Six to savour: horses to have on your radar at Leopardstown's big weekend
With eight races at the new Dublin Racing Festival priced up following the unveiling of entries on Tuesday, we asked our team to reveal their early fancies...
Unibet Irish Gold Cup, 7-1 generally
This horse remains in the 'could be anything' drawer after making a winning return from nearly two years off last month, his fifth success on the bounce. We won't know if he's retained all of his considerable ability until he goes back over fences, but the signs were encouraging at Punchestown and he's defending an unbeaten record in this sphere.
Unibet Irish Gold Cup, 8-1 Paddy Power & Betfair Sportsbook
The Tony Martin-trained eight-year-old delivered a career best performance when landing the valuable Paddy Power Handicap Chase by seven lengths over the course and distance at Christmas. On the basis that further improvement is likely, he can prove the pick in an open-looking renewal of this Grade 1 event.
BHP Insurance Champion Hurdle, 3-1 Paddy Power & Betfair Sportsbook
With major doubts surrounding the odds-on favourite Faugheen after a bitterly disappointing effort last time and Buveur D'Air unlikely to turn up there is potentially plenty of value in the BHP Insurance Champion Hurdle market. Melon looks the most certain to turn up, has a solid level of form, is still open to improvement and if settling better than he did at Cheltenham he should finish off his race.
BHP Insurance Champion Hurdle, 33-1 Ladbrokes
At this stage it has to be worth taking on the front two in the market. Faugheen was desperately disappointing at the track over Christmas and Willie Mullins will do well to get him here, while Buveur D'Air has to be highly unlikely to run. Paddy Power and Betfair Sportsbook are taking no chances on the place terms, going a quarter for only the first two, but Forge Meadow might turn up at a shorter price than the 25-1 currently on offer. She looked good when bolting up in a Listed event at Punchestown in November and ran well when second to Let's Dance at the course over Christmas. The 2m4f trip might have stretched her stamina on testing ground and she should be more effective if returned to the minimum here.
Al Boum Photo
Flogas Novice Chase, 3-1 Paddy Power & Betfair Sportsbook
Monalee and Al Boum Photo, the first and second favourite in the ante-post market for this race fell last time. In the case of Al Boum Photo, it was at the last in a Grade 2 at Limerick over Christmas and jockey David Mullins hadn’t really popped the question. He had comfortably landed his chasing debut before that and should be capable of compensation.
Tattersalls Ireland Spring Juvenile Hurdle, 7-1 Paddy Power & Betfair Sportsbook
Espoir D'Allen is undoubtedly the best juvenile in Ireland at present and he gives the impression that we haven't seen the best of him yet. However, he will have his work cut out to confirm recent Leopardstown form with Farclas, who stayed on in eye-catching style to be second. The third horse has hacked up since and there has to be a good deal of improvement in Farclas considering that was his first run for Gordon Elliott since coming over from France.