Faugheen cheers the home crowd at the Dublin Festival
Besides hosting the Irish Gold Cup on Sunday, several ‘trials’ for the Cheltenham Festival were staged at Leopardstown over the weekend with the victory of veteran Faugheen among the many highlights. The win for the 12-year-old delighted the Dublin crowd but there were other notable performances including those of Honeysuckle, Notebook and Asterion Forlonge.
As for Faugheen, the former Champion Hurdler is a very late recruit to fences but seems to be enjoying his new career and is a legend among the Irish faithful. His narrow victory over stablemate Easy Game in the 2m5f Flogas Novice Chase was well-received at the Leopardstown track and he is now unbeaten in three starts over the larger obstacles.
Plans are fluid for his intended target at the Festival although he is now generally 6/1 favourite for the Marsh Novices’ Chase and he would raise the roof at Cheltenham if were to succeed in that contest against much younger horses.
Among other performances during the Irish weekend racing was the display of Honeysuckle in winning the Champion Hurdle. Now priced at second favourite to win the Cheltenham equivalent in March, she is now unbeaten in seven races over hurdles but was more workmanlike when beating Darver Star on Saturday. Two miles around the Irish track may be fairly sharp for the 6-year-old mare and her stamina may be more suited to the undulations of Cheltenham.
Another horse expected to be Cheltenham bound is Notebook who justified favouritism for the Arkle Trophy by winning the Irish Arkle on Saturday. It was by no means an eye-catching performance and the non-participation of Fakir D’Oudairies was disappointing, but there are no real outstanding candidates amongst the two miles novice chasers in the UK and Ireland. Notebook is probably a worthy favourite.
One of the more impressive displays during the weekend was that of Asterion Forlonge in the Sunday’s Chanelle Pharma Novices’ Hurdle. The 6-year-old grey gelding extended his unbeaten sequence over hurdles when stretching clear of a decent field when asked the question by Danny Mullins.
However, the Willie Mullins trained horse is still only third favourite in what may be a very strong line-up for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham. Fellow Irish horse Abacadabras and Shiskin from the Nicky Henderson yard currently leading the market.
That race in particular promises to be a decent contest at the festival, although Asterion Forlonge still has an option for the longer Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.