Dublin Festival Day 1 – Houx’s a good boy…

NAP OF THE DAY: Epson Du Houx, (1445 Leopardstown), 2pts win, 11/2:

The big handicap chase of the day, but to our eyes stacked with plenty of deadwood. Novices usually dominate this type of event and the De Bromhead trained Epson Du Houx stepped out of novice races to easily land his handicap debut. Looks to be rapidly improving, and the handicapper has desperately tried to catch up with a 13lb rise, but that barely looks enough to break his stride and he appeals more than the hard-to-win-with Entoucas.

RACE OF THE DAY – Irish Champion Hurdle: Saint Roi, 1pt win 13/2:

We fancy taking on super-mare Honeysuckle. She has never been beaten, but she looks vulnerable at this trip having scrambled home in an arguably weaker edition of this race last year. Sharjah is the track specialist and should go very well and won here at Christmas. Both Saint Roi and Abacadabras disappointed in that Christmas race and have something to prove. We like Abacadabras, and he was sick that day, but we’d want to see him back to his healthy best before putting money down. Saint Roi had less of an excuse and may arguably be better suited by a more rugged test like Cheltenham, but Willie has faith and runs him again here, and we suspect he thinks the horse should have done better last time, we’ll give him a second chance at the prices.

Rest of The Card:

Cape Gentleman, (1305 Leopardstown), 1pt win, 13/2: the day starts as it continues with a Willie Mullins hotpot, in this case Gaillard Du Mesnil. He was very impressive winning a maiden here last time, but looks very short considering he had previously been well held by Holymacapony, and now tries a hood. Lots of strong opposition, but on a flat track, this could favour a horse with a bit of speed. Cape Gentleman is lightly raced but ran away with the Irish Cesarewich and ended up rated a huge 100 on the flat. Was entitled to cruise to an easy win in a weak maiden on his only hurdling start, but if he jumps well he could swamp these for a finishing kick.

Tornado Flyer, (1335 Leopardstown), 0.5pts win, 25/1: clearly hard to see past the big two here with Chacun Por Soir and Min likely to be the 1-2. In some ways we will be happy to see Chacun dominate as we fancy taking him on at Cheltenham, but Tornado Flyer has been in lifetime best form this season including pushing Min close at Punchestown. It will need some level of upset for him to win, but with each way terms limited to 1-2, it may be worth risking a small punt on a black swan event.

Darver Star, (1410 Leopardstown), 1pt win, 12/1: hot favourite Energumene has the obvious chance, although he has made all to date and probably won’t here with tearaway Felix Desjy in the race. He may still have too much class for these, but if the race is a cutthroat affair, then it could suit Darver Star. Good enough to place in both Irish and English Champion Hurdles, he gave Felix too much rope at Punchestown and then flipped tactics and ran too close to him last time. Should sit back this time and looks a big price if the race pans out as expected.

Eskylane, (1550 Leopardstown), 1pt win, 14/1: a typically strong handicap hurdle in which Advanced Virgo represents a yard that specialises in this event, and The Moyglass Flyer has excellent course form. Both have good chances, but we’ll take a punt on Eskylane. He was a close 5th in the Cheltenham bumper last year, but has so far been pretty disappointing over hurdles. May not have been wholly suited by some muddy slogs on stiff tracks so far and looks on a fair opening handicap mark. Expect him to be held up and brought through late.

Kilcruit, (1625 Leopardstown), 1pt win, 2/1: a decent bumper, but with Gordon Elliott sidestepping this with some of his better bumper horses, this should be left to bumper king Willie Mullins. He has several in here, but Kilcruit looks comfortably the stable number one and should establish himself as one of the Cheltenham favourites here.

The Daily Yankee:

Cape Gentleman – Darver Star – Eden de Houx – Kilcruit

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