles over this trip, so no reason to switch now. He could have been slicker over a couple of his hurdles, but that clearly didn’t affect him as he was very strong from the home turn and sets a fair standard for the rest when it comes to the Supreme at Cheltenham. Ballyadam run a much better race here, having bombed out last time and was travelling as well if not better than the winner around the home turn. He just couldn’t quite close the gap on Appreciate It and whilst a slight blunder at the last didn’t help, the winner looked to have his measure. It was still a really nice race and he deserves his place at Cheltenham, albeit, it won’t be easy to turn this form around. Blue Lord stayed on nicely, as did Hook Up, but they have a fair amount of ground to make up on the winner.
William Fry Handicap Hurdle (Grade B)
Pure Genius ensured this was run at a decent pace, setting out in front and he looked to have a lot of the field in trouble, before fading in the home straight. Well backed following an easy novice victory, he has a big frame and can only improve in time. The winner, Maze Runner came there travelling really strongly between the final two flights to win well. This was just his 2nd start in a handicap over hurdles and whilst he’ll be raised in the handicap, he’s still unexposed. The runner up, Unexpected Depth finished his race off well and has been competitive in similar events this year; he seems a very consistent type. Koshari made a bad mistake at the 3rd flight, dropping back to last place and a long way off the leaders. He slowly made ground without ever really getting involved.
Flogas Novice Chase (Grade 1)
Another scintillating Grade 1 performance, this time from Monkfish who seems as good over 2m4f as he does over 3 miles. Jumping for fun out the front, he cruised to victory and it’ll be hard to imagine any of those that finished behind him gaining revenge anytime soon. He looks to have all the right credentials for the Novices Chase at Cheltenham and will be a warm order to land the spoils. Latest Exhibition ran his usual game race and must be sick of the sight of the winner; whilst it was nice to see Asterion Forlonge get round having fallen twice previously, and he could perhaps if any take a bit of a step forward from this.
Paddy Power Irish Gold Cup (Chase) (Grade 1)
Maybe the one Grade 1 race of the weekend, that didn’t quite deliver what may have been hoped for, with just a small field of five, and Kemboy allowed to dictate up front without any pressure put on him from his rivals. He had shown he was something like back to his best last time and having been allowed to have the race his own way, he didn’t ever really look like getting beaten, especially when Minella Indo made a mess of the 2nd last fence. To his credit he battled on well and could do nothing more than win as he did, although a 2 length beating of The Storyteller wouldn’t make you rush out to back him for the Gold Cup. The Storyteller himself ran his usual cracking race and perhaps a career best; he’s just below the top grade 1 performers. Delta Work simply needs better ground, so whilst he’s now been beaten on his last 4 starts, he’d be capable on a more suitable surface. Minella Indo looked to be the one to potentially threaten the winner, but his mistake at the 2nd last didn’t help and is perhaps the reason why he faded having jumped the final fence in 2nd place. He’s perhaps just not quite the level of the top 3 mile chasers. Melon didn’t seem to stay, but is probably best when allowed to race more prominently; he’s likely to be dropped in trip for the Ryanair.
Gaelic Plant Hire Leopardstown Handicap Chase (Grade A)
A tight knit handicap and with a line of horses jumping the final fence it proved to be a really competitive affair, with Off You Go staying on best of all. He clearly appreciated this return to a longer trip, putting in a career best over fences. Depending on the handicappers reaction he may still be fairly treated having won off a higher mark over hurdles and his previous form suggests he could be even better on a decent surface, so he’s one who could remain very competitive at this level. Minella Times has progressed well this season and put in another big run, while Livelovelaugh returned to form off a reduced handicap mark. Farclas was again competitive and could have finished slightly closer but for an error 2 out, whilst Crossed My Mind ran better than his final finishing position having looked a major player before just not quite getting home. For the 2nd time running, Chosen Mate compromised his chance early on, as he ballooned the first and lost upwards of 5 lengths on the field, whilst his jockey regained his irons. He was given a patient ride with the impression he can be competitive in a similar event when encountering a better surface and when not making an early blunder.
Coolmore N.H. Sires Kew Gardens Irish EBF Mares I.N.H. Flat Race (Grade 2)
The final race of the meeting was won by Grangee, who came from off the pace to wear down Party Central close home, with the short priced favourite Brandy Love in 3rd. A decent performance from both the front wo, but they are unlikely to be in the shake up in terms for the Cheltenham bumper.
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Perfect timing for the Cheltenham Festival 2021.