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Dublin Racing Festival Day One: All your top tips from Leopardstown

Michael Verney


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Jockey Rachael Blackmore. Photo: Caroline Norris

Jockey Rachael Blackmore. Photo: Caroline Norris

www.carolinenorris.ie

Jockey Rachael Blackmore. Photo: Caroline Norris

Punters are in dreamland today as the Dublin Racing Festival kicks off in sensational style with a card overflowing in equine royalty.

While the lack of English challengers is lamentable, it's hard to blame the likes of Nicky Henderson and Paul Nicholls for avoiding the Leopardstown meeting given the quality of Irish competition on show.

Henry De Bromhead will decide which Cheltenham target Honeysuckle will be aimed at - he is leaning towards the Mares' Hurdle over the Champion Hurdle - depending on her performance at the Foxrock track.

That adds another layer of intrigue to the PCI Irish Champion Hurdle (3.10) - one of today's four Grade One contests on a star-studded card - as the exciting six-year-old faces her stiffest test to date having hosed up in the Hatton's Grace two months ago.

Her 7lb allowance is a big plus in the hands of Rachael Blackmore (right) and while the odds are a tad prohibitive, she does look the most likely winner with Sharjah, ridden by her housemate Patrick Mullins, next best.

Willie Mullins' Sharjah, a three-time Grade One winner, is seriously underrated but recent watering at Leopardstown may have underfoot conditions a little softer than is ideal for him.

Expect a better showing from stablemate Klassical Dream but his best may not be seen until the Supreme Novices' Hurdle winner returns to Cheltenham next month and Honeysuckle can maintain her unbeaten streak in the €200,000 showpiece, which favourites have landed in nine of the last ten renewals.

Mullins and De Bromhead are also the leading protagonists in the Ladbrokes Dublin Chase (1.25) where the champion trainer pits four leading lights against each other.

The sight of the Mullins-trained quartet Chacun Pour Soi, back-to-back Dublin Chase winner Min, the unexposed Cilaos Emery and Arkle winner Duc Des Genievres is something to behold and make this a race to truly be savoured.

In their way stands De Bromhead's A Plus Tard, the Cheltenham Festival winner which had four lengths to spare over Chacun Pour Soi at Christmas, and there isn't enough to justify why the Mullins inmate is such a heavy favourite in a race of this depth.

Min may be the forgotten horse but he has not been seen at his optimum over this shorter trip in recent seasons - the nine-year-old has looked an even better prospect over 2m4f - and slight preference is for A Plus Tard to confirm form with Chacun Pour Soi in a cagey betting affair.

Mullins also throws four at the ERSG Arkle Novice Chase (2.0) with dual Champion Hurdle runner-up Melon, smart staying hurdler Bapaume and Cash Back among his team but the quartet are up against it.

This looks like a Christmas repeat between De Bromhead's Notebook and Joseph O'Brien's Fakir D'oudairies. Notebook got the better of that battle last time out but things may be different this time around.

Blackmore is unlikely to be allowed to dictate affairs from the front like their previous clash, however, with Mark Walsh expected to be far more prominent and the five-year-old can turn the form around to score.

The opening Nathaniel Lacy & Partners Solicitors Novice Hurdle (12.50) is another doozie and Latest Exhibition can parachute Wexford trainer Paul Nolan and jockey Bryan Cooper back into the big time.

The competition is stiff with Mullins' Elixir D'ainay and Gordon Elliott's Fury Road but Latest Exhibition looks to be crying out for this step up to 2m6f and having lowered the colours of Andy Dufresne last time out, the teak tough seven-year-old can out battle his seven rivals once again.

Nolan and Cooper may also have each-way claims in the Matheson Handicap Chase (2.35) with last year's winner Quamino (e/w) - just 4lbs higher than 12 months ago - sure to enjoy the significant drop down in trip after running a fine race before fading in the Paddy Power over 3m.

The €150,000 Ladbrokes Hurdle (3.45) is always an ultra-competitive affair and having landed the odds for the past two years, the JP McManus silks are sure to be prominent with Unexcepted. Mullins' six-year-old didn't get home at Christmas in heavy going over 2m4f at Limerick but the minimum trip should see him at his optimum on handicap debut.

TOP TIPS

ROBBIE POWER

12.50: Home By The Lee (E/W)

1.25: Min

2.0: Bapaume

3.10: Supasundae (E/W)

PATRICK MULLINS

1.25: Chacun Pour Soi

2.0: Bapaume

4.20: Appreciate it

WAYNE BAILEY

12.50: Latest Exhibition

1.25: Min

2.0: Notebook

IAN GAUGHRAN

1.25: Cilaod Emery

2.0: Notebook

3.45: Thosedaysaregone

4.20: Wide Receiver

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