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Dublin Racing Festival – the key market movers for Cheltenham following a fantastic weekend of action

07 Feb 2023
With eight Grade Ones across two days of the Dublin Racing Festival, this weekend provided a February feast for racing fans, as well as giving some important pointers to next month’s Cheltenham Festival.
 
The first of the Grade Ones at Leopardstown on Saturday provided something of a shock, if only because it was one of few races Willie Mullins didn’t have the favourite for. Good Land took that honour for his owner trainer Barry Connell, and the market leader duly obliged, scoring by a length and a half, a victory that saw his Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle odds cut to 4/1.
 
Normal service was resumed in the second, in that Mullins provided the hot favourite, and won the race, however, not with the same horse. Lossiemouth was 1/3 to extend her unbeaten run to four, but in a contest not lacking in drama, the favourite got little luck in running, allowing Gala Marceau to take full advantage and reverse their placings from Christmas. While the winner is now 5/1, from 10/1 for the JCB Triumph Hurdle, Lossiemouth remains at the head of the Cheltenham betting, albeit at 6/4, from the evens she started the day. For good measure, Mullins also has the Triumph 3/1 second favourite, Blood Destiny.
 
Having saddled five of the eight that lined up for the Goffs Irish Arkle, it was very short odds indeed that Willie Mullins would be doubling his tally of winners for the day in Leopardstown’s third. He duly did, but once again not with the horse the market predicted. That said, there was no fluke about El Fabiolo’s ten length victory, and at 2/1, he would be the pick of the Irish-trained Arkle contenders now, and a very real rival to the 11/8 favourite, Jonbon.
 
The final Grade One of the day at the Irish track was the Irish Gold Cup, and naturally Mullins had the odds-on favourite, in the shape of the current Boodles Gold Cup market leader, Galopin Des Champs. The 30/100 favourite gave Paul Townend his first winner of the day, but the victory was workmanlike rather than spectacular, and the 7-y-o remains 6/4 for next month’s Blue Riband event.


 
Elliott also has the favourite for the Turners Novices’ Chase, after Mighty Potter ran out a convincing winner of the first Grade One on day two of the Leopardstown meeting. Davy Russell was adding another big race to his CV, this victory his first top level success since his return to the saddle after the briefest of retirements, and he will surely want to be on the 6/4 favourite at Cheltenham.
 
There was a definite sense of déjà vu in the Dublin Chase, Willie Mullins held all the aces once again and was an unsurprising winning trainer, but few expected Gentleman De Mee to lead his stablemate Blue Lord home by seven lengths. Both are now 10/1 for the Queen Mother Champion Chase, with Gentleman De Mee’s odds slashed from 66/1, and Blue Lord eased from 7/2, confirming the shock nature of the Leopardstown result.
 
Many present at the Dublin track and watching on TV were willing Honeysuckle on in the Irish Champion Hurdle, but sadly there wasn’t to be the ending so many were hoping for. State Man was yet another big winner for Willie Mullins, and at 3/1 he’s the standout market rival to 1/4 favourite Constitution Hill in next month’s Champion Hurdle. As for Honeysuckle, she won’t be completing a Champion Hurdle hat-trick, although she is 7/2 joint favourite – with Marie’s Rock – for the Mares Hurdle, but perhaps retirement beckons before then, and few would begrudge her that after her stellar career.
 
The final Grade One of the weekend went the way of, yes, you’ve guessed it, Willie Mullins, although once again not with the odds/on favourite. In this case it was Facile Vega who disappointed at 4/9, while 14/1 chance Il Etait Temps landed the Tattersalls Ireland Novice Hurdle. The beaten favourite has been eased to 7/2 for the Supreme Novices, while the winner is 6/1 for the Festival curtain-raiser, the same price as yet another Mullins winner, Gaelic Warrior, after that one landed the handicap hurdle that followed the last Grade One.
 
For good measure, Willie Mullins naturally landed the Bumper that concluded this year’s Dublin Racing Festival, the aptly-named Fun Fun Fun – although the champion trainer’s rivals might disagree! – shortening to 8/1, from 20/1, for the Weatherby’s Champion Bumper.

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