The stars are all out for the first day of the Dublin Racing Festival and Tony Keenan has five horses to back on this afternoon's card...
"Looking back, there was no point where Mind’s Eye wasn’t going like the winner and he travelled like a horse that would have no problem dropping in trip; the form looks solid too with the fifth Agent Boru having gone much closer in a similar race beforehand."
Volume is one of the reasons Gordon Elliott is leading the National Hunt Trainers' Championship but it is Willie Mullins who is going for numbers this weekend with an amazing 42 runners declared across the two days. Elliott isn't exactly holding back with 28 horses down to run but Mullins can expect to make some inroads into his rival's lead as he looks to have a stranglehold on three of today's graded races with Yorkhill/Min in the Dublin Chase, Footpad in the Arkle and Faugheen/Melon in the Champion Hurdle. It seems reasonable to expect the reigning champion to be shorter in the market tomorrow morning.
One of the challenges for punters is choosing between this array of Mullins runners and Paul Townend faces similar difficulties; while Ruby Walsh had a fine record of picking correctly, he rarely faced decisions like these before Punchestown. Townend isn't the judge that Ruby is - he lacks the experience if nothing else - and jockey arrangements may not be as vital with the yard as they have been in past runnings of these same races. Betting the second- (and third- and fourth-) strings might not be the worst approach for those looking for value at the Dublin Racing Festival.
This race sets a challenging conundrum as it brings together horses that are likely prepping for Cheltenham (Tully East, Squouateur) and ones that have been aimed at the meeting for quite a while (That's A Wrap, Kilfenora). Runners with those respective profiles invariably draw the eye but it could be a case that more obvious form horses are being neglected in the market as a result.
Bel Ami De Sivola is in that mould and is thus worth a small bet win and place. He has been gradually progressive over fences, coming fourth on his first handicap chase run at Fairyhouse in December, in a race that has worked out well when the going was on the slow side for him. Even better was to come here on St. Stephen's Day when he was a little unlucky not to win after losing momentum at the last and only going down by a head; that run came in a good time too. The Dan Moore was an option for him but his trainer opted to wait for this on ground more suitable and his patience could be rewarded now.
Midnight Stroll was suggested for the Coral Hurdle midweek and at least he has shortened a bit in the market. He was an eye-catcher last time over two-and-a-half miles at this track but it would be remiss not to also support the winner of that race Mind's Eye who actually meets Midnight Stroll on the same terms as last time when his capable rider's claim is taken into account.
Looking back, there was no point where Mind's Eye wasn't going like the winner and he travelled like a horse that would have no problem dropping in trip; the form looks solid too with the fifth Agent Boru having gone much closer in a similar race beforehand. It is only Samcro who has beaten Mind's Eye over hurdles at this point and it is not unreasonable to assume the selection wasn't at his best that day; it was his first run in 10 months and was likely to need it.
At a bigger price, On The Go Again is worth a saver. He remains lightly raced over hurdles and was progressive on the flat last autumn when he rose from 78 to 93, winning a decent renewal of the Lartigue Hurdle in between. There was a bit to like about his first run since October last Sunday when he was fifth behind Sandsend and Forge Meadow, travelling well and shaping like the third best horse before losing two places on the run-in.
There are reasons for taking on the front few in the market here aside from them looking on the short side: Rapid Escape is having his fourth run in relatively quick succession, Blackbow won a strange sort of race last time when he rallied having looked in trouble, Rhinestone had to beat little in his win as his main market rival disappointed.
Minella Encore is the bumper horse with the best time-figure around this season and looks a solid bet. He probably isn't the greatest worker at home - he drifted markedly in the betting last time despite winning and is passed over by Patrick Mullins now - but it is hard to ignore double figures about him.
I can also see a case for Dunvegan. He ran Rapid Escape close on racecourse debut, not helped by being checked late on, before finishing second to Hollowgraphic who would be a short price for this had be turned up. Furthermore, he was better than the form then as he was much too free but in any case he pulled 18 lengths clear of the third who has since won a maiden hurdle. At Fairyhouse last time he settled much better and he looks underrated now.
2018 P+L: -1.95 points
0.5 Point Back Bel Ami De Sivola @ [13.0] or bigger in the Leopardstown 14:55
0.5 Point Place Back Bel Ami De Sivola @ [4.0] or bigger in the Leopardstown 14:55
1 Point Each-Way Mind’s Eye @ 15/2 in the Leopardstown 16:05 with the Sportsbook
0.5 Point Each-Way On The Go Again @ 28/1 in the Leopardstown 16:05 with the Sportsbook
1 Point Back Minella Encore @ [11.0] or bigger in the Leopardstown 16:40
1 Point Place Back Minella Encore @ [3.0] or bigger in the Leopardstown 16:40
0.5 Point Back Dunvegan @ [15.5] or bigger in the Leopardstown 16:40
0.5 Point Place Back Dunvegan @ [3.8] or bigger in the Leopardstown 16:40