THERE’S a good amount of quality racing to watch this weekend but the best of the action is across the Irish Sea, where more Cheltenham pointers are likely to come from the Dublin Racing Festival.
The two-day affair will probably be the best race meeting between Christmas and the Festival, but much has been said and written about Leopardstown’s watering policy. Their reluctance to turn on the taps a year ago proved costly and led to high-profile withdrawals on day two.
Officials at the track have been watering for a while and will be praying that temperatures don’t plummet.
Not one of Gordon Elliott’s 10 entries for last Saturday’s Cheltenham Trials day ended up making the trip and he’s clearly taking the opportunity to test handicap marks for the Festival.
It should be a different story at Leopardstown where he has a top-class staying prospect in EASYWORK in tomorrow’s (Saturday) 2m 6f Grade 1 novice hurdle. A bumper winner in November, the six-year-old beat Mt Leinster on his hurdling debut over 2m at Gowram before scoring over 2m 4f a month later, and is expected to handle the step up in trip.
He will be one of two Elliott-trained horses in my each way double along with COLUMN OF FIRE, who has progressed with every run this year and looks well treated from way down the handicap in Sunday’s 3m handicap hurdle (2.30).
The highlight of the day is the Grade 1 3m chase an hour later, where KEMBOY will probably go off favourite in what looks like a tough contest for punters. Preference is for PRESENTING PERCY with Davy Russell expected to ride an aggressive race.
If ENVOI ALLEN lines up on Saturday as anticipated, then Elliott’s ABRACADABRAS in the novice hurdle at 1.55 may be the best bet of the weekend at 7/4 at the time of writing. This race is a traditionally strong Cheltenham indicator and victory would take Ireland’s second-best novice hurdler towards the top of the market for the Supreme.
Other horses at the Irish jamboree worth a look are SNUGSBOROUGH HALL as each way punt in tomorrow’s (Saturday) 2m 1f handicap chase at 2.35, Joseph O’Brien’s RISK FACTOR in Saturday’s bumper and BIGBADANDBEAUTIFUL in Sunday’s closer.
Back in Blighty, Sandown’s Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase tomorrow looks an open proposition in what has been a pension pot filler for Nicky Henderson, who has won five of the last 10 contests of this Grade 1 chase, and he can strike again with PRECIOUS CARGO.
The valuable Heroes Handicap Hurdle at 3pm looks equally open but Fergal O’Brien’s DILLON should be spot on for this after plugging on to finish third when returning from a break last time out at Chepstow in December.
There’s also racing at Musselburgh, where the durable pair of LITTLE BRUCE and VERY FIRST TIME head the market in the Bet 365 Edinburgh National Handicap Chase.
This 4m 1f handicap chase will be real test of stamina which will suit LITTLE BRUCE, who galloped on strongly to beat Sumkindofking at Catterick over 3m 6f last time out.
It may seem a sentimental choice, but the veteran WONDERFUL CHARM will love the anticipated good ground and can roll back the clock and get in the frame off a mark which is more than 20lb lower than when in his pomp.
Carrigill’s nap: (money back as a free bet if it finishes outside top four. Write Augur on your slip to qualify): MIDNIGHT SHADOW, Sandown, Saturday, 2.25.
Augur’s best bet (e/w double): EASYWORK , Leopardstown, Saturday, 12.50 and COLUMN OF FIRE, Leopardstown, Sunday, 2.30.