Day one of the Dublin Racing Festival. Some top class, competitive racing. Only two races contain an odds-on shot, and one of those sees a couple of the best horses in training go head to head. Wet weather has prevailed in the run-up. There are bits and pieces of rain forecast for the weekend. That will probably mean the entire festival is run on soft ground.
1.05 Nathaniel Lacy & Partners Solicitors '50k Cheltenham Bonus For Stable Staff' Novice Hurdle
Ashdale Bob appeals at the prices. He was a most impressive winner on his penultimate start at Navan. The second in that race rates a very solid yardstick. Ashdale Bob fell early on last time out but is normally an accurate jumper. He looks to hold solid each-way claims. Gaillard Du Mesnil and Stattler both won well at the Leopardstown Christmas meeting. The latter appeals as the most likely to be suited by this step up in trip. He would be particularly dangerous if left alone in front.
Selection: Ashdale Bob 10-1
1.35 Ladbrokes Dublin Chase
Chacun Pour Soi beat Min by four lengths in last year's renewal of this race. A repeat seems the most likely result. If anything, Chacun Pour Soi should be open to greater improvement. He dispatched a couple of smart sorts over Christmas and should cement his status as Champion Chase favourite here.
Selection: Chacun Pour Soi 4-9
2.10 Patrick Ward & Company Solicitors Irish Arkle Novice Chase
Enurgumene is a most exciting novice chaser. He's a short price though. There is also a nagging concern that he might be forced to set too strong a gallop. Franco De Port is interesting. The market seems to suggest that his win over Christmas was a fluke. That's possible. It's also possible that a horse making just his seventh start put up a career best effort. He looks a more than fair price to find further improvement here. This race should be run to suit. Each-way a pleasure.
Selection: Franco De Port 10-1
2.45 Matheson Handicap Chase
Emily Moon was well backed to win a race over course and distance in December. In reality, this race probably doesn't represent the step up in grade it first appears. She's a tricky ride but was almost certainly asked to do too much, too soon that day. It's hard to shake the memory of how well she travelled through the race. If her finishing effort can be harnessed until the closing stages, she should go close. Entoucas is inclined to make jumping errors. If cutting those to a minimum, he appeals as well handicapped.
Selection: Emily Moon 14-1
3.15 Chanelle Pharma Irish Champion Hurdle
It seems churlish to crib Honeysuckle. She's the defending champion and remains unbeaten. She does look a short price based on what she's actually achieved in those victories all the same. Sharjah was bitterly disappointing in last year's renewal of this race. He's generally consistent over hurdles though. A repeat of his victory in the Matheson Hurdle over Christmas could well prove good enough here. The ground is unlikely to be any softer on Saturday. An improved showing from the enigmatic Abacadabras wouldn't surprise.
Selection: Sharjah 9-4
3.50 Ladbrokes Hurdle
The Moyglass Flyer remains a well handicapped horse to my eye. The betting would suggest he stripped pretty fit when fourth over this course and distance in December. It was just his fourth lifetime start, and first for a year though. Improvement should be forthcoming. I also suspect that race will prove strong form. The booking of Mark Walsh sweetens the deal. Charles Byrnes has a formidable record in the race. Advanced Virgo must be respected.
Selection: The Moyglass Flyer 13-2
4.25 Goffs Future Stars INH Flat Race
A bit of a guess-up. Ramillies looks to have a lovely attitude and a decent measure of ability. He should relish the ground too. Kilcruit is the Willie Mullins number one. He's bound to prove popular.
Selection: Ramillies 5-1
Watch live coverage of the Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player on Saturday (1pm) and Sunday (1.30pm) and listen live on RTÉ Radio One