The Dublin Racing Festival is a new initiative that brings together some of the best jumps horses trained in Ireland and the culture of the capital. For some the headline acts will be Faugheen and Samcro but the others the stars of the show will be Damien Demsey and Stockton’s Wing! The two main music acts after racing will have their support but hopefully most of the race goers will be at Leopardstown to bet on horses.
The inaugural festival replaces major meetings at this time of the year and features established races and others that are new to the calendar. Over the two-day weekend event there will be seven Grade 1 races including the Irish championships races for hurdlers and chasers. Potentially the best horse in action won’t run in either because Samcro is still a novice who could run in any of three Grade 1s this weekend.
The timing of the Dublin festival is just right in the context of the Cheltenham equivalent which begins five weeks on Tuesday. There have been very few entries made by British trainers because they know they need a good one to beat the best Irish National Hunt horses in their own backyard. Several favourites for the races at Leopardstown over Saturday and Saturday are prominent in the betting for the championship contests at Cheltenham.
The meeting that matters most in March seems to be the be all and end all for British horses. In Ireland there is top class action over four days at Leopardstown at Christmas and the Punchestown Festival in the spring. That means Ireland stages three major jumps festivals over four months while Cheltenham and the Aintree Grand National meeting are shoehorned into a three or four week window. Easter falls on the first Saturday in April so there is a four week gap this year.
Samcro is the ante post favourite for the Ballymore Novices Hurdle at Cheltenham and second in the betting with some bookmakers for the Supreme Novices Hurdle. Its best to back the horse with bookmakers offering non-runner no bet for all 28 races at the Cheltenham Festival because stakes will be returned if the horse does not run. Samcro has been left in the Irish Champion Hurdle but will probably run in one of the novice events and the betting suggests it will be the novice hurdle on Saturday for which the horse is a worthy odds-on favourite which should be justified.
One of the intriguing aspects of the Irish Champion Hurdle is how Faugheen runs. The horse was pulled up at Leopardstown over Christmas and is probably drinking from the last chance saloon. There is a possibility that the horse will not show the form that was good enough to win the 2015 Champion Hurdle. Melon has seen the money this week and could start favourite. The horse was third in the International at Cheltenham and form with The New One and My Tent Or Yours in that race gives Melon a chance.
Our Duke is as short as 8/1 to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup. That price looks a steal based on the horse’s scintillating win in the Irish Grand National last year. Our Duke has reached nothing like that level this season and the Irish Gold Cup could be make or break. In the absence of Sizing John Our Duke is the favourite for the race but there are too many risks involved in backing the horse. A more reliable proposition is Djakadam who has been in the shake-up in the last three Gold Cups.
If you back Melon and Djakadam and you lose money at least you can look forward to seeing Damien Demsey and Stockton’s Wing race through some songs and on Sunday night there will only be 37 sleeps before the best National Hunt festival.