LEOPARDSTOWN and Horse Racing Ireland should be congratulated for the creation of the Dublin Racing Festival.
The two-day meeting is a great initiative and it’s a real shame that so many British trainers have shunned it.
Prize money is fantastic, while its place in the calendar is perfect from a Cheltenham perspective.
Obviously taking on Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott in their own backyards isn’t easy, but Nicky Richards proved with Simply Ned over Christmas that it is possible.
It’s an odd state of affairs when plenty complain about prize money, yet are unwilling to send their horses on a short boat ride or on the plane to Ireland.
At least Philip Hobbs is allowing last year’s Triumph Hurdle winner Defi Du Seuil to have a crack at tomorrow’s Irish Champion Hurdle (3.30pm).
This is a fascinating race with Faugheen having to bounce back from his abject effort over Christmas, not to mention Melon being thrown into the mix.
For me it’s a race to watch rather than bet on with so many questions to be answered.
There is plenty of competitive action at Leopardstown tomorrow and the one I will be backing is BEN DUNDEE in the valuable Coral Hurdle (4.05pm).
Elliott’s six-year-old has been in excellent form this season since switching from Andrew Lynch’s yard.
Last time out he was six lengths clear of the third when chasing home Trainwreck over course and distance.
Although he’s gone up 4lbs for that run, I still think he’s well-handicapped and he looks too big at 16/1 with the sponsors for his in-form yard.
The big race of the weekend is Sunday’s Irish Gold Cup (3.00pm) where Jessica Harrington’s Our Duke will be trying to get his season back on track.
Last year’s Irish Grand National winner was a big hope for the Cheltenham Gold Cup at the start of the campaign, but he ran a stinker at Down Royal on his reappearance.
It later came to light that he had a back problem, so he has been operated on and will obviously be a big threat if he’s back to his best.
However, he’s a short price for a horse coming into this on the back of a bad run.
OUTLANDER absolutely loves it at Leopardstown and I think he can give that man Elliott his first Irish Gold Cup.
The 10-year-old’s form figures at the Dublin track read 11113, the last of which was a respectable effort in the Grade One Christmas Chase.
He’s not one to fully trust, but he comes alive on this course and this will be his Gold Cup. The 7/1 generally available is great each-way value.
Anibale Fly and Killultagh Vic have to be respected, but the form of the former’s yard is a concern, while the latter is having only his third chase start.
Elliott will also be hoping to land the Grade One Flogas Novice Chase (3.00pm) with Sutton Place.
He goes well on soft ground, but he’s inexperienced over fences and I’m going to take him on with Noel Meade’s SNOW FALCON at 10/1 with Coral.
Although his task was undeniably made easier by the fall of Bacardys last time, he still got the job done well.
He looks like a promising chaser and should be well suited by the conditions.
Ben Dundee e/w 4.05pm Leopardstown
Snow Falcon e/w 3.00pm Leopardstown
Outlander e/w 3.35pm Leopardstown