Paul Townend previews his Saturday rides at the Dublin Racing Festival
I am really looking forward to the Dublin Festival this year. The depth of every race over the two days is huge. It fits in brilliantly between Christmas and Cheltenham and the races are not just trials, they are good races in their own right.
We will get a chance to see which of the novices have improved since Christmas and there are some big name horses involved as well. It is a really important meeting.
My first ride is Gaillard Du Mesnil (13.05). He was runner-up on his first start for us but, like a lot of ours, improved hugely to Christmas. I was really taken with him at Christmas and the runner-up came out and franked the form in Naas last Sunday.
There is a lot of depth to this race and I think a lot of winners are going to come out of it. Stattler was also very good at Christmas. I think Mouse Morris’s horse Gentlemansgame is a horse with a huge future, as are Fekira and Ashdale Bob.
Hopefully our lad can keep on improving and I don’t think the step up to 2m6f will inconvenience him. He looks to be an exciting horse.
Chacun Pour Soi (13.35) goes in the Ladbrokes Dublin Chase. Taking the same line as most of ours he won the Hilly Way in Cork but he really had his swagger back in Leopardstown at Christmas.
He has to take on Min, which will be no easy feat. We beat him there last year but this will be a different race this time round. We are hoping we can beat him again. Ratings say we can.
I can’t wait to get back on him. I love sitting on the horse. He gives me a real tingle when I do get to ride him. Hopefully he is going to be in the same form on Saturday as he was at Christmas.
Energumene (14.10) has done nothing wrong. He dropped back to 2m in Naas and it didn’t seem to inconvenience him.
He is taking on the winner of the Grade 1 2m1f novice chase from Christmas time in Franco De Port. That race was run at a proper gallop and I can imagine this will be as well.
I have no worries about Energumene staying. I think he can jump quick enough for any two-mile chaser.
We have to take on Darver Star, Felix Desjy, who has to leave a disappointing run behind, and Captain Guinness, who we beat in Naas. Unexcepted is another runner of Willie’s in the race who was very impressive in his one run over fences in Tipperary. But I think we set the standard and are the ones they all have to beat.
Saldier (15.15) is my mount in the Irish Champion Hurdle. He probably didn’t run as bad as it looked coming off such a long break last time. I think he will improve a lot from it and I will probably ride him a little differently.
Obviously there is the little problem of Honeysuckle as well. She is going to take a lot of beating getting the mares’ allowance as well. Petit Mouchoir ran a cracker at Christmas, Abacabras has to put a poor run behind him and Sharjah sets the standard for Irish two milers bar Honeysuckle.
It’s not going to be easy but I am expecting a big improvement from Saldier. It’s nice we are able to get a second run into him because he’s had a very interrupted career up to now.
I rode Buildmeupbuttercup (15.50) in a Galway Hurdle when I got off the winner, but I’ve stuck with her here.
She has to leave a poor run in Leopardstown behind Concertista behind her, but though she has top weight she doesn’t have to give away a huge amount of weight to the bottom horses. The ground will be testing enough for her but she is going there in good form.
JP McManus is well represented with Ciel De Neige who was very impressive in Limerick and the fact that Mark Walsh has chosen to ride The Moyglass Flyer is a tip in itself. The way Charles Byrnes’s Advanced Virgo won last time I think he can overcome the 10lb he has gone up the handicap.