First things first, bar something very freakish occurs, today’s Dublin Racing Festival goes full steam ahead at Leopardstown.
Indeed, truth to tell – and I live near the track – it was never remotely in doubt.
Where the speculation to the contrary started I have no idea, and I appreciate with so much racing unfortunately called off in the UK that perhaps there was a news void to fill in the racing pages, but for once Mr Trump might have been right about “fake news!”
Interestingly eight subsequent Cheltenham winners came from the Dublin Festival last year and I wonder does the highly competitive fare at Leopardstown, both over four days at Christmas and this weekend, give the Irish horses a sharpness edge going to the Cotswolds? Just a thought.
At Naas last Sunday, Espoir D’Allen took the Limestone Lad Hurdle in style, but while the bookies, with their usual itchy fingers, cut his price for the Champion Hurdle, I’m not so sure.
With great respect, beating the honourable but now declining Wicklow Brave and the lifelong bridesmaid Tombstone is hardly the stuff of dreams, and five years olds have a dreadful record in the Champion.
Just three have won in fifty years, and two of those were exceptional, Night Nurse and See You Then, while the other was the admirable and classy track specialist Katchit.
Anyway Espoir D’Allen is owned by J P McManus who also owns favourite Buveur D’Air, and I suspect Gavin Cromwell’s hot prospect will have an easier target this season but will certainly be in the Champion mix in a year’s time.
Noel Meade and Sean Flanagan are on a roll and 5/4 jolly Dream Conti (from 7/4) answered every call in the maiden hurdle though his job was possibly made easier when main rival Envious Editor was badly hampered, got back in the hunt and was then virtually pulled up by a clearly concerned Robbie Power.
Plenty of word – and hard cash – for Geneva Barracks in the handicap hurdle and the 9/2 chance delivered for Martin and Conor Brassil, while Rachael Blackmore got a good tune out of 8/1 shot Poker Party in the handicap chase for the in form Henry de Bromhead.
Come to think of it it’s hard to remember a time when Henry was not sending out a steady stream of winners, and, along with Joseph O’Brien, they ensure that the Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott troops don’t mop up everything.
Enniscorthy based trainer Paul Nolan has enjoyed a very welcome revival in the last year, and while Latest Exhibition was easy to back – 6/1 to “eights” – in the concluding bumper, he scored with considerable authority for owner/breeder Jim Mernagh.