It's a cracking weekend of jumps action with the Dublin Racing Festival on this side of the water, while the feature at Sandown today is the Scilly Isles Chase.
There's plenty of markets to get stuck into and one of the standout bets for me at Leopardstown is Min at 3/1 in the Ladbrokes Dublin Chase (1.25), for which Willie Mullins will saddle half of the eight runners.
Some would have this as a rematch between Mullins' Chacun Pour Soi and Henry de Bromhead's A Plus Tard, the latter beating the former in a Grade One over the Christmas - although the market expects that form to be reversed with Chacun Pour Soi the market leader at 7/4.
Both have very strong claims and are exciting prospects but I feel Min is overlooked, perhaps due to his performance in the John Durkan at Punchestown in December.
On that occasion, he didn't jump as well as you'd expect for a horse priced 8/11 but, in fairness, he showed true grit when battling back to win the race from Hardline, following a number of mistakes. He hit 7/1 in-running with Hardline trading as short as 1/3, and while poor jumping is always a worry, there are far more positives than negatives to take from that race.
Min has won both runnings of this contest, and while he's not 100 per cent reliable for punters and has been beaten at short odds in the past, that's all built into his price today and it's not often you get those sort of odds about a proven Grade One performer.
In the Grade One Irish Champion Hurdle (3.10), I'm once again tipping a Mullins horse to get the better of a De Bromhead favourite. Unbeaten Honeysuckle is an absolutely brilliant mare and has now clocked up six wins in as many races for De Bromhead, two of those at Grade One level so it's hard to find anything negative at all to say here, other than this is very competitive and odds of 5/4 might be a bit tight.
Success today may see her steered towards the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham rather than the mares' race. There are others worth considering, however, and I know my Irish Independent colleague Patrick Mullins thinks highly of Sharjah, and was on board when he won the Matheson Hurdle over the Christmas.
What impressed me most was how he kicked on so well as soon as Patrick asked the question, and the Galway Hurdle winner looked as good as ever to me. Stablemate Klassical Dream is the danger to the bet if back on form, having fluffed his lines when jumping poorly in the aforementioned Matheson Hurdle.
At Sandown, Mullins can have another winner in the Grade One Betway Scilly Isles Novices' Chase (2.25) with Laurina. Reported to have bled when pulled up in the Racing Post Novices' Chase, her earlier chasing debut showed plenty of promise.
DO THE DOUBLE
Soccer: Bottom of the table Norwich are 1/10 for relegation and while 14th place Newcastle are not fully safe, the Magpies haven’t lost a match since New Year’s Day and beat Chelsea a couple of weeks ago. Odds of 6/5 seem generous for a home win against a Canaries side which has won just four games this term.
Racing: Henry de Bromhead’s Notebook looks nailed on for the Grade One ERSG Arkle Novice Chase (2.0 Leopardstown), and odds of 7/4 are a couple of ticks too high. Unbeaten over fences, he put today’s main rival Fakir D’Oudairies to the sword with a fine display in the Racing Post Novice Chase here at Christmas and he’s definitely going places.
* Last week’s double was successful at an overall price of 5/1
The Robert Stephens-trained Castlelyons can manage a place at the least in the 11-runner 32Red Handicap at Kempton this evening (6.45), priced around 16/1. The big worry is that he hasn’t been seen since April, but a mark of 88 looks fair and he’s won off 1lb higher in the past, albeit three years ago now. He usually goes well at Kempton and it’s interesting to see him dropped back down in trip. Scaramanga is an interesting entry for jumps trainer Paul Nicholls and will most likely go off as favourite around 11/4.
12.50 Leop’stown: Latest Exhibition
1.25 Leopardstown: Min
2.0 Leopardstown: Notebook
2.25 Sandown: Laurina
3.10 Leopardstown: Sharjah
6.45 Kempton: Castlelyons (e/w)