The high-class action just keeps coming at Leopardstown this weekend and day 2 has a bumper card of 8 races including 4 Grade 1’s with the Irish Gold Cup taking centre stage. Minella Indo will look to fight off the Mullins brigade whilst on the novice scene Monkfish and Latest Exhibition look set to renew their rivalry in the Grade 1 Flogas Novices Chase.
Heaven can help us get off to a flyer in competitive Mares Handicap Hurdle
Day two gets underway with a Mares Handicap Hurdle run over 2 miles and 2 furlongs. The race is named after Paddy Mullins, Willies father, so I’m sure Willie will have targeted this with a few of his. He is duly well represented by Dysurt Diamond (The mount of Paul Townend), Lady Breffni, Getaway Gorgeous, Ruaille Buaille, Bon Retour and Robinnia. For all it is not hard to imagine a Mullins winner, I like the chances of Paul Hennessy’s Heaven Help Us 33/1 who hasn’t taken to fences this season but has some high-class hurdles form to her name. Seventh in last year’s Supreme, Heaven Help Us had previously beaten the now 142 rated Master Debonair at Cheltenham in October and placed 8 lengths behind Abacadabras in Grade 1 over Christmas in 2019. Sent novice chasing this season, Heaven Help Us is yet to convince over a fence but has still ran to a fair mark and shown enough to suggest she can be competitive dropped back over hurdles. The trip looks right up her street and if she can recapture some of last season’s high-class hurdles form, she should go well off a mark of 126. Talented claimer Richard Condon takes 7lbs off which will really help.
Take on Quilixious with Youmdor in Juvenile Hurdle
The first Grade 1 of the day is the Tatterstalls Ireland Spring Juvenile Hurdle where a small but select field of 6 go to post. I must say I was really looking forward to seeing French Aseel run here and he was my initial idea of the winner but was withdrawn at the final declaration stage. Current market leader Quilixious looks like a big galloping 3-mile chaser in the making and he could be worth taking on at the prices. Saint Sam, Ha D’or and Bussleton ran eye catching races behind current Triumph Hurdle favourite Zanahiyr in the Grade 1 over Christmas and it will be interesting to see whether they enhance that form. The one I will take Quilixious on with is Youmdor 5/2 who seems to have plenty of talent but needs to improve in the jumping department. I thought he was coming to win his race last time out against the highly thought of Teahupoo before taking a crashing fall at the last. A winner over 7 furlongs on the flat, we know Youmdor has plenty of speed and he handles the anticipated soft ground. I am hoping he can pounce late and do the favourite for a turn of foot.
Sit back and Appreciate It!
Next up we have the Grade 1 Chanelle Pharma Novice Hurdle over 2 miles and I really struggle to see past Appreciate It 8/11 who cruised to Grade 1 success at Christmas over course and distance. Going into that race I had Appreciate It down has more of a Ballymore type, he looked a big strong stayer who I anticipated would improve greatly for a step up in trip. I was seriously taken with the way he travelled into contention and then quickened clear of some smart rivals. I didn’t think he possessed so many gears and duly shot to the top of the Supreme Novices betting in the absence of his stable mate Ferny Hollow. If Appreciate It rocks up in similar form he’ll take some beating.
Ballyadam disappointed over Christmas, finishing 16 lengths behind Appreciate It. Prior to that he had won the Grade 1 Royal Bond over two miles and demonstrated a fine turn of foot to quicken off the back of a steadily run race. Plenty of Gordon’s string didn’t fire over Christmas so I’d be happy enough to forgive Ballyadam that run and he may offer some good each way value against the
favourite. Remember this is a horse once described as “possibly the best horse he’s ever ridden” by the Codd father himself! Ballyadam has it all to prove though and he will have to put up some performance to turn the tables with Appreciate It.
Damalisque to deliver back-to-back big handicap wins for Harty and Walsh
Damalisque 5/1 absolutely bolted up in a two-and-a-half-mile handicap hurdle just 9 days ago and looks to have a massive chance here. He travelled though the race like an absolute dream and won what appeared to be a red-hot handicap with the minimum of fuss. I know plenty of shrewd punters have flagged this fella up but 5/1 still represents a decent enough price all be it in a big field 3-mile handicap hurdle and he looks seriously progressive. As is the competitive nature of the race I also like to have an each way alternative and was surprised to see the Willie Mullins trained Koshari 20/1 take his place considering his decent looking handicap mark. There’s been a fair bit of talk about this horse potentially being a Coral Cup horse and off a mark of 144 he’s certainly interesting me for a big Spring handicap. Paul Townend has opted to ride him ahead of the other 5 Willie Mullins runners so that’s a big plus and I believe the step up to three miles will suit. Not seen since 2018, Koshari shouldered a big weight to win a modest looking handicap hurdle over 2 and a half miles but was strong at the finish and may well improve plenty for the both the run and step up in trip. You won’t often find a Mullins and Townend runner at 20/1 and he represents some good each way value against a very strong looking favourite.
Monkfish to deliver a third knockout blow to old rival Latest Exhibition
The Flogas Novices Chase is the penultimate Grade 1 of a fantastic weekends racing and is run over an extended 2 miles and 5 furlongs. Monkfish 8/11 and Latest Exhibition look set to ignite their rivalry for a third time with the current score reading 2-0 to Monkfish. I’m a huge Monkfish fan and struggle to see the form being reversed. The pair first met in the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham last March where Monkfish ran out an extremely game winner. It’s worth noting he did plenty wrong that day and was properly worth more than the winning margin suggests. Both won their beginners chases in stylish fashion, Monkfish in particular looking like a stag over his fences. Latest Exhibition went on to get beat by Pencilfulloflead in heavy conditions I believe he hated. As a result, Monkfish was sent off heavily odds on to beat Latest Exhibition over Christmas and he duly obliged but Latest Exhibition put up a fight and the pair jumped the last together before Monkfish pulled out more. I don’t think the step back to 2 miles and 5 furlongs will really suit one more than other and subsequently believe Monkfish will confirm the form. Ironically named, he is a smashing looking horse and I’ll admit to quietly fancying him for the 2021 Festival Novices Chase/2022 Gold Cup double!
Unexposed Melon to finally get his day in the sun
I must admit I was a tad disappointed to see this year’s Irish Gold Cup cut up to just the 5 runners but it is still an extremely high-class renewal. On ratings Delta Work sets the standard (officially rated 170) and this time last year he defeated Kemboy to complete a Savills Chase/Irish Gold Cup double. A fifth placed effort in the Gold Cup followed where his jumping let him down and unfortunately it has been the same story this season. Delta Work always improves for his first run of the season so I thought he ran well to finish just the 6 lengths behind a match fit The Storyteller at Down Royal. Delta Work was unable to build on a promising reappearance when unseating in the Savills Chase last time out. As a result, he comes here with a few question marks but Jack Kennedy is back on board and he’s bound to have his supporters at 4/1.
Another horse who comes here with a few questions to answer in the jumping department is Minella Indo who currently heads the betting at 13/8. A faller in the Savills Chase at Christmas, Minella Indo had previously won his two chase starts this season with ease and had soared to second favourite in the Gold Cup market. The 2019 Albert Bartlett winner clearly has a huge engine and prior to his fall I’d say he’s excelled in the jumping department. Second in last year’s RSA, it’s hard to know what to make of that form as the winner Champ is yet to be seen and the third placed horse, Allaho, had been disappointing before impressing back down in trip to two and half miles. In my opinion Minella Indo still has it all to prove and just looks on the short side at 13/8.
The Storyteller is the outsider of 5 but comes here in the form of his life. 14/1 probably underestimates his chances and a large part of that has to be the anticipated soft ground. The Storyteller is a horse who thrives on good ground, especially over fences. I’d like to see him run well here before maybe a crack at the Stayers Hurdle in March. It wouldn’t be an Irish Gold Cup without a strong Willie Mullins contingent and he is represented by Kemboy and Melon in this year’s edition. An emphatic winner of the Savills Chase over course and distance in 2018, Kemboy boasts form figures of 21422 round Leopardstown and he bounced back to form with a fine second in the Savills Chase over Christmas. He looks sure to run a big race but is another who can throw in the odd poor round of jumping and I quite like his stable mate Melon 4/1 to reverse the form. With plenty of high class form over shorter trips, including two seconds in the Champion Hurdle, Melon had his first crack at three miles in the Savills Chase and looked the winner coming down to 2 out. He travelled with enthusiasm and jumped his way into a commanding lead down the back straight. He was electric and Patrick Mullins had little choice but to let him roll on. Melon made a right mess off the second last and sacrificed 5 or 6 lengths to Kemboy who was sat in second. This resulted in the Mullins pair cutting each other throats far too far from home. A Plus Tard subsequently wore them down late on to claim the spoils but I thought this was a hugely encouraging first try at three miles from Melon. In a field where plenty have question marks surrounding their jumping we know Melon is lethal over his fences and if Patrick can keep him calm and save a bit for the finish I can see him improving past Kemboy and finally getting his big win he so thoroughly deserves!
Former Triumph Hurdle winner can go well for Elliott and Kennedy
The big handicap chase of the day comes at 4:10 and unsurprisingly looks an extremely competitive race. Current market leader Crossed My Mind looks a horse on a steep upward curve and could be suspect to a classic JP gamble. Off You Go has high class form over hurdles and could be on a very dangerous chase mark but he has proven a tricky horse to catch right. Gordon Elliott has proved a master in these types of races over the years and I’m happy to side with his apparent first string and former Triumph Hurdle winner Farclas 8/1 who has impressed me so far this season. Reappearing after 522 days off the track, Farclas caught my eye staying on strongly in a 2-mile-3-furlong handicap chase. This form would now read extremely well. Daly Tiger is now rated 157 having bolted up 3 weeks ago, Tornado Flyer ran a stormer against Min in the John Durkan and Castlebawn West went on to win the Paddy Power Chase over Christmas. Farclas placed third behind him that day and maybe didn’t finish as strongly as the first two despite travelling particularly well. We Know Farclas handles the hustle and bustle of a big handicap chase and the step back down in trip looks sure to suit.
Brandy Love, another superstar mare for Willie Mullins?
The final race of the 2020 Dublin Racing festival is the Grade 2 Coolmore N.H. Sires Kew Gardens Irish EBF Mares I.N.H Flat Race. Willie Mullins is renowned for having high class mares in his ranks,
from Annie power to Quevega to Vroum Vroum Mag, the list goes on and on. He would seem to have another strong crop of bumper mares and Brandy Love 11/8 currently heads the betting but is also joined by stable mates Take Tea, Purple Mountain, Grangee and Brooklynn Glory. £300,000 recruit, Hollymount, represents Gordon Elliott but I, unlike most, wasn’t overly impressed with her bumper win in England and she may take some time to adjust to life in Ireland. With very little form to go off, it often pays to side with the choice of Patrick Mullins and in this case that is Brandy Love who cruised to victory in a Mares Bumper at Fairyhouse. She travelled wide throughout that day and never left the bridle despite conceding a fair bit of ground throughout. Take Tea won a bumper in impressive fashion and strong market support for her cannot be ignored. Brandy Love will be my pick though and I believe she’ll take this before looking at the big spring Bumpers at Cheltenham or the mares one at Aintree.
As always best of luck if you’re having a bet and enjoy a cracking weekend of top quality racing!
By Sam Rideout
Follow me on Twitter – @TheTr17pleP