Dublin Racing Festival Preview: All eyes on Leopardstown

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National Hunt eyes will be on Leopardstown this weekend as the Irish big hitters go to battle in the 2019 Dublin Racing Festival.

The Irish Gold Cup and the Irish Champion Hurdle are among the most eye-catching contests across a two-day meeting which contains a mouth-watering eight Grade 1s.

Ladbrokes Dublin Chase (1:25pm Saturday)

It doesn’t get much better than Min v Footpad. So it’s a shame that the latter missed out when declarations were confirmed on Friday, leaving Min as the obvious favourite.

Willie Mullins’ raider triumphed in this renewal 12 months ago and shaped well on reappearance in December to win the John Durkan Chase from Shattered Love. He should make it two from two here.

Simply Ned provides the main opposition. But the 12-year-old isn’t getting any younger and has 12l to find on the jolly after his defeat as runner-up last year.

Saint Calvados and Special Tiara are among those who reoppose.

Arkle Novice Chase (2pm Saturday)

Le Richebourg has been in cracking form since putting a Handicap defeat behind him at the start of the season. The Joseph O’Brien-trained star has won three races from four since.

That includes a taking 4½l success over course and distance on Boxing Day, which sees him as the comfortable favourite again here ahead of Knockanuss and Hardline.

Irish Champion Hurdle (3:10pm Saturday)

Istabraq, Hurricane Fly and Faugheen have all won this in the last 20 years. Now wonder-mare Apple’s Jade will bid to take a bite of history and add her name to the illustrious list.

She looks better than ever after a trio of wins totalling 57l in the Lismullen Hurdle, Hatton’s Grace Hurdle and Christmas Hurdle since her reappearance. But there are question marks over her here.

That’s because she hasn’t run over the 2m distance since defeat in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle in November 2016. With that in mind, stepping down in trip is a bit of a risk for the seven-year-old.

We’ve no doubt she has the speed to go close. But if she’s not quite up to it, then Melon and Supersundae may be on the premises to clean up.

Flogas Novice Chase (3pm Sunday)

Love your trends? Then sit tight, because no English trainer has ever plundered the main prize in the 29-year history of the Flogas Novice Chase. That could spell bad news for La Bague Au Roi.

Warren Greatrex’s charge completed the hat-trick with a Grade 1 at Kempton ahead of the equally impressive Topofthegame. Now she takes on the trends and the ultra-consistent Delta Work.

Elliott’s charge is also three from three this term in a sequence which also includes two Grade 1 successes. So we’re looking forward to a right royal rumble with one winning sequence set to end.

Irish Gold Cup (3:35pm Sunday)

Can Road to Respect lay down a Cheltenham Gold Cup marker? Will Al Boum Photo fulfill his potential? And how will 2018 winner Edwulf fare 12 months after his 33/1 success?

These are just some of the questions we have ahead of Sunday’s renewal, which is so close that our traders can barely pick a favourite. In fact six of the field are priced at 10/1 or shorter ante-post.

Good ground will throw the cat among the pigeons even further, with Bellshill taken to produce for the Mullins-clan after shaping well on reappearance over course and distance in December.

Last year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup third – Anibale Fly – will also hope to throw down a marker.

Click here for all our 2019 Dublin Racing Festival odds.

All Odds and Markets correct as of date of publication

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