Apple’s Jade heads the six acceptors for the BHP Insurance Irish Champion Hurdle on the opening day of the Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown on Saturday. Gordon Elliott’s star mare, the winner of the Squared Financial Christmas Hurdle over three miles at the Leopardstown Christmas Festival is on-course for an intriguing clash with the Willie Mullins-trained Melon and Jessica Harrington’s Supasundae, winner of the race last year.
There are 13 horses remaining in Sunday’s Unibet Irish Gold Cup with the Noel Meade-trained Road To Respect set to clash with a strong Willie Mullins-trained contingent which includes Al Boum Photo, Bellshill and Kemboy. Henry De Bromhead has left Monalee in Sunday afternoon’s feature and also standing their ground are the Tony Martin-trained Anibale Fly and last year’s hero, the Joseph O'Brien-trained Edwulf.
The first of eight Grade 1 races at the Dublin Racing Festival is the Nathaniel Lacy & Partners Solicitors Novice Hurdle. Battleoverdoyen heads the 25 entries and Gordon Elliott’s exciting six-year-old could face rivals of the calibre of the Philip Dempsey-trained Derrinross, Pat Fahy’s Dunvegan and the Willie Mullins-trained Relegate and Salsaretta.
Willie Mullins holds the strongest hand in the Ladbrokes Dublin Chase with early favourites Footpad and Min going forward for the newly promoted Grade 1 event. Course specialist Simply Ned will take his chance for Nicky Richards and the cross-channel challenge would be greatly strengthened if the Harry Whittington-trained Saint Calvados was to line up.
The Aidan Howard-trained Winter Escape is among those remaining in the Frank Ward Solicitors Arkle Novice Chase where the Terence O’Brien-trained Articulum, Henry De Bromhead’s Paloma Blue and the Gary Moore-trained Knocknanuss look worthy opposition. Le Richebourg will certainly have his chance for Joseph O'Brien while Voix Du Reve could yet represent Willie Mullins.
Winter Escape also has the option of taking on the Warren Greatrex-trained La Bague Au Roi and Gordon Elliott’s Delta Work in the Flogas Novice Chase on Sunday. The first of the Grade 1 races on the second day is the Tattersalls Ireland Spring Juvenile Hurdle where Sir Erec and Tiger Tap Tap could renew rivalry for trainers Joseph O'Brien and Willie Mullins. Gordon Elliott’s acceptors include Chief Justice and Surin.
Mullins, Elliott and Henry De Bromhead dominate the entries for the Grade 1 Chanelle Pharma Novice Hurdle. Course and distance Grade 1 winner Aramon and Klassical Dream are among the strong team the champion trainer has to choose from while Elliott has both Vision D’honneur and a Grade 2 winner Felix Desjy. Among those De Bromhead has left in are Dancing On My Own and Sinoria, while another of interest would be the Joseph O’Brien-trained Triplicate.