The two-day Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown is the weekend highlight with the Irish Gold Cup the feature race on Sunday. Irish Grand National winner Irish Duke and Road To Respect head the market with BetVictor at 7/2 with Killultagh Vic 6s and Coney Island 8s.
Irish Duke has not seen the track since disappointing on his seasonal reappearance at Down Royal after which he was reported to have scoped abnormally. The weekend looks a wonderful initiative with former Champion Hurdle Faugheen (10/11 with BetVictor) another on a recovery mission in the Irish Champion Hurdle having pulled up over C&D over Christmas last time.
The ground is likely to be extremely testing at Lingfield on the turf course but in the second division of the Mares’ Bumper on their polytrack all-weather surface Simonia (1.30) can go one better than on debut when she finished runner up at Ludlow for Nicky Henderson. The selection is a half-sister to the ill-fated but top-class Simonsig and connections will be hopeful of going one better. A market move for one of the well-bred newcomers Sixty’s Belle or Foxtrot Juliet would be worth noting.
In the 3m Handicap Chase For Carmel looked a sure-fire future winner when runner up at Fontwell last time but that was only nine days ago and marginal preference is for Veauce De Sivola (2.40) whose sole career win came over today’s C&D last March. He also ran a very good race here on heavy ground from an 11lb higher mark – albeit the best part of two years ago.
The two-mile handicap chase is a tricky little affair despite the fact that only six go to post. Tara Bridge made an encouraging return when beaten half a length over timber earlier in the month and he is only 1lb higher over fences despite winning his last start over the larger obstacle back in March.
Ruby Rambler (3.45) drifted like a barge at Leicester last time but jumped and travelled well to three out and has been dropped 5lbs for that effort. The mare won a Southwell handicap hurdle from an 8lbs higher mark earlier in her career and it is possible that she is just not the same force of old.
It is also possible, however, that she has needed her two starts since returning from a long absence and she gets the vote despite recent form figures of last of four and seventh of eight. Confidence would increase if the market spoke in her favour.
At Newcastle, Bob Mahler (1.20) has been knocking on the door of late and deserves to get his head in front over timber for the inform Warren Greatrex. The selection remains a maiden after eight career starts but he was only beaten half a length at Uttoxeter behind a Henderson hotpot last time and the winner and third have subsequently franked the form.
The blinkers are back on Newtown Lad (2.30) who was too free to do himself justice at Bangor on his reappearance at the beginning of December. Tom Scudamore was in the plate when the selection scored in fist-time blinkers last January and he is only 5lbs higher this afternoon.
At Punchestown, Seskin Flyer (1.45) can make a winning chase debut in the Beginners’ Chase a race that might not take much winning. The selection did win a Tramore Handicap Hurdle at the minimum trip on his penultimate start. This step up to two miles six furlongs is a slight concern but the race is for horses who have never won a chase and are rated 102 or less over timber. Seskin Flyer has a mark of 101.