Winners and losers from the Dublin Racing Festival
As we approach the Cheltenham Festival, a lot of questions will be asked of trainers’ and jockeys’ preparation ahead of the four-day showpiece event. Last year took place behind closed doors, so with spectators finally returning to Prestbury Park, there is that extra bit of anticipation that means the horses will need to push that bit extra to claim victory. Due to Cheltenham’s unpredictability, the form guide essentially goes out the window, but occasionally the lead up can give an indication of how the latest horse racing tips may pan out.
The Dublin Racing Festival was one of the last opportunities to squeeze in some valuable experience ahead of Cheltenham, and there was plenty to dissect after some entertaining races at Leopardstown. Read on, as we go through the winners and losers of this year’s Dublin Racing Festival.
Winner – Willie Mullins
What a weekend it was for Willie Mullins. The legendary trainer, whose reputation proceeds itself as far as Cheltenham is concerned, essentially performed a clean sweep in Dublin. For all the brilliant Grade One winners he boasts amongst his stable, it was some relatively unknown entities that were unearthed at Leopardstown. Facile Vegawas excellent, Vauban performed valiantly to win the Triumph Hurdle, whilst Chacun Pour Soi won the Dublin Chase for a third time and Minella Cocooner and Blue Lord also earnt victories.
Loser – Paul Nichols
Looking back at Dublin now, the festival has left Paul Nicholls at something of a crossroads. A few years ago, the likes of Frodon and Greaneteen would have been nailed on for some degree of success in the run-up to Cheltenham, but despite the formers great run with Bryony Frost when they won the Ryanair Chase, Nicholls can’t buy a win for love nor money. The nine-year-old finished seventh in the Irish Gold cup whilst Greaneteen struggled in the Dublin Chase — leaving a lot to be desired and plenty of work to do before Cheltenham.
Winner – Conflated
As usual, a lot of the talk surrounding Cheltenham is dominated by the Gold Cup. It’s the most prestigious race on the schedule and to win it is to write your name in Cheltenham folklore. While Gordon Elliott-trained Conflated initially came in as an outsider, the eight-year-old massively increased his odds for Gold Cup glory at Leopardstown when he shocked Minella Indo as an 18/1 shot to win the Irish Gold Cup. Not many would have thought it was possible, but it was a successful trip to Dublin for Elliott, and it will be interesting to see if lightning can strike twice.
Loser – Zanahiyr
Its hard to really call Zanahiyr when you consider he did perform well in the Irish Champion Hurdle, but being forced to settle for a place on the podium isn’t ideal when you want to be winning the Champion Hurdle. In all fairness, he was up against the Henry de Bromhead-trained Honeysuckle — currently unbeaten in all 14 career races and a clear favourite for the Champion Hurdle come to Cheltenham. Jack Kennedy did well to keep the chase on Rachael Blackmore, but it will certainly be a bitter pill to swallow having come up short in Dublin.