The weekend Dublin Festival at Leopardstown provided the opportunity for many horses to demonstrate their well-being ahead of the big Cheltenham meeting in March. Min, Footpad and Samcro among others proved that they could emerge as prospective winners at Prestbury Park, while there was a shock result in the main event of the weekend with Edwulf winning the Irish Gold Cup.
Edwulf at Dublin Festival
Edwulf has never really been spoken about as a Cheltenham Gold Cup and collapsed after jumping the final fence in a near four miles novice chase at last season’s festival. Following a slow recovery and coaxing by trainer Joseph O’Brien, he never featured in the Christmas Chase over course and distance before being pulled-up. Yet he outstayed Outlander to win the prestigious race on Sunday with Djakadam confirming his return to form with a third-placed finish.
All three horses will probably contest the Gold Cup in March, but Killultagh Vic should not be ignored. The 9-year-old was a last fence faller when leading on Sunday and he has yet to be beaten over fences when completing the course. He also beat Thistlecrack in a three miles hurdle race at Punchestown back in April 2015, and is a previous Cheltenham Festival winner.
Footpad Targeting Arkle Trophy
The Arkle Trophy on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival is the target for Footpad who extended his unbeaten sequence to three races over fences on Saturday when claiming the Leopardstown ‘Arkle’. Having been shortened to as low as 5/4 favourite for the Cheltenham race, the Willie Mullins horse is being backed as though he is one of the bankers of the meeting.
Finished second place strongly after a lengthy break from the racecourse. He should not be dismissed from the reckoning.
Min Soon to Face Altior
As for Min who missed the 2017 Cheltenham Festival, he was unbeaten in three chases before losing a race in the steward’s room over Christmas when narrowly denying Simply Ned at Leopardstown. Jockey Paul Townend claimed that the horse was below par on the day, and the gelding responded with a much-improved performance when winning the 2m1f Dublin Chase on Saturday.
Simply Ned and 2017 Champion Chase winner Special Tiara were beaten into the minor placings as Min silenced a few doubters. A tilt at the 2018 renewal is now the plan for Min where he is expected to face Altior who beat him in the 2016 Supreme Novices Hurdle.
Samcro’s Victory at Deloitte Novices Hurdle
Meanwhile jockey Jack Kennedy needed to use only hands and heels in guiding Samcro to a comfortable victory in the 2m Deloitte Novices Hurdle. The Gordon Elliott trained horse has yet to beaten under national hunt rules and travelled in good style throughout before asserting his authority in the closing stages. As for the targets at Cheltenham, the 2m5f Ballymore Novices Hurdle is the more likely objective, but it was interesting to note the fast-finishing Duc Des Genievres in the same race on Sunday. The Mullins gelding could be a worthwhile each-way hope in whichever race he appears at the March Festival.
Supasundae was another horse to enhance his Cheltenham credentials at the Dublin Festival, but in an unexpected manner.
Faugheen and Defi Du Seuil
Contesting the 2m Irish Champion Hurdle, the Jessica Harrington gelding overhauled long-time leader and favourite Faugheen in the closing stages, and basically out-stayed the runner-up. The trainer confirmed that the Stayers Hurdle will be the target for Supasundae at Cheltenham and that decent Spring ground would be a bonus.
As for Champion Hurdle hopefuls Faugheen and Defi Du Seuil, there was a disappointment among connections, although the former improved considerably from his poor effort at the course over Christmas.
Monalee at RSA Chase
In the Flogas Novice Chase over 2m5f, Monalee atoned for falling in a race over Christmas by battling to a game victory, and there was evidence that he could be a better horse over a further distance. His participation in the RSA Chase is now virtually guaranteed.