There are brilliant races on both sides of the Irish Sea this weekend with the Dublin Racing Festival taking centre stage at Leopardstown while Musselburgh hosts its Scottish Trials’ meeting with a smattering of Grade 1 stardust at Sandown.
RED ROOKIE ran a respectable seasonal return at Chepstow and there are reasons for expecting a bold show here.
That was his first run since falling at the last in the Arkle last season and drops back half a mile to the minimum trip. The handicapper has also dropped him 2lb and he can be expected to build on that reappearance. He has won at Sandown over hurdles, is three from three when competing on right-handed tracks and the least exposed of these handicappers.
Dolos is only 3lb higher than when winning this last year ahead of Frero Banbou who is 5lb better off so there should be little to choose between the pair strictly on that form.
2.03 MUSSELBURGH - FLOWER OF SCOTLAND
The longest trip of the day for the four-mile Edinburgh National.
Captain Cattistock landed quite a gamble in last year’s event and will have been targeted at a return off a 7lb higher mark under Liam Harrison. Ran well in two staying Cheltenham handicaps in the Autumn. Slipway is bidding for his third straight ‘National’ having landed the Highlands and Southern versions at Perth and Fontwell respectively but has a combined 17lb higher mark to defy here.
The Wolf is 2lb lower than a close second here last year so is weighted to reverse the form and his recent run at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day wasn’t devoid of promise.
The prize can stay north of the border though with Sandy Thomson’s FLOWER OF SCOTLAND. He too has won a ‘national’ this season, taking the ‘Borders’ version at Kelso. Eased down over that stiff four miles, a 6lb rise is far from excessive and he’s a relentless galloper off a low weight here for a yard who won the 2018 renewal.
I am not a fan of tipping up short priced favourites but even on occasion these can be of value, and I truly think GERRI COLOMBE should be odds on to win the Grade 1 Scilly Isles Novices Chase. So at odds against.
He is unbeaten in six starts under rules and despite not being flashy, he finds plenty and is always strong at the finish in his races. The Sandown hill should play to his strengths and he has already landed a grade 1 over fences when winning at Limerick on Boxing Day. He wasn’t overly fluent over the final couple but put over four lengths between himself and good rivals on the run-in.
Monmiral and Thunder Rock were second and third in the G2 Dipper at Cheltenham on New Years’ Day behind The Real Whacker and that form, with the greatest of respect to the winner, falls short of what the favourite achieved in Ireland.
Balco Coastal easily won a handicap last time but this is much tougher and any odds against prices of GERRI COLOMBE would be more than fair in my opinion.
Although stable form is a slight concern, everything else looks in place for a good run from COQUELICOT in the Heroes Handicap Hurdle.
She won here from the front in December over two and a half miles and stays the trip well, as proven when making all and finding plenty at Ascot in Ascot. There she beat Glimpse For Gala who turned the tables at Kempton over Christmas. She has followed up since at Warwick and is now 10lbs higher, while Coquelicot has just a 1lb rise to contend with. Other than Storm Nelson who made all under different tactics last time, there isn’t a lot of pace in this race so Rex Dingle could dictate matters and make the other call his tune.
Remastered has finished second in a Hennessy and won at Kempton over fences since his hurdles romp at Aintree in November for which he is 10lb higher here but is in good heart while Flight Deck is up 7lb and has top weight to carry after beating Bells Of Peterboro at Chepstow, who is weighted to get closer but not guaranteed to turn the form around.
It’s the Willie Mullins roadshow as he dominates the selections in the top races this weekend, and it is hard to put up anything with confidence to take them on.
I will be having an interest in BANBRIDGE in the Arkle on Saturday. Joseph O’Brien thinks the better ground and drop back to two miles will suit him after a fair third in the Drinmore in December. He was impressive at Cheltenham in November and he could be one that lowers the Mullins monopoly in that division.
Galopin Des Champs is obviously the one to beat in the Irish Gold Cup, but KEMBOY can run his usual solid race and chase him home. Sadly there are only seven runners so negates an each way play somewhat, but course and distance form figures of 14221352 and the booking of Rachael Blackmore mean I want him onside in some capacity.
On Sunday, JAMES DU BERLAIS could upset Mighty Potter in the 2m 5f Novice Chase. He was impressive on his chasing debut and chased home Klassical Dream at Punchestown in April. If handling this quicker ground, the 7yo, who was a dual G1 runner-up in his native France, could have all the answers.
*18+ | BeGambleAware