This weekend’s Dublin Racing Festival looks set to be another feast for racing fans to follow up on the success of last year’s first rendition of the meeting. The start of the Six Nations will mean South Dublin would have been abuzz anyway but another sporting event down at Leopardstown will add to the excitement in the Irish capital.
While this fixture stands proudly on its own, and it would be churlish to treat it as just another step on the Road to Cheltenham, there will be a few festival fanatics who’ll be looking for how events in Foxrock might change the picture ahead of the big one in March.
We’ve picked out three runners from this weekend with entries at Cheltenham who’ll contest Grade 1s at Leopardstown on their way to Prestbury Park.
Gordon Elliott’s Battleoverdoyen has been one of the most impressive novice hurdlers turned out on either side of Irish sea so far this season.
The Gigginstown-owned six-year-old followed bumper and maiden hurdle victories before the turn of the year to make it three from three under rules in a Naas Grade 1 earlier this month.
He’ll move 2f up in trip to contest the inconsiderately-named Nathaniel Lacy & Partners Solicitors 50,000 Cheltenham Bonus For Stable Staff Novice Hurdle on the Saturday.
Battleoverdoyen holds entries in all three of the novices' hurdles at the Cheltenham Festival, with the Ballymore over 2m 5f, for which he is a 6/1 second favourite, looking like his likeliest target at the point.
Racing fans who are sizing up that particular race, or indeed either of the two races in this division, with an ante-post eye, will be keeping tabs on how the 7/4f for this Grade 1 does in defence of his unbeaten record.
The one to beat in the Ballymore?
Willie Mullins’ Kemboy burst into Cheltenham Gold Cup contention with the Grade 1 Savills Chase over course and distance over Christmas and will contest a hugely competitive Irish Gold Cup this weekend - a which will round off the top-class action from the South Dublin venue on Sunday.
He’ll come back to face the likes of Monalee and Road to Respect, who he beat last time around, and a confirmation of superiority over those pair of rivals would solidify his claims to being a genuine threat to Pat Kelly’s market-topper Presenting Percy in March.
Kemboy is a general 11-2 shot for this and he’ll likely be cut to shorter for Cheltenham should he make it five on the spin over fences.
Joseph O’Brien’s Le Richebourg is another who stamped his claims on being a Cheltenham Festival force when winning a Grade 1 in fine style here over Christmas in the Racing Post Novices Trophy.
It must be a good time of the year for solicitors because another firm sponsor the race he’ll contest this time around, The Frank Ward Solicitors Arkle Novice Chase, on Saturday.
He’s a round about the 7-1 mark for the Arkle in March and he’ll try and follow in the footprints of Footpad from last year in winning the Irish version on his way to Cheltenham.
This 13/8 favourite for Saturday’s race can lay down a marker to the rest of the entrants for March by defeating the likes of Mengli Khan and Hardline here.