DUBLIN RACING FESTIVAL – DAY ONE

1:05 – 2m6f (2m6f45y) Nathaniel Lacy & Partners Solicitors €50,000 Cheltenham Bonus For Stable Staff” Novice Hurdle (Grade 1) (5yo+)

MINELLA CROONER (10/3) was eye catching when splitting Journey with me and Kilcruit after bashing almost every hurdle up the straight. That form has now been franked by both of those horses and he looks to have bundles of potential but could want a further trip in time.

GRAND JURY (4/1) was in front of Hollow Games last time out when finishing second to Ginto in the Lawlor’s of Naas after travelling very powerfully. He could well have what it takes to win this and at the prices could be the one to side with.

HOLLOW GAMES (15/8) had been impressive in his first two starts over hurdles winning both a maiden and novice hurdle nicely. He was third last time out behind a stablemate but this step back up in trip could see him to better effect.

Bronn (5/1) & MINELLA COCOONER (11/1) are Willie Mullins starts, both of whom won on their last start. ERIC BLOODAXE was game in winning at Limerick but would want the ground a lot softer. FREEDOM TO DREAM (28/1) was second to Erik Bloodaxe over Christmas and would need to improve massively to give a showing.

1:35 – 2m  Racing TV ’12 Euros Per Month This Weekend Only’ Spring Juvenile Hurdle (Grade 1)  (4yo)

FIL DOR (5/4) heads the market here for Gordon Elliot and Davy Russell. This grey has been very impressive winning all three of his starts over hurdles and looks set to go in again. Stablemate Pied Piper has been equally if not more impressive but connections are sure this horse has the higher ability and if that is to be true he should be winning this comfortably.

VAUBAN (6/4) opened up in the week as the market leader for this race which was baffling to me to be honest. He was second to Pied Piper on his one and only start for Willie Mullins and didn’t jump at all well enough that day. Now although the bare form seems very impressive, Pied Piper has come on leaps and bounds since then and Paul Townend will have to get him jumping a lot better than he did at Punchestown on debut.

ICARE ALLEN (5/1) remains of high interest for owner JP McManus and travelled stylishly when winning over C&D over the Christmas period. This horse is held in very high regard and Willie’s always come on for a run and I would not be surprised one bit if he was bang in there.

THE TIDE TURNS (10/1) is the most likely of the outsiders to challenge the front three at the head of the market after winning a maiden hurdle by 2 lengths on his first start for Gordon Elliot.

2:10 – 2m1f 2m1f43y) Patrick Ward & Co Solicitors Irish Arkle Novice Chase (Grade 1) (5yo+)

BLUE LORD (13/8) heads the market and is thought by so many to be the weekends banker. With Ferny Hollow now injured he heads the market for the Arkle at Cheltenham and should he win this he will most likely go odds on for the festival. He hasn’t put a foot wrong in his two chase starts and his jumping was excellent at Naas.

RIVIERE D’ETEL (2/1) has been outstanding this season over fences. She didn’t quite live up to the hype over hurdles and seemed to be a tricky ride however she has been settling and jumping fluently so far. She was just touched off by Ferny Hollow over C&D although she was getting 12lbs and that form is still well above par.

HAUT EN COULEURS (4/1) has just had the one start over fences and does look as if a step in trip could be incoming in the near future. His third in the triumph hurdle last year is his best piece of form and he won well in a beginners chase beating more experienced rivals that today.

SAINT SAM (4/1) was superb on chasing debut and was an exciting juvenile to follow last season. Willie Mullins has been very bullish about this horse and he could have what it takes to take this. This horse has gears and is a slick jumper and seems to have progressed hugely over fences.

BUSSLETON (50/1) & EMBITTERED (50/1) round of the field of six.

3:15 – (3m61y) Paddy Power Irish Gold Cup (Grade 1) (5yo+) 

FRODON (7/2) will give his all from the front as ever in this and could well go all the way. Kemboy is likely to be up there with him so he may not get it all, however he is ever so game. He beat Galvin on his first run back this season at Down Royal and that form is up there with the best after what Galvin has achieved this season. He went off too quick in the King George and gave himself no chance.

ASTERION FORLONGE (7/2) has got to be the most frustrating horse in training. If he stays up he could win anything he wants too he has that much potential. He would want to be going the other way around however completing the race will and should be the main priority after failing to do so on both runs this season.

KEMBOY (5/2) ran a cracker in the John Durkan on reappearance finishing third. He absolutely loves Leopardstown and deserves to be right there at the top of the market.

MINELLA INDO (7/2) last year’s Gold Cup winner has been disappointing this season but Cheltenham brings out the best in him and I don’t think any other track quite suits him. Different tactics were tried in the King George which flopped and led to him being pulled up so I think Robbie Power will just drop him in and see how close he can get come the final bend.

JANIDIL (11/1) is so consistent and will come there with a strong chance as he always does. He may not be quite good enough to win this but I’m sure he’ll be bang in there. He jumps well, travels well and finds for pressure. He never gets the respect he deserves and this could be his day out in the sun.

DELTA WORK (10/1), CONFLATED (50/1) & CILOUS EMERY (66/1) are the others in this year’s Irish Gold Cup.

Selections

1:05 – Minella Crooner 10/3
1:40 – Icare Allen 5/1 ew
2:10 – Saint Sam 4/1
3:15 – Janidil 11/1 ew