Familiar faces target Dublin Racing Festival

Monday, 22 January 2024
Familiar faces target Dublin Racing Festival

A winner at the meeting last year, Perceval Legallois might bid for a repeat Dublin Racing Festival success at Leopardstown early next month. Photo: Patrick McCann/Racing Post

Weights for the five handicap races at the upcoming Dublin Racing Festival were released this afternoon. Along with two Grade 2 bumpers, whose entries were revealed late last week, the handicaps complement eight Grade 1 races at Leopardstown on Saturday, February 3 and Sunday, February 4.

Last year’s winner A Dream To Share is an intriguing inclusion in the Grade 2 Donohue Marquees Future Stars INH Flat Race while Final Orders, Perceval Legallois, The Goffer and Ballybawn Belter, all successful in handicaps at the Festival a year ago, figure among the early entries for the eagerly awaited fixture.

All but one of the 17 entries for Saturday’s Grade 2 Donohue Marquees Future Stars INH Flat Race are previous winners but none come close to matching the unbeaten record of John & Thomas Kiely’s five-time scorer A Dream To Share. He added to success in this race with wins at the Cheltenham and Punchestown Festivals and is an intended runner in the race once again after connections ruled out a hurdling campaign this season. He is bidding to become the first horse to win six bumper races.

Gordon Elliott has made six entries, headed by his Leopardstown Christmas Festival winner Jalon D’Oudairies and Romeo Coolio. Willie Mullins has six entries of his own and he can count Joystick, another successful at the Leopardstown Christmas Festival, and the Galway festival winner You Oughta Know among them, while Jeroboam Machin made a fine start at Fairyhouse in December and could represent trainer Emmet Mullins.

The Martin Brassil-trained Panda Boy is an eye-catcher among the 37 entries for the Race And Stay Leopardstown Handicap Hurdle over three miles. He bounced back to form to take the runner-up spot in the Paddy Power Handicap Chase at the Leopardstown Christmas Festival and would be running over hurdles for the first time since the 2022 Punchestown Festival if lining out. Also included in the early field are the Ted Walsh-trained Gaoth Chuil, another winner at the Leopardstown Christmas Festival, Easy Fella and Music Of Tara, both trained by Henry de Bromhead, and Michael Grassick’s Mollys Glory. The Liz Doyle-trained Ballybawn Belter might well bid for further Dublin Racing Festival success following her win in last year’s Irish Stallion Farms EBF Paddy Mullins Mares Handicap Hurdle, while Good Time Jonny, trained by Tony Martin, also goes in search of another Festival win following his victory in this race two years ago. The Gordon Elliott-trained Absolute Notions is another notable entry.

A big winner at Fairyhouse earlier this month, the Willie Mullins-trained Uncle Phil is likely to be a leading fancy for the Ryanair Handicap Chase. Along with December’s Cheltenham winner Madara, trained by Sophie Leech, the entry of 24 horses also features Gavin Cromwell’s Final Orders, a four-length winner of this race last year. Also in the mix are Joseph O'Brien’s Solness, The Folkes Tiara, trained by Henry de Bromhead, the Gordon Elliott-trained Pat’s Choice, Pat Foley’s Rebel Gold and Lucid Dreams, trained by John Ryan.

Gordon Elliott’s four-year-old Wodhooh could put her unbeaten jumping record, which stretched to four wins at Newbury at the beginning of December, on the line in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Paddy Mullins Mares Handicap Hurdle, the first of three handicaps at Leopardstown on Sunday, February 4. Elliott has also entered his runaway Fairyhouse winner Mollys Mango and the winner of this race in 2022, Party Central. Another previous Dublin Racing Festival winner among the entries is Stuart Crawford’s Lily Du Berlais. North Yorkshire-based Adrian Keatley has entered Belle Of Annandale with Banntown Girl, third in this race for the past two years, there for Sonny Carey. Risk Belle and Saylavee are Willie Mullins’ entries in the race that commemorates his late father.

The Goffer, trained by Gordon Elliott, and Enda Bolger’s Birchdale, successful in the two most recent renewals of the O’Driscoll’s Irish Whiskey Leopardstown Handicap Chase, are among the 43 entries this time. Birchdale, the 2022 winner, returned to take fifth spot last year and among his opposition might well be Willie Mullins’ Paddy Power Handicap Chase winner Meetingofthewaters, Tom Gibney’s Intense Raffles, the Gavin Cromwell-trained Perceval Legallois, winner of a three-mile Race And Stay At Leopardstown Handicap Hurdle at last year’s Festival, and Percy Warner from the Henry de Bromhead yard.

Entries for the two-mile Timeless Sash Windows Handicap Hurdle are headed by the Joseph O'Brien-trained Common Practice, a big winner at the Fairyhouse Winter Festival at the beginning of December. Willie Mullins won this race last year with Gaelic Warrior and his entries include Risk Belle and Icare Allen while Gordon Elliott arguably has a stronger team which includes By Your Side and Magic Tricks. Last year’s runner-up Nibiru and Tudor City have been entered by Tony Martin while Lord Erskine and Brazil could represent Harry Rogers and Padraig Roche respectively, with Kihavah a possible runner for British-based Adrian Keatley.

There’s also a chance of a raider from across the Irish Sea in the weekend’s finale as Alan King has entered his impressive Doncaster winner Avakate for the Grade 2 Coolmore NH Sires Hurricane Lane Mares INH Flat Race. On the mark for trainer Andy Slattery at Roscommon in July of last year, she is one of 17 early entries. The three-time winner Aurora Vega and Naas debut winner Fleur Au Fusil are among the Willie Mullins team with Jonathan Sweeney’s Barnahash Primrose and the John & Thomas Kiely-trained Ma Belle Etoile, both Limerick winners, also included. Successful at Down Royal on St Stephen's Day, Mongibello has been entered by Stuart Crawford who won this race with Lily Du Berlais two years ago.

Tim Husbands, CEO of Leopardstown Racecourse, said: “‘It is great to see the strength in depth in Irish National Hunt racing reflected in the entries for the supporting handicaps and bumpers for the Dublin Racing Festival in a fortnight’s time. Together with the eight Grade 1 entries already announced, and the seven potential UK raiders over the two day’s exciting racing, it represents an opportunity for racegoers to see the very best in top-class live sport.”

Leopardstown, Saturday February 3: Entries at weights

Leopardstown, Sunday February: Entries at weights

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