Well what a weekend of racing that was. With a combined attendance of just over 26k people, the Leopardstown Dublin Racing Festival, was again a huge success both on and off the track. It was an incredible card of races both days with some top-class horses taking each other on for fantastic prizemoney.
It all kicked off on Saturday with the Paul Nolan trained Latest Exhibition ridden by Bryan Cooper taking the Lacy and partners Solicitors novice hurdle grade 1, Paul Nolan has had a lean enough spell without a good horse and is great to see him back with a real star on his hands in Latest Exhibition. He holds entries in the albert Bartlett and the Ballymore novice hurdle at Cheltenham. Whichever race he goes for he looks sure to give a account. It was good to see Bryan Cooper back winning a grade one too.
With the weather being dry and windy there came a late withdrawal in race 2, the Ladbrokes Dublin chase saw A Plus Tard been withdrawn due to drying ground, this left the door open for Chacun Pour Soi to get back to winning ways after being beaten by the aforementioned A Plus tard at Christmas, He took the scalp of stablemate Min, entries in the champion chase and Ryanair chase at Cheltenham await the winner.
The Arkle novice chase also was a victim of the drying ground for the Joseph o’Brien trained Fakir D’dairies, which denied us the rematch with Notebook ridden by the rider of the weekend, Rachael Blackmore. They went on to beat Cash Back in a great finish up the run in. they went at it full throttle from a long way out each other but Notebook had a bit more at the line. Notebook is now favourite for Cheltenham success in the Arkle , but that might change if Fakir D’oudairies can get a festival prep race before going for the Arkle at Cheltenham.
The PCI Irish champion hurdle was the final grade 1 on day one of the two day meeting, the unbeaten mare Honeysuckle, put her record on the line for Henry De Bromhead and Rachael Blackmore, the mare did not disappoint putting in a career best effort to battle all the way to the line to hold of challenges from Darver Star and the gutsy front runner Petit Mouchoir, Henry now has a difficult decision to decide which race she goes to at Cheltenham , I think she should stick to the mares race, as it’s her first year at Cheltenham, she will make them all know they have had a race whoever get in a battle with her up the Cheltenham hill in march. A few people in the media cribbed the form of the race because darver star ran her so close. But he is a high class horse who has improved rapidly under Gavin Cromwell. He flew home in the royal bond at Fairyhouse after meeting with traffic on the home bend. Ideally, he probably wants further than 2 miles but the stiff test of the Cheltenham hill will play to his strengths and it wouldn’t be beyond the realms of possibility that he could provide Gavin Cromwell with a successive Champion hurdle win.
Day two saw the Joseph O’brien trained A Wave Of The Sea take winning honours in the Spring Juvenile hurdle after the hot favourite Aspire Tower came down at the last but got up safely and is sure to bounce back from that experience.
The exciting Asterion Forlonge took the Chanelle Pharma novice hurdle over 2 miles for Danny Mullins trained by Willie Mullins , the trainer said after the race he had felt this horse should have ran in a 3 mile race and was surprised and delighted that he could make all the running in this grade one after only winning his maiden hurdle 3 weeks ago, the supreme novice hurdle could be next for him at Cheltenham in march ,
It was then time for another big clash in the Flogas novice chase Battleoverdoyen took on Faugheen and 5 other rivals , the evergreen 12yo Faugheen is a peoples horse and the finish to the race sent shivers down spines of all his fans, as Faugheen was produced to take the lead jumping the last fence , which Battleoverdoyen came down at , it was left to the Willie Mullins pair Easy Game with Faugheen to battle it up the run in the crowd erupted for faugheen he answered every call from Paul townend to remain unbeaten over fences, the crowds then rushed to the parade ring to welcome back the winning duo. It’s been a long time since such horse was welcomed back into the leopardstown parade ring like on Sunday. Faugheen knows he is loved and he certainly knows he’s a champion. If faugheen turns up at Cheltenham and comes up the hill in front it will be an amazing thing for the sport.
The Irish gold cup had to follow that race , but it did not disappoint with a thrilling finish with the main fancied horses in the race Delta Work , Kemboy and Presenting Percy to dual it up the run in with Delta work and Jack kennedy taking victory to give Gordon Elliot his first Irish gold cup winner , sadly 30 minutes later Jack Kennedy got unshipped from his mount and landed awkwardly on his leg which was found to be a fractured right femur and he will have to miss the Cheltenham festival.