The countdown for the Cheltenham Festival is well underway, and gamblers were given a last-minute look at some of the Irish contenders that will be crossing over for the National Hunt centrepiece this past weekend.
In truth, it was a thrilling two days of action from around the United Kingdom and Ireland, with no shortage of stories emerging.
The level of action on display was something that wouldn’t have looked out of place at the Festival itself, with some huge names in action.
Over in the United Kingdom, it was the stunning performance from Native River to win the Cotswolds Chase at Sandown that caught the imagination, as the former Gold Cup winner rolled back the years to see off Bristol De Mai and Santini.
However, it was probably in Ireland where we saw a number of horses that look set to win Grade 1 races at the Cheltenham Festival this year.
Honeysuckle Wins Irish Champion Hurdle
The path now looks clear for Honeysuckle, as the mare produced a stunning performance in the Irish Champion Hurdle to set up a potentially huge meeting with Epatante in the Champion Hurdle at the Festival.
The seven-year-old produced one of the performances of the day to emphatically win the Irish Champion Hurdle for a second year running under Rachel Blackmore, and connections revealed afterwards that the sights are now set on one of the biggest Grade 1s at the Festival.
On the form that she has shown over the past 12 months, she would certainly be able to hold her own in that race, and may be a solid ante-post selection for gamblers heading into the festival.
Chacun Pour Soi Wins Again
Before Honeysuckle’s success, the performance of the day at Leopardstown looked set to be Chacun Pour Soi. Willie Mullins went on to win nine of the 15 races at the Dublin Racing Festival, and this success from the nine-year-old was certainly among the best.
The nine-year-old was impressive in the Grade 1 Dublin Chase, and improved his record to five wins from six starts. The success ensures that he remains the outright favourite in the betting for the Champion Chase at the Festival, and on the form he showed on Saturday, it would be impossible to rule against that happening next month.
Monkfish Catches The Imagination
Mullins continued his successful record of winners on Sunday, and there was no shortage of positive reviews following Monkfish’s win in the Flohas Novice Chase. The seven-year-old continue to showcase why he is one of the best horses in training, as he looked unfazed, as he travelled throughout the race.
His jumping throughout was astonishing, with some experts even claiming that they wouldn’t rule the horse out from winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2022.
Monkfish certainly looks set for the head-to-head against Envoi Allen in the Festival Novices’ Chase at the Festival, and it will make for compelling viewing to see the three market favourites clashing.
Renewed Gold Cup Hope For Kemboy
Mullins has finally managed to crack the Gold Cup code over recent years with Al Boum Photo, but he could have another credible chance in the race this year in the form of Kemboy, who looked back to his very best in the Irish Gold Cup on Sunday afternoon.
It was an expert ride by Danny Mullins, who was able to claim an extra couple of yards from the chasing pack at the very start of the race.
The nine-year-old looked excellent over every fence and ran his rivals into the group to win comfortably from The Storyteller, who showed fight in the closing stages.
Gold Cup success at the festival itself may still be an outside chance, but on this form, he will certainly be able to hold his own.
There you have it, our top lessons from the Dublin Racing Festival. If you like horse racing take a look also at the current odds for the U.S. Kentucky Derby in TwinSpires: https://www.twinspires.com/kentuckyderby/odds