The Dublin Racing Festival takes centre stage this weekend as a glut of superstar jumpers will take on Leopardstown on their (likely) final run before the Cheltenham Festival.
The vast majority of those superstars will be provided by Willie Mullins who remarkably has the favourite for seven of the eight Grade 1 races, with only Barry Connell’s Marine Nationale in the Irish Arkle denying a complete forecast of domination for the 17-time champion trainer. That said, even that two-mile-one-furlong contest could be a close run thing in the betting should Mullins opt to bring the hugely impressive Gaelic Warrior back in trip.
The other stars of the Closutton team include El Fabiolo, who will likely take on the Dublin Chase (Sunday), State Man, who will defend his title in the Irish Champion Hurdle (Sunday) and
Galopin Des Champs who looks set to return to the scene of his sensational performance in the Savills Chase over Christmas, when he takes on the Irish Gold Cup on Saturday.
That latter mentioned race could be the contest at the weekend, for as impressive as the reigning Cheltenham Gold Cup winner was in his 22-length win, he will now have to face Fastorslow again, who has beaten him on the previous two occasions the horses have met. His trainer Martin Brassil opted not to run the eight-year-old in the Savills late in the day on account of the underfoot conditions but with the ground looking likely to hold up on this occasion, the Sean and Berndaine Mulryan-owned gelding gets a chance to confirm form with his old adversary and strike a victory for the smaller yards. The pair top the betting for Saturday’s feature race clash and indeed for the Gold Cup at Cheltenham next month, so it promises to be a race to savour.
A welcome sideshow to the equine action on the track at the Dublin Racing Festival and beyond is an engrossing jockey’s title race between reigning champion Paul Townend and Jack Kennedy. The latter led by 14 after the weekend but Townend, with the power of Mullins behind him, has been relentless in his pursuit towards the Kerry native.
The pair are on 99 and 85 wins, and with so much to play for now and after Cheltenham, it is not out of the question that either riders could get close to Charlie Swan’s record of 147 winners in a season.