Dublin Festival set to put Cheltenham Trials Day in the shade

Super mare Honeysuckle aims to retain her Champion Hurdle crown.Super mare Honeysuckle aims to retain her Champion Hurdle crown.

Top-class line-ups expected for the Dublin Racing Festival

Last Saturday’s Cheltenham Trials Day caused no more than a ripple in the ante-post betting markets. By far the most significant mover was Irish raider Pied Piper who cruised to victory in the Triumph Hurdle Trial. Next weekend sees many of the top Irish horses on show at Leopardstown’s two-day Dublin Festival (5th and 6th February). We reflect on the impact of last year’s Leopardstown meeting on the Cheltenham Festival and take an early look at what to expect from the big race trials in 2022.

Eight Cheltenham Festival winners and a Grand National winner

Willie Mullins took control of proceedings on the opening day last year with four winners; Gaillard Du Mesnil, Chacun Pour Soi, Kilcruit and Energumene. Injury prevented the latter from running in the Arkle Trophy but the other three were all placed at Cheltenham. The Shunter finished third in the Matheson Handicap Chase and went on to win the Paddy Power Plate at Cheltenham. Honeysuckle won the Irish Champion Hurdle by 10 lengths and duly followed up in the Cheltenham Champion Hurdle.

The opening race on day 2 of the Dublin Festival in 2021 was a Mares’ Handicap Hurdle and produced the winners of the two staying handicap hurdles at the Cheltenham Festival. Heaven Help Us won at Leopardstown and followed up at 33-1 in the Coral Cup. Mrs Milner fell at the fifth but bounced back to win the Pertemps Final at Cheltenham at 12-1.

Quilixios (Spring Juvenile Hurdle), Appreciate It (Pharma Novice Hurdle) and Monkfish (Flogas Novice Chase) were all impressive winners before going on to win the Triumph Hurdle, Supreme Hurdle and Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase respectively. The featured Irish Gold Cup was won by Kemboy with the subsequent Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Minella Indo in fourth.

The meeting was not confined to Cheltenham clues as the Leopardstown Handicap Chase produced the winners of both the Aintree Grand National (runner-up Minella Times) and Topham Trophy (third-placed Livelovelaugh).

Honeysuckle heads stellar cast for 2022 Dublin Festival

The unbeaten Honeysuckle is expected to underline her claims for back-to-back Champion Hurdle victories when she lines up on Sunday. Her biggest danger is Appreciate It, not seen on the racetrack since running away with the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle last March. Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Minella Indo is likely to contest the Irish Gold Cup where likely opposition includes the Mullins’ trio Kemboy, Asterion Forlonge and Tornado Flyer.

Pied Piper’s stable companion Fil Dor could complicate Triumph Hurdle plans for trainer Gordon Elliott is he wins the Spring Juvenile Hurdle. His main market rival is Vauban, beaten only half a length by Pied Piper at Punchestown on New Year’s Eve. All of the novice hurdles are likely to face a shake-up in the ante-post betting with leading contenders on show for the Supreme, Ballymore and Albert Bartlett Hurdles. Mullins holds a strong hand in the Irish Arkle including Haut En Couleurs, Saint Sam and Arkle Trophy favourite Blue Lord.

Perhaps most exciting of all, we are expecting to Festival Novices’ Chase favourite Galopin Des Champs in action in the Ladbrokes Novice Chase. Chacun Pour Soi could put himself back in the running for the Champion Chase in the Dublin Chase. The Goffs Future Stars NH Flat race will almost certainly establish a clear favourite for Cheltenham’s Champion Bumper. Remember to keep an eye on the big handicaps for Cheltenham and Aintree clues in what promises to be a very revealing two days.