Don't underestimate how good Fact To File is
Ballyburn will take some beating in the Supreme
It was a spectacular week of racing with plenty of Cheltenham clues, and this week's main focus is to hover the microscope over what happened at the informative Dublin Racing Festival.
Dancing City 12/113.00 is a player in Albert Bartlett
The opening, 2m6f Nathaniel Lacy, which has seen the last three winners go on to finish second at the Cheltenham Festival, was won by Willie Mullins' outsider of the field, Dancing City.
He led the field early on before dropping to fourth going out on the final circuit, jumped well in the main, if not a little high and was in the mould of a future chaser. Still, he won this with a degree of authority, showed an impressive turn of foot between the third and second last and took the race by the scruff of the neck.
He looks sure to play a hand in the Albert Bartlett, for which the owners have two live chances (Shanagh Bob the other), with Betfair going a generous top price of 12/113.00. He makes an appeal, having shaped promisingly last term in a bumper at Punchestown behind Ballyburn, demolished 2023 Albert Bartlett sixth Thomas Mor by 12 lengths in a point-to-point and has done little wrong with a move up to 3m expected to enhance his claims.
Of those behind, Predators Gold 25/126.00 is another that the Albert Bartlett distance will suit but may struggle to reverse the form, while Jetara saw out the trip well. This looks like a solid and reliable piece of form, and Dancing City will surely feature.
100/1101.00 Ethical Diamond and 7/18.00 Majborough, the two to take from Spring Juve
The Grade 1 Spring Juvenile, a typically very informative race for the Triumph Hurdle, was won by Kargese. She was well positioned throughout this steady run affair, which clocked around 12 lengths quicker than the Nathanial Lacy 2m6f contest, but the winner was slower than Dancing City from the third last to the line.
The expectation is for the 2m circuit and final closing splits to be much quicker than the stayer's race, but that wasn't the case, and their circuit time was hardly chart-topping in the grand scheme.
Still, Kargese looks like a lovely filly, but 6/17.00 is awfully short for the Triumph Hurdle. She was as keen as she was at Christmas, but it may not have been an improvement that saw her reverse form with Kala Conti but her racing position. Kargese came from much further back at Christmas to finish a 3/4 length second to Kala Conti, but this time, she was hot on her heels and managed to reverse the form by two lengths.
This is a formline that needs to be taken lightly. The comparative distances between the winner and the fifth make me question its validity.
The third, Majbrorough 7/18.00, is one of the more exciting runners to take from the race. The Willie Mullins debutant screamed potential improver, jumps well, and strides like a potentially smart horse.
The other horse to take from the race was Mullins' Ethical Diamond 100/1101.00, who found himself poorly positioned at the rear of the field but clocked a faster closing sectional from three out to the line than the winner, second and third.
He was tenderly handled and would be of significant interest if Mullins could get another run into him and head to the Boodles Handicap 12/113.00. However, that looks unlikely, but his 100/1101.00 price tag for the Triumph Hurdle is simply wrong.
Marine Nationale is still the one to beat in Arkle
Marine Nationale fluffed his lines in the Irish Arkle, could only manage a fifth of six, and was beaten 10 lengths. He was pushed from odds-on 4/71.57 to 11/43.75 and is now back to 5/23.50 for the Arkle. This was not the ideal prep for Cheltenham, but it wasn't D-Day for the Barry Connell runner.
He sat off another dawdling pace set by Found A Fifty (slower than the final circuit of the 3m Irish Gold Cup) - who has been flattered by his finishing position the last twice - jumped well but found little for minimal pressure.
There was an air of overconfidence by his pilot, Michael O'Sullivan, who wanted to wait until the final flight before trying to win the race with a turn of foot after the last. Still, he paid for that when his mount made the inevitable mistake.
Marine Nationale didn't lose a great deal in defeat. He made ground at every fence, reigned back, travelled like the best horse in the race, and was not knocked about at the finish.
However, his well-being is worth questioning. This finishing effort - even under minimal pressure - was tame, and questions have to be asked about the wind operation he had in the summer and the fitting of the tongue-tie in two outings this season.
I still have him as the most likely Arkle winner if he can put this run behind him, but you go into the festival concerned about him finishing out his race now.
Galopin does enough
There was little competition in this year's Irish Gold Cup as Galopin Des Champs continued his relentless road to another Cheltenham Gold Cup with a dominant victory over old adversary Fastorslow.
There was a brief moment when it looked possible that JJ Slevin could pick up the 2023 Gold Cup winner, but it was all hands and heels for Paul Townend on Galopin Des Champs as he wrote the wrongs from earlier in the season.
Galopin Des Champs confirmed his superiority in Ireland and is now 4/61.67 for the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Able to dictate the race, he was never for catching, but this was not his finest jumping performance, and his racing may be catching up with him. I am not sure I'd want to be steaming in this time, having taken in an extra run on the route this year.
As for Fastorslow, I couldn't have him winning a Gold Cup. I felt he was flattered earlier in the year, and that's proven true. He doesn't look like a dour stayer to my eye, and his fast and fluent jumping will be much better suited to the Ryanair.
He is now 10/111.00 for the Ryanair, having advised him at 33/134.00 before Dublin, but maybe I am swayed by my ante-post slip.
Jeroboam Machin was a very taking winner of the Leopardstown Bumper and is a favourite for the Cheltenham Champion Bumper at 3/14.00. He showed a bright turn of foot and looked the best of a bad bunch at this time.
Dublin Day 2 - Underestimate Fact To File at your peril
Fact To File - advised last week at 10/111.00 for the Turners Novice Chase - is now 7/42.75 favourite for the race, having dispelled of Gaelic Warrior in a two-runner affair over 2m5f on Sunday.
This performance will likely go under the radar, given it's easy to say his only rival in the race failed to give his running. However, armed with the information from the clock, he should be taking high rank at Cheltenham, and I could easily argue he should be far shorter than his current odds.
Fact To File clocked a brilliant comparative circuit time despite the lack of runners.
Fact To File's 2m circuit time to the final fence was recorded at 3.45.93. Heart Wood - the handicap winner over the same course and distance - recorded 3.51.22, and El Fabiolo (2m) recorded 3.46.15.
Fact File was in the region of 22 lengths quicker than Heart Wood (winner off 136) and carried 23 pounds more on his back. Fact To File was also narrowly quicker than El Fabiolo and showed bright speed between flights (not quite El Fabiolo, but not far off).
Fact To File will prove hard to beat in the Turner's Novice Chase on the back of this speedy effort, particularly given this was only his sixth-lifetime start and third over obstacles. He could easily echo his trainer's comments and go all the way, and he is undoubtedly a future Gold Cup contender next year.
Ballyburn was supreme
Ballyburn won the 2m Grade 1 Tattersalls Novice Hurdle in refined style. He laid down a real marker for the Supreme Novice Hurdle and is now 7/42.75 favourite, and rightly so. The Willie Mullins-trained six-year-old must now be at the top of his pecking order after this seven-length romp.
He does everything right. He is straightforward, travels powerfully, his jumping has improved race-by-race, and he is not flashy but gets the job done. He is in the same mould as State Man, who possesses a brighter turn-off foot, but the clock saw the Supreme hope only narrowly slower on the 2m circuit.
The official overall time says he was quicker. Still, the omission of hurdles plays a significant role, and it's not a time to take too seriously, considering the Mares Handicap Hurdle winner Brucio was not far off what both Grade 1 winners clocked.
Still, Ballyburn looked in a league of his own here and is very tough to find faults with. In what seems to be an ordinary year, he could prove a winner in waiting for either race, but I'd be surprised if the Supreme wasn't the first choice.
Of those in behind, Slade Steel is now 5/16.00 for the Baring Bingham, but that wouldn't interest me. I'd be hopeful Mystical Power would run here - chuck in Absurde to the tracker for a handicap.
El Fabiolo continued his road to Cheltenham Festival glory. He downed Dinoblue pretty effortlessly, and although this wasn't as electric as he had been, he is now miles clear in this weak 2m chase division. His Champion Chase odds of 1/21.50 are fully justified, and Dinoblue's Mares Chase odds of 11/102.11 get similar comments.
State Man was as good as ever, winning the Chanelle Pharma Champion Hurdle. He remains 7/24.50 for the Champion Hurdle. Impaire Et Passe 16/117.00 could be any price following this performance. He went backwards, was reluctant to start and jumped out to the right. He goes into the avoid list for now.
Bob Olinger confirmed he is back to his best but wants 2m4f and is almost sure to go to Aintree despite his love for Cheltenham.
Three DRF Handicap eye-catchers
Nine Graces - caught the eye in the 3m Handicap won by Maxxum on day one and had previously qualified for the Pertemps Final 20/121.00. Posted wide for much of the race and not given a hard time between the second and final flights, she will be fascinating back on some spring ground.
Path D'Oroux - couldn't get the job done at Leopardstown on Saturday but gave the winner too much rope and made up significant ground from the third last, clocking identical closing sectionals.
Good Time Jonny - our 12/113.00 selection from last week for Kim Muir is now 8/19.00, but he will be very hard to beat in March. He caught the eye, staying on from well off the gallop over a trip too short. He must be backed.
Watch Coaching Carter Episode 2 here