Dublin Racing Festival Tips: Three antepost selections for a star-studded weekend

Leopardstown hosts the second Dublin Racing Festival this weekend and Al Dudman has three antepost selections

A scintillating two-day Dublin Racing Festival starts on Saturday, and Alan Dudman takes a look at some of the headline markets on the Sportsbook for a brilliant weekend ahead.....

"Belshill looked one of the Mullins' team that badly needed their seasonal reappearance behind Kemboy, and it was a nice starting point to a campaign where some big prizes await."

With eight Grade 1 races over two days starting this Saturday; the Dublin Racing Festival is swiftly upon us and so are the Sportsbook markets - with all 15 races priced up for a star-studded weekend. A year on from the inaugural running of the Leopardstown bonanza, we have a totally new set of questions to answer.

Most of it is ground related, unfortunately. My predictions of the weather went hopelessly awry on Tuesday this week preparing for the snow in London and the south east. With snow boots, double coat and thermals - I felt somewhat overdressed for a brisk shower.

The snow failed to materialise then, but there has been some forecast for Leopardstown, though. That, and freezing temperatures with some rain due on Thursday makes for a puzzle.

The good ground has seemingly put paid to any chance of seeing Sizing John, while Waiting Patiently is doing just that; waiting patiently. We'll see what sort of surface we get come the start of the weekend, but it is still causing plenty of headaches.

Trainer Willie Mullins has probably had his fair share of those this season with the lack of a deep winter surface. The Closutton handler had 40 entries at the time of writing, whilst Gordon Elliott held 69.

Backing Belshill the way to go for Irish Gold Cup

Road To Respect - 1280.jpg

If you have been waiting to see a rising star for the staying division, this is the race that could provide it. Noel Meade's Road To Respect (pictured) heads the betting at 3/1 on the Sportsbook for Sunday's Irish Gold Cup following a rather luckless run in the Grade 1 Savills Chase at Leopardstown behind Kemboy. He stumbled badly in that race in the run to the second-last, although eagle-eyed Meade spotted another stumble. He finished strongly which is testament to his character.

His conqueror Kemboy is very much the up-and-comer. Priced at 5/1 for this, the Mullins-trained horse has really played his Cheltenham cards this season with not only that victory, but also the good ground win in the Clonmel Oil. He's an exciting horse, and spirited with his keen-going nature. The victory on a sound surface is an obvious tick.

Mullins also has big players with Al Boum Photo and Belshill. The former's Tramore victory was given a nice boost by Invitation Only last Thursday winning the Thyestes, but Bellshill is the one that excites me the most at 11/2.

He really improved last term to win a Punchestown Gold Cup, although his run off a big weight and a rating of 158 in the Irish Grand National just three weeks prior to that says something about his mettle if you can forgive the wayward part at the end.

Belshill looked one of the Mullins' team that badly needed their seasonal reappearance behind Kemboy, and it was a nice starting point to a campaign where some big prizes await. His jumping at times is a real pleasure to watch.

Jade out to cement superstar status at 5/4

If the weather is far from magic at the moment, Apple's Jade is certainly that following Jack Kennedy's succinct appraisal of the superstar mare. The rider was quizzed recently about the drop back down in trip for Gordon Elliott's star in the Irish Champion Hurdle, and he doesn't think it will make any difference for a first try at the minimum since 2016. If you were thinking you were getting some belated Christmas presents then think again, and at 5/4 on the Sportsbook, she isn't exactly an ante-post bet.

She has hosed up in her three starts this term by 11L, 20L and 26L. Players at those prices will argue she's a good bet ,and possibly the banker of the meeting.

Personally, I don't see the trip as any sort of problem.

The admirable Supasundae is 2/1 and won it last year. But he has 20 lengths to find with Apple's Jade on their Hatton's Grace run, which makes a bet on him less than enticing.

Last term's Champion Hurdle second Melon is the one that is capable of showing up far better than we saw on his reappearance. But he finished a well beaten fifth in 2018 behind Supasundae in this and there are still one or two problems that could resurface at any time. Namely his jumping. He took a cruncher of a fall in last term's Punchestown Champion Hurdle, and his technique was once again under the microscope with his comeback run in the Ryanair Hurdle last time.

He was another one of the Mullins' horses that needed a run. But he did make a bad mistake in that, and a small field won't be ideal for Melon considering his free-going tendencies. With all that said, he is the best horse on official ratings with 164.

Good ground will hold no fears for O'Brien's star novice

The ante-post market for the Cheltenham Arkle has been up-and-down. It's been one good followed by one bad display, with several fluffing their lines. That's not been the case for Joseph O'Brien's Le Richebourg who laid down a serious marker with victory in the Racing Post Novice on St Stephen's Day. He stepped out of the Drinmore over 2m4f behind Delta Work, and he handled the shorter distance over Christmas supremely well.

If the ground remains good - and it's a crazy notion for February, Le Richebourg has an outstanding record on that surface. His four-and-a-half length success last time was on good, taking his record on that particular terrain to 121112. He has posted big wins too in that sequence with victories recorded at 12 lengths, seven, and six-and-a-half.

For the Grade 1 Arkle Novice Chase at 14:00 on the Saturday, Le Richebourg is priced at 7/4 with the Sportsbook, and his claims are obvious.

Surprisingly, Mullins has only one entered in this, and that's Voix Du Reve. He's a real pocket rocket but he lacks the scope of some of the bigger models. The giant Mengli Khan has no such problems on the size front, but I am beginning to think he's not quite as good as I thought he was. He disappointed me behind Le Richebourg, and maybe his Punchestown ten-length success wasn't all it was cracked up to be.

Mengli Khan is at 7/1, with Voix Du Reve at a bigger 10/1.

Commander Of Fleet makes appeal at double figures

Gordon Elliott mid range Betfair t 1280.jpg

Betfair Ambassador Gordon Elliott has some serious firepower in the novice hurdle division and his 144-rated hurdler Battleoverdoyen heads the betting at 7/4 in the Sportsbook for the Novice Hurdle on Saturday at 12:50.

This could be a hugely informative Grade 1 and Battleoverdoyen's Naas win will come under close scrutiny whether it was a strong race or one with little depth - I lean towards the latter. He has a nice way of going about things and good ground doesn't seem to be an issue, but I put up Commander Of Fleet for the Naas race in the Sunday Irish Racing Tips column - but he was a non-runner.

I'm a fan of this horse, and he's overpriced to me at 14/1. He's my each-way bet.

My rationale for backing him last time was the fact that 2m in the Royal Bond was against him, as was the tactical nature of the race. Stepping up to 2m6f could really suit as a son of Fame And Glory, whilst the ground shouldn't be a problem either as he scored at Punchestown on good. He's simply a much better horse than what we witnessed in a messy race at Fairyhouse.

Three smooth travellers to look out for in handicap

The Matheson Handicap Chase on the Saturday at 14:35 is one of the more open races of the meeting as you'd expect. Ante-post, the Sportsbook is 4/1 the field, and it's a race with plenty of smooth-travellers.

I've cherry-picked three that are interesting for various reasons.

The Nicky Richards-trained Duke Of Navan usually cruises in his races, although he is now 11 years of age and towards the top of the weights off 141. Towards the bottom is Lake Takapuna from 128 - and he absolutely tanked through a race over hurdles last time at Leopardstown only to lose out with a less-than-stoic ending. He wore the visor for the first time on that occasion, in what was also his debut run for Dermot Weld. He's a horse who had completely lost his way previously, so it was at least a revival in terms of bare form.

However, he often hasn't found in a finish, so there's that caveat. He is priced at 16/1 on the Sportsbook, but he could be more of an in-running trade.

I'd also throw in De Plotting Shed, who travels well and has form on good ground. He will race off his lowest mark for a while with his current rating of 140 and not so long ago finished second to Presenting Percy. He hasn't won for a while, but a big field with plenty of pace and a drop back down in trip could see him run well. He is priced at 14/1 on the Sportsbook.

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