The ITV cameras take us to Musselburgh today for three races and an additional five coming from the Dublin Racing Festival from Leopardstown. The ground is good to soft at both tracks and here’s my run down on the day’s racing.
Musselburgh’s Cheltenham trials meeting kicks off with the Scottish Triumph Hurdle run over just short of two miles and we have a select field of six going to post. It looks to be between the front three in the betting with Paul Nicholls’ Afadil sure to have benefited from his hurdles debut at Taunton early last month when, despite nearly crashing out at the first, warmed to his task and came home with his head in his chest coasting home by a very comfortable two lengths. This is a much tougher assignment but he looks classy having been bought from France for €255,000. Irish challenger Bringbackmemories is equally as promising as he showed when breaking his duck at the third time of asking over course and distance on New Year’s Day by 15L. He looks sure to be thereabouts. The third horse here with a good chance is Fergal O’Brien’s Fils De Roi, a Huntingdon winner prior to falling at the last when weakening at Chepstow over Christmas. There may not be much between the trio but my preference is for Afadil who literally could be anything.
AFADIL 1 point win @ 7/4 Coral
The 2m 5F Ladbroke Novice Chase has attracted a classy field of six. Gordon Elliot saddles the warm favourite in Mighty Potter who’s unbeaten in two starts over fences including the grade one Drinmore Novices’ Chase at Fairyhouse back in December. He was an impressive winner that day from Willie Mullins’ Gaillard Du Mesnil who has franked the form by winning since and re-opposes here as the favoured mount of Paul Townend of the five Willie Mullins runners. James Du Berlais is ridden by Daryl Jacob as the retained jockey of owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede and shrugged off a 612-day absence when a 15L winner on his fencing debut at Fairyhouse on New Years Day. I fully expect Mighty Potter to win this with Gaillard Dy Mesnil once again chasing him home.
Eight line up for the two mile Scottish Champion Handicap Chase with £25,000 guaranteed purse money. Seven of the eight can be given a fair chance here with just the rank outsider Voix Du Reve hard to make a case for. Ex-Paul Nicholls assistant Harry Durham has made a good start to his training career winning with 4 of his 15 runners and saddles an interesting runner in Fidelio Vallis who he’s acquired from his old boss Paul Nicholls but hasn’t been seen for 410 days. Nicholls himself has Friend Or Foe here heading the weights and is another with a chance. In a race where stakes should be kept small it may be worth a small each way wager on Laura Morgan’s Hasankey who ran up a hat-trick of handicap victories last season rising 16lb in the weights with young Lewis Dobb on board for all three wins. He’s not been disgraced in two decent handicaps this season and with Dobb knowing him so well, whilst also taking off a valuable 7lb, can make his presence felt.
HASANKEY 1/2 point each way 8/1 Bet365 1/5th 123
Blue Lord is a very short price for the grade one Ladbrokes Dublin Chase run over two miles and a furlong. Trained by Willie Mullins, who has won every renewal of this valuable contest with Min (twice) and Chacun Pour Soi (three times), he stands out and at prohibitive odds it’s just a watch and admire race. Stable mate Gentleman De Mee is second favourite here and he was beaten a comfortable four lengths behind Blue Lord last time and looks held. One of only three British raiders this weekend is Alan King’s Sceau Royal who will come home with some prize money so fair play to his connections on taking the plunge.
Only five have declared for the Scottish Supreme Novices’ Hurdle where we have a very warm favourite in the Paul Nicholls-trained and Harry Cobden-ridden Toothless who blew his field apart under Bryony Frost at Fakenham on his British debut coming home 35 lengths clear of his field. He’ll be hard to beat and has been priced accordingly. Sandy Thomson’s Carcaci Castle is chasing a hat-trick of wins following wins at Kelso whilst Donald McCain’s General Officer is two from two here but has 13lb officially to find with the favourite Toothless and may have to play second fiddle to that one here.
A bumper field of twenty three go to post for the Grade A Bulmers Leopardstown Handicap Chase run over 2m 5F. It’s a race in which you are going to need plenty of luck with such a big field. There are obviously plenty in with a chance including Gordon Elliott’s Indigo Breeze who’s been novice chasing this season and is one of three Elliott runners. Willie Mullins also saddles three with possibly top weight Ciel De Neige the pick under 7lb claimer Kieran Callaghan. The horse I like, however, is the Henry De Bromhead-trained mare Maskada who won the Tim Duggan Memorial Handicap Chase at Limerick over Christmas. That was only her third run for De Bromhead having joined from Stuart Edmunds and, despite a 9lb rise in the handicap, may still have a bit in hand of the official assessor.
MASKADA 1 point each way @ 13/2 William Hill 1/5th 123456
An intriguing renewal of the Chanelle Pharma Irish Champion Hurdle run over two miles and features Honeysuckle. She has won the last three renewals under her regular jockey Rachael Blackmore and also lost her unbeaten record of sixteen consecutive wins (including her point to point victory) when only third on her re-appearance at Fairyhouse in December behind subsequent easy winner Teahupoo. In hindsight maybe that wasn’t such a bad effort and I for one havn’t given up on her yet. She meets two Willie Mullins horses here who filled the front two places last time out in the Matheson Hurdle over course and distance over Christmas with State Man coming home 4 1/4L clear of Vauban who was making his re-appearance there. I expect the latter to get a bit closer but it’s State Man who holds the biggest threat to Honeysuckle and this is the clash of the weekend with slight preference for me with Henry De Bromhead’s Honeysuckle to beat the two youngsters.
HONEYSUCKLE 2 points win @ 15/8 Bet365
Seven face the starter here for the two mile Tattersalls Ireland Novice Hurdle. Willie Mullins has yet another hot favourite here in the unbeaten Facile Vega. The master of Closutton Mullins has farmed this race over the years winning it on 9 of the last 10 years. Facile Vega is unbeaten in six starts, four bumpers and two novice hurdles, and we’ll find out today how good he really is as this is a stronger contest than what he’s previously run in over timber. He’s also unbeaten in three starts at the track and will be hard to beat here.Mullins also runs a couple against his favourite in Il Etait Temps (behind Facile Vega last time) and the unbeaten promising Dark Raven. Gordon Elliott’s Irish Point has some smart novice hurdle form to hand and he maybe the one to take advantage if the favourite doesn’t perform and is worth a small wager.
IRISH POINT 1 point win @ 12/1 Bet365
All prices quoted were available at time of writing.