What we learned from the Dublin Racing Festival Launch
The new Dublin Racing Festival will be staged over two days on Saturday February 3rd and Sunday February 4th, and credit to Leopardstown Racecourse for amalgamating three scattered days of racing into two great days which will act as a perfect midpoint between the Christmas fayre and Cheltenham in March.
With 7 Grade 1 races to be contested over the weekend, including the BHP Insurance Champion Hurdle and the Unibet Gold Cup, there will be serious quality on show and the races will be valuable prizes in themselves, not just stepping stones to the spring meetings.
Trainers Jessica Harrington and Noel Meade (pictured), Gordon Elliott and Henry De Bromhead all worked horses at the Dublin track on Tuesday morning.
So what did we find out?
Jessica Harrington is happy with the progress of Irish Grand National winner 'Our Duke' and he will return in the Gold Cup. She believes she has him in the same form as when he won at Fairyhouse.
Jessica Harrington has an unraced horse called 'Exit Poll' which worked well.
Gordon Elliott's exciting 'Samcro' will kept as a novice this season and will run in a 2 mile and 6 furlong race on the Saturday, a race which will also include the Henry De Bromhead trained 'Dicey O'Reilly'.
Gordon Elliott's novice hurdle horse 'Cracking Smart' will miss this meeting to be freshened up for Cheltenham.
Noel Meade believes his trio 'Minella Fair', 'Moyross', and 'Athenean' are better than their previous runs.
Henry De Bromhead has confirmed 'Petit Mouchoir' has recovered from a setback and is set to face the Willie Mullins trained 'Footpad' in the Arkle Chase on the Saturday.
Everyone I spoke to said to trust Willie Mullins regarding the wellbeing of 'Faugheen'. Therefore if what happened at Christmas was an aberration, then the 5/1 on offer for Cheltenham's Champion Hurdle could be very big.
Jessica Harrington will run 'Supasundae' in the Champion Hurdle on the Saturday with one eye on the Stayers' Hurdle at Cheltenham.
'Paloma Blue' was Henry De Bromhead and owner Chris Jones' best chance of a winner at the meeting.
Noel Meade said that stable jockey Sean Flanagan feels 'Snow Falcon' has the potential to be a better chaser than a hurdler, and that puts him in with a fighting chance in the Flogas Novice Chase on the Sunday.
Gavin Cromwell has confirmed 'Highland Fling' for the Coral Handicap Hurdle and feels he has an each way chance. Henry De Bromhead may consider 'Trainwreck' and 'Mind's Eye' for this race.
Noel Meade will run 'Brace Yourself', a 24 length winner last time out, in a bumper, and his performance will indicate if he is Cheltenham bound.
Gordon Elliott's 'Rapid Escape' will run in a bumper, and the general consensus was that he is a very decent horse with a lot of potential. He was put forward by assistant Davy Condon as the bet of the meeting.
Gavin Cromwell confirmed that 'Lady Ischia', the horse 'Rapid Escape' beat last time out, would run in a mares' bumper.
Gordon Elliott's 'Farclas' has shown a lot of improvement and will once again oppose the Gavin Cromwell trained 'Espoir D'allen' in the juvenile hurdle on the Sunday. 'Espoir D'allen' showed nice speed in the morning gallop.
Henry De Bromhead won't be sending 'Monalee' to Cheltenham without decent experience over fences. He is happy with how the novice chaser schooled this week following his crashing fall over Christmas.
Henry De Bromhead feels 'Balko Des Flos' needs good ground to be at his best.
Henry De Bromhead mentioned 'Sub Lieutenant' is crying out for a 3 mile test on good ground.
Noel Meade confirmed 'Road to Respect' is on track to follow up his Christmas Chase win by running in the Unibet Gold Cup. He is happy with his horse.
Noel Meade also said that 'Disko', if he recovers from a slight setback, is an intended runner in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Jessica Harrington believes she may have run triple Gold Cup winner 'Sizing John' too soon after his first run of the season, which may have explained his below par display over Christmas. He will go straight to Cheltenham and she told me not to forget about him. He is 7/1 right now, the price he was to win the race last year.
Hopefully there is something there that will catch your eye. Remember Willie Mullins was not at this briefing. It's expected 'Yorkhill' will take all the beating back in trip over 2 miles. The vibes will be clear as to the chances of Willie Mullins' horses at the Dublin Racing Festival and we will keep you posted.