2020 Dublin Racing Festival day one – Leopardstown tips for Saturday

Sharjah ridden by Patrick Mullins (left) races clear of the last on the way to winning the Matheson Hurdle during day four of the Christmas Festival at Leopardstown Racecourse.

Leopardstown Tips

Jon Vine takes a look through the card on day one of the Dublin Racing Festival and provides readers with his Leopardstown tips on Saturday 1st February.

Since it’s creation a couple of years ago, the Dublin Festival has proven to be a wildly popular addition to the Irish jumps calendar. On the opening Saturday, four Grade One prizes will be handed out, while also providing valuable clues to the upcoming Cheltenham Festival.

I’ve taken a look through all of the races at Leopardstown on Saturday to provides readers with my best bets on day one of the 2020 Dublin Racing Festival. I’ll also roll my two top tips into a double for Racing Tips on Saturday.

Dublin Racing Festival Day One Leopardstown Tips

12:50pm Nathaniel Lacy & Ptnrs Solicitors Novice Hurdle

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Fury Road
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The jury’s still out on how strong a stayer Andy Dufresne is, so Latest Exhibition is a risky proposition for me. Elixir D’Ainay and Longhouse Poet come into this on the back of solid placed efforts behind Envoi Allen, and victory for either would cause the Ballymore-favourite’s prices to go even shorter.

That being said, FURY ROAD will be the first of my Leopardstown tips. Gordon Elliott’s charge has proven himself a relentless galloper over hurdles, winning his opening couple of starts by a combined winning distance of 28-lengths. Fury Road then entered a Grade Two at Limerick over Christmas as the even-money favourite, and Davy Russell’s mount rewarded his backers with a hard-fought victory.

Despite giving a penalty away to most of the field, Fury Road was really knuckling down in the closing stages of that 23-furlong contest and I think he was much better value for the victory than the one-length winning margin suggests. Elliott’s charge will have no penalty to deal with this time around, and I think it will take an excellent effort for any of Fury Road’s rivals to outstay the market leader.

Best Bet – FURY ROAD (7/2 Ladbrokes)

1:25pm Dublin Chase

Willie Mullins looks set to fire four of his finest arrows at this year’s Dublin Chase, with A Plus Tard splitting the Mullins quartet at the head of the market. Henry De Bromhead’s charge saw off Chacun Pour Soi over Christmas, after Cadmium and Great Field took the field along at a good lick. Ornua will make sure this race is run at a similarly speedy pace, and I would favour A Plus Tard to lower Chacun Pour Soi’s colours again, before heading to the 2020 Ryanair tips at the Cheltenham Festival.

A Plus Tard will likely square off with MIN in that Grade One at Cheltenham. The two also look set to clash this weekend, and I can’t understand for the life of me why the reigning two-time Dublin Chase winner sits so far behind Chacun Pour Soi at the head of the market.

Min has won the two previous editions of this race in good style, winning by 12 and six lengths respectively. Just like last season, Mullins’ charge comes into the Dublin Racing Festival having run just once in the John Durkan, where Paul Townend’s mount survived a few scary jumps to hold off Hardline and retain his title. Min is the highest-rated horse in this field. Yet, he’s the third or fourth-favourite in the current betting with most firms. Min’s most definitely the best Leopardstown tip in this competitive race.

Best Bet – MIN (3/1 Ladbrokes)
Next Best – A Plus Tard (11/4 Ladbrokes)

Min powers to his second victory in the Dublin Chase.

2:00pm Arkle Novice Chase

The top four in the betting for next month’s Arkle will do battle on Saturday, with the unbeaten Notebook heading the market. Henry De Bromhead’s charge jumped beautifully here during the Christmas Festival, seeing off Fakir D’Oudairies on the run to the line to secure his first Grade One prize over fences.

As readers will find out early next week when my 2020 Arkle tips get published, I’m not sure there’s much more progression to come from Notebook and I’ll certainly be backing Fakir D’Oudairies to come out on top at Cheltenham, where the going is sure to come up favourable soft on day one. That being said, ground conditions at Leopardstown on Saturday will likely be yielding at best, so I’m inclined to take a chance on CASH BACK spoiling the party on this occasion.

Willie Mullins’ eight-year-old only made his debut for new connections last March, winning his first start over hurdles on good ground at Thurles. Since switching to chasing, Cash Back has been very impressive, winning both his starts by very comfortable margins. At Cheltenham, I’d favour Fakir D’Oudaires to get the job done. But on quick ground around a flat-track like Leopardstown, Cash Back (Betfred) could be the best option.

Best Bet – CASH BACK (13/2 Betfred)
Next Best – Fakir D’Oudairies (9/4 Coral)

2:35pm Matheson Handicap Chase

While I think the classy Eclair De Beaufeu looks well-treated running off 140, I think the handicapper has handed CHARLIE STOUT an excellent chance to follow up on his recent victory in the Dan Moore Handicap.

Shane Nolan’s charge was really unlucky here at Leopardstown over Christmas, where his nine-year-old was carried out when still going as well as anyone. Conor McNamara’s claimer then saw Charlie Stout enter the Dan Moore with just 9-12 on his back, and Nolan’s charge edged out Avenir D’Une Vie to land the £51k first price.

Despite clocking an RPR of 143 that day, the handicapper has decided to up Charlie Stout just five pounds to 136. McNamara’s presence again means Nolan’s in-form handicapper has just 10-8 to shoulder, and he has plenty of momentum on his side too.

Best Bet – CHARLIE STOUT e/w (10/1 Ladbrokes)
Next Best – Eclair De Beaufeu e/w (8/1 Unibet)

Honeysuckle and Rachael Blackmore celebrate winning st Fairyhouse.

3:10pm Irish Champion Hurdle

I backed Klassical Dream to win the 2020 Champion Hurdle at the start of the season. Many who have done the same will probably have ripped up their slips after the two shoddy performances last year’s Supreme winner has produced this season. Yet, on softer ground around a track he relished last season, I reckon Klassical Dream will bounce back to his best and looks excellent value in the Champion Hurdle betting.

As does Honeysuckle, who would almost certainly get switched there from the Mares’ Hurdle if she were to win this Grade One. Henry De Bromhead’s mare is clearly a superstar and her triumph in the Hatton’s Grace was a joy to behold. However, trip, ground conditions and course form are firmly in SHARJAH’S favour this weekend.

Willie Mullins’ seven-year-old has bounded home on his two most recent starts over course-and-distance, both wins coming in the Grade One Hurdle at Leopardstown’s Christmas Festival. Quick ground is key to Sharjah’s chances and I’m expecting this speedy sort to have too much pace for both Honeysuckle and Klassical Dream, who would both prefer a great deal more cut in the ground.

Best Bet – SHARJAH (2/1 Betfred)

Sharjah winning the Matheson Hurdle.

3:45pm Ladbrokes Handicap Hurdle

As Leopardstown tips go, UNEXCEPTED looks rock solid. Willie Mullins’ novice has been handed a kind opening handicap mark of just 137 and looks an excellent punt on 5/1.

Following an effortless victory on his stable debut over two miles, Unexcepted shot featured in many people’s 2020 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle tips. His price took a nose-dive after Limerick, though, where Mullins’ charge was beaten 22-lengths by the talented Easywork.

That race was run over 20-furlongs on heavy ground. Unexcepted simply didn’t stay. On this ground over this shorter trip, I’m expecting Mullins’ hurdler to prove he’s still worthy of an appearance in the Supreme with a comfortable victory on his handicap debut. He’s one of my best Leopardstown tips of the day.

Best Bet – UNEXCEPTED (4/1 Ladbrokes)

Risk Factor canters to victory at Leopardstown over Christmas.

4:20pm Goffs Future Stars Flat Race

So far I’ve tipped four of Willie Mullins’ horses to score on day one. On this occasion though, I’m going to steer clear of Appreciate It, who looks an excellent jumper in the making, but may struggle for pace over the minimum distance.

Eric Bloodaxe currently leads the way in the Champion Bumper betting, and I think he’ll have Wide Receiver’s number again. I was, however, really impressed with RISK FACTOR’S victory here over Christmas, and I fancy he may be good enough to take down his market-topping stablemate.

Joseph O’Brien’s charge was unlucky on both his opening starts. First, losing out to Blazing Emily at Ballinrobe, where Tony Hamilton was forced wide entering the home straight and couldn’t quite make up the deficit. Risk Factor was then hampered at a crucial stage at Galway, and ended up losing out to Russian Diamond by just a length.

After the winners of both of those races went on to win over hurdles during the first half of the season, Risk Factor was fancied in the card-closing bumper here on Boxing Day. Despite the soft ground going slightly against him, O’Brien’s charge powered home from the front, beating some decent sorts by almost seven lengths. The form of that bumper has been boosted too, with the third-placed horse bolting up on his next start. Risk Factor offers great value sitting on 10/3 and he’ll be the last of my Leopardstown tips for Saturday.

Best Bet – RISK FACTOR (10/3 Paddy Power)