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Tuesday, 11 December, 2018

Five things we learned about Cheltenham at the Dublin Racing Festival

Leopardstown: racing this evening
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1. Faugheen is not the force he once was

For most other horses a second place in the Irish Champion Hurdle, beaten two and a quarter lengths, would be cause for general satisfaction.

But this was Faugheen, the horse nicknamed the Machine, who in his pomp would have pulled right away from a horse like Supasundae – a horse who is not even being aimed at the Champion Hurdle.

It was far better than the performance he put in at Christmas when he was pulled up, but a dejected Willie Mullins observed: "He had no spark and he's going to have to improve a lot if he's to get back to anything like he was."

Unless he picks up at home he would be no certainty to even make the Cheltenham Festival.

Supasundae and Faugheen fight out the Irish Champion Hurdle

2. The Stayers' Hurdle may not be the 'easier race'

This year's Stayers' Hurdle has been viewed as one of the Festival's softer options with the race on the radar of the likes of The New One and Yanworth.

But that is beginning to look like a more hopeful than realistic assessment of the prize following Supasundae's defeat of Faugheen over 2m.

Last year's Coral Cup winner seems to handle any trip and has continued on the upgrade this term when only superstar mare Apple's Jade and ill-fated Nichols Canyon have finished ahead of him.

It speaks volumes that trainer Jessica Harrington and jockey Robbie Power do not seem remotely interested in switching targets to the Champion.

3. Mullins and Harrington again show how to peak for the big occasions

For many Willie Mullins' Dublin Racing Festival will be judged by the eclipse of Faugheen, but by every other measure Ireland's champion jumps trainer enjoyed an outstanding meeting.

His four winners on day one included Grade 1 successes from Min and Footpad and day two followed with two more, including another Grade 1 from Mr Adjudicator.

Jessica Harrington, who had three winners at last year's Cheltenham Festival, claimed two victories and confirmed, as if it were needed, that along with Gordon Elliott Ireland will be provide a formidable challenge in March. 

4. The hype is right, Samcro delivers

He was already Ireland's banker for the Cheltenham Festival because of the absolute ease with which his unblemished record had been compiled.

But none had come at Grade 1 level and when the spotlight was shone brightest on Samcro he responded in brilliant fashion, pulling right away from a strong field to win the Deloitte Novice Hurdle without Jack Kennedy needing to pick up his stick.

Samcro has all the options at Cheltenham and on the betting appears more likely to contest the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle, but the Sky Bet Supreme – over the Deloitte trip of two miles – could be given more serious consideration.

If he lined up in the Festival's curtain raiser the roar would be deafening.

Samcro: heads to Cheltenham with outstanding claims

5. The Dublin Racing Festival is good for the Cheltenham Festival

The big races existed before but combining them all on one weekend has been an unmitigated triumph for Irish jump racing and Leopardstown.

It has not only provided absorbing and competitive racing, it has delivered results which provide greater clarity around Cheltenham Festival running plans and will help invigorate the festival ante-post betting markets.

If you are interested in this, you might also like:

Champion Hurdle remains on agenda for Faugheen

Our experts assess who could shine at the Cheltenham Festival

Samcro simply sensational as he storms home at Leopardstown

It speaks volumes that trainer Jessica Harrington and jockey Robbie Power do not seem remotely interested in switching targets to the Champion

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