The Dublin Festival Fallout
February 7th, 2023 | Marten's Current Racing Diary
Willie Mullins duly had an impressive tally of eight winners over the two-day Dublin Racing Festival but a few of them took some finding and he had four short-priced reverses with Blue Lord at 1/4, Lossiemouth 1/3, Facile Vega at 4/9 and Appreciate It at 11/8.
It’s hard to know where to start such was the quality on view.
Perhaps the most intriguing of his winners was Gaelic Warrior, who carried top weight to victory from a mark of 143 in the 2m 0-150 handicap hurdle on Sunday.
The five-year-old still jumped right, having done so to such an extreme degree that it cost him the race when just beaten in last season’s Boodles at Cheltenham, but this three and three-quarter lengths win will see his mark rise to the low 150s, which will leave him nicely placed for a number of options at Cheltenham.
The son of Maxios is currently a top price of 6’1 for the Supreme and 5/1 for the Ballymore, with the latter over 2m 5f apparently the more favoured despite the Flat-bias to his pedigree.
As you may recall I nominated State Man as an alternative to Constitution Hill in my Champion Hurdle Preview a few months ago and those who got 10/1 each-way find themselves in quite a strong position since his return to action in the Morgiana Hurdle in November.
He beat the reliable 162-rated Sharjah on that occasion, earning a rise from 159 to 164, and then next time in the Matheson Hurdle he beat Vauban by four and quarter lengths. That horse finished a length further back on Sunday at level weights, so I expect State Man’s mark to rise to around 173, which would leave him on the same figure as Constitution Hill.
The bookmakers now bet top prices of 4/11 Constitution Hill, 3/1 State Man, 10/1 Vauban and 14/1 Honeysuckle, with former winner Epatante a top price of 33/1.
Honeysuckle’s owner Kenny Alexander seemed fairly adamant in a post-race interview with Nick Luck that his mare would miss the Champion Hurdle, possibly being aimed instead at the Mares’ Hurdle, for which she is 7/2, but if I had any say in the matter I would attempt to win her a third Champion Hurdle. She loves Cheltenham and has been far from disgraced in her last two defeats. I would expect her to be placed.
The defeat of Facile Vega in the Grade 1 novice hurdle came as a shock. He dropped away tamely after an early head-to-head with High Definition and we have to wonder if he made a noise or had some type of respiratory issue. Something may have been amiss with him and he can now be backed at 5/1 for the Cheltenham curtain raiser.
I was disappointed to see Appreciate It beaten on merit in the Arkle Novice Chase, but not surprised that El Fabiolo won. I have always liked the winner but I suppose Appreciate It may now be doubtful for the Arkle, which is annoying for those who, like me, have backed him ante-post to beat Jonbon at Cheltenham.
In the next Galopin Des Champs proved that he stayed three miles when powering away from Stattler after the last to win the Irish Gold Cup by eight lengths. He has to tackle another two and a half furlongs around a much stiffer track in March, but this was a hard race and it may take him a while to recover.
Any Second Now ran very well in fourth and this sets him up nicely for another crack at Aintree.
To close it was a good couple of days for the Weekend Card, with two Premier List horses winning, the Under The Radar qualifier going in at 3/1, my only two selections for the weekend winning and Pink Jazz landing a gamble for the All-Weather Projects feature from the Card.
Bye for now