The Irish Angle

Irish racing expert Conor O’Hehir with some strong opinions on the Dublin Racing Festival, a Cheltenham Festival banker, the latest in the transfer market, plus three to back this weekend.
Conor O’Hehir  |  8th February 2019

Leopardstown Learnings

So, what did we learn at the Dublin Racing Festival last week? Plenty!

There was a doubt going into the weekend whether Apple’s Jade would be as effective over two miles as she is over further. Well at 1.30 on Saturday afternoon she silenced all the doubters when galloping some well-respected rivals into the ground in a sixteen-length demolition job in the Irish Champion Hurdle.

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The best part about this was Gordon Elliott subsequently committing the mare to the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham. “We’d be mad not to have a go (at the Champion Hurdle)” he told Nick Luck in a Sunday morning interview. All racing fans have been wishing this to happen and it looks like our wishes will come true when she lines up at 3.30 on the Tuesday at Cheltenham, as opposed to the mares’ race forty minutes later. This is what racing needs, the best horses in the best races.

As for her chances in a Champion Hurdle? Getting seven pounds from Buveur D’Air and all the other boys in the race she has to have a huge chance. I know who I’d be backing, the mare.

Joseph O’Brien has been in red-hot form of late and he has two big Cheltenham contenders on his hands in Sir Erec and Le Richebourg, both winners at the Dublin Racing Festival.

Sir Erec made all to take the Grade One four-year-old hurdle, a very eyecatching performance. He was slashed by the FansBet odds compilers from 6/1 to 9/4 for the Triumph Hurdle on the back of that victory. A very smart horse on the Flat, he has taken well to hurdles and will continue to improve no doubt. If you were to ask me for my idea of a Cheltenham Festival banker at the minute it would be this fella, Sir Erec.

Le Richebourg to me looks the best two-mile novice chaser around at the moment and he made it two Grade One wins on the bounce by easily taking the Irish Arkle Novice Chase. He promised a lot over hurdles but didn’t go right to the top, but chasing really looks to be his game. He is slick over his fences and travels with such ease in his races. A strongly run Arkle at Cheltenham will suit him and providing the ground isn’t too soft for him I can see him being very hard to beat. The Arkle division doesn’t look overly strong this year: it’s Le Richebourg’s for the taking.

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With the ground at Leopardstown drying all the time, Sunday’s card was hit with a huge number of non-runners, but it didn’t take away from the excitement. A reduced field of four went to post in the Irish Gold Cup, a thriller decided by the short head that separated Bellshill and Road To Respect in a titanic finish. It was great to see Ruby Walsh and Sean Flanagan going at it hammer and tongs from the back of the last fence. Both will head straight to the Cheltenham Gold Cup with live chances.

The Ruby Walsh retirement talk is utter nonsense and he proved that again when he was at his very best to win the two mile Grade 1 novice hurdle on Klassical Dream, holding off the challenge of stable mate, Aramon. Vision D’honneur was back in third and I wouldn’t give up on him just yet. A little ease in the ground will help him and keep him onside going forward.

Warren Greatrex’s mare La Bague Au Roi has become a fans’ favourite and she was all heart when fending off all challengers to take the Flogas Novice Chase. She will probably skip the Cheltenham Festival and head for Aintree according to her trainer.

All in all, it was a successful weekend at Leopardstown with lots of Cheltenham Festival clues and plenty of excitement. Roll on the DRF 2020!

McManus Busy In Transfer Market

JP McManus has bolstered his national hunt team this week after it was confirmed he has secured a deal to purchase Fakir D’Oudairies, Konitho and Blue Sari.

The most interesting purchase is the Joseph O’Brien trained four-year-old, Fakir D’Oudairies, who was so impressive when winning the Triumph Hurdle trial at Cheltenham. With Sir Erec also running in the JP McManus colours and a warm order favourite for the Triumph Hurdle, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Fakir D’Oudairies line up in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, a race in which he would be in receipt of eight pounds from the older horses.

Konitho looked a nice prospect when winning a Naas maiden hurdle in the colours of Joseph’s sister, Sarah O’Brien. He too will race in the JP McManus silks next time.

What’s more, the Willie Mullins-trained Blue Sari, who like Fakir D’Oudairies had been owned by ML Bloodstock before switching to McManus, was ultra-impressive when winning the bumper on Thyestes Day at Gowran Park and is currently a 10/1 shot with FansBet for the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham.

Irish Racing To Continue Despite UK Lockdown

The racing world was in a state of shock when news broke on Wednesday night and into Thursday that there had been an outbreak of the highly contagious equine influenz in a yard in the UK. After cancelling all of the Thursday race meetings in Britain the BHA then confirmed racing would not recommence until next Wednesday at the earliest as they try and contain the virus.

Racing in Ireland, however, is set to continue but runners from the UK will not be permitted until further notice. Let’s hope the authorities have caught this outbreak on time and we can get back to normal as soon as possible. Until then it’s Irish Racing all the way, no harm in that!

The Brian Hughes Blog

This Weekend

With no racing across the water at the weekend it’s all eyes on Naas and Punchestown. ITV Racing will show five races from Naas, a huge boost for the County Kildare track and that’s where you’ll see my main fancy for the weekend.

Second to the aforementioned Blue Sari in Gowran Park, Front View of Joespeh O’Brien’s should be hard to beat in the concluding bumper. He was well beaten that day but was well fancied for the Gowran race, and with the run under his belt can show marked improvement.

Elsewhere at Naas, Pravalaguna should follow up on her win at Limerick over Christmas when she lines up in the listed mares’ novice chase.

At Punchestown on Sunday, the Boylesports Grand National Trial is the feature and as ever looks competitive. The one that catches the eye is Some Neck. He was sent off as short as 15/2 in the Thyestes two weeks ago but made an eighth fence exit. If he’s none the worse for that fall he could gain compensation in this three and a half mile test.

On a side note, Willie Mullins confirmed during the week that Laurina will have her Cheltenham prep run in the Quevega Mares’ Hurdle at Punchestown as she prepares for a tilt at the Champion Hurdle.


2pts win Front View – 4.10 Naas, Saturday

1pt win Pravalaguna – 2.10 Naas, Saturday

1pt ew Some Neck – 4.20 Punchestown, Sunday

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