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Back Apple's to batter rivals to the core at Leopardstown
The second rendition of Leopardstown's Dublin Racing Festival gets underway this afternoon with a feast of top-quality action in the Emerald Isle. Along with All-Weather Fast-Track Qualifier action from Lingfield Park and potentially, the return of Buveur D'Air at Sandown Park, our man Danny Archer has analysed all of the action:
Leopardstown - Jade and Min to star
A belting seven-race card in Ireland is set to go ahead and talented hurdler Apple's Jade is undoubtedly one of the stars of the show in the G1 BHP Insurance Irish Champion Hurdle (1.25pm).
The seven-year-old daughter of Saddler Maker has recorded 13 victories from 19 career starts, is a nine-time G1 winner and is unbeaten this term, registering emphatic races in both the G1 Hatton's Grace hurdle for a third successive occasion and the G1 Christmas Hurdle latterly. However, she does drop back to two miles for the first time since November 2016 where she was beaten a nose in the G1 Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle. With that in mind, there are bound to be question marks about her suitability over this trip. However, she is still a seven-year-old and you feel with a couple more years of experience on her back, this two mile trip is well within her compass.
She takes on two talented rivals in the shape of Melon, second to Buveur D'Air in last year's Champion Hurdle at The Festival and who will improve a ton for his reappearance last time out, as well as Supasundae, who was second to Apple's Jade last time out. However, you feel Jessica Harrington's charge is equally effective over further and Gordon Elliott's versatile mare arguably has a better turn of foot. With that in mind, she looks very tough to oppose.
One of the most exciting horses on show this weekend in terms of raw potential is the unbeaten Envoi Allen who bids for glory in the G2 Matheson I.N.H. Flat Race. A winner in the point-to-point sphere, the five-year-old son of Muthathir has displayed a potent turn of foot in two bumper starts this year and came clear nicely to score at Navan on his most recent start in December. Ground conditions will suit and he currently shares favouritism for the Weatherbys Champion Bumper at the Cheltenham Festival. A win this afternoon would only raise his profile.
Another horse who looks very tough to oppose is the Willie Mullins-trained Min who seeks to land back-to-back renewals of the G1 Ladbrokes Dublin Chase. His future surely lies over further with the G1 Ryanair Chase at The Festival earmarked as a potential target, but he steps in for Footpad here and is not a bad substitute. He met plenty of trouble in the John Durkan Memorial Chase on his reappearance, but was brave in the closing stages and knuckled down gamely to win quite convincingly in the end. The eight-year-old son of Walk In The Park won this event by 12 lengths last day, defeating Simply Ned (second), Special Tiara (third) and Ordinary World (fourth), so you would have to think he is well clear on form. He is officially rated 9lb superior to his rivals and runs off level weights in the G1 event - he looks a good thing.
The G1 Frank Ward Solicitors Arkle Novice Chase is a fascinating contest in which British raider Knocknanuss makes appeal. Gary Moore's charge was no match for French horse Master Dino at Plumpton last time out, but that was a solid effort and he would have to be seriously feared if getting an easy lead out in front. A buzzy character, the nine-year-old son of Beneficial jumped his rivals silly at Newbury on his previous appearance, devouring the ground to score by 17 lengths in a bloodless victory. If he jumps well, he could soon command a large lead and that could prove a telling blow for his rivals. He has the ability to clout the odd fence, but he looks risk worth taking. The Joseph O'Brien-trained Le Richebourg is favourite and he is entitled to be following a good victory in the G1 Racing Post Novice Chase over Christmas.
Lingfield Park - Dettori to make first British ride of 2019 a winning one
There is good Fast-Track Qualifier action on the All-Weather at Lingfield Park with speedball Kachy bidding to book his ticket for All-Weather Championships Finals Day with victory in the Betway Cleves Stakes (1.45pm). Tom Dascombe's charge Blitzkrieg'd his rivals with an electric success on the Tapeta at Wolverhampton on his latest start and excels at Lingfield Park. The sharp turns of the track suit and whilst he has to overcome stall 8, his electric pace should see him through.
Frankie Dettori has his first ride in Britain in 2019 in the other Fast-Track Qualifier aboard red-hot favourite Wissahickon in the Betway Winter Derby Trial (2.55pm). John Gosden's charge was a striking winner of the Cambridgeshire at Newmarket towards the back-end of last term and justified 2/5 favouritism in the Listed Quebec Stakes at Lingfield over course and distance last time out. He is 8lb worse off with the gallant Big Country this time around, but Gosden's Star is a horse on the upgrade and he can take this en route to a tilt at Finals Day on Good Friday.
Sandown - Buveur D'Air to bounce back?
He's a short price but if Racing does go ahead & Sandown survives the big freeze, dual Champion Hurdle winner Buveur D'Air will bid to get back to winning ways following a shock defeat at odds of 1/4 in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton To Stable companion Verdana Blue. The J P McManus-owned gelding outed the third-last that day before going on to lose narrowly, but if jumping with aplomb this afternoon, this is a mere penalty kick as his odds of 1/8 suggest in the Listed 888Sport Contenders Hurdle (1.50pm).
The most fascinating race on the card sees a small but select field of five go to post in the G1 888Sport Scilly Isles Novices' Chase (2.25pm). The Kim Bailey-trained Vinndication has yet to taste defeat in six starts under rules and jumped well when scoring at Ascot last time out. This is his toughest test to date, but he could be a real superstar. His task will not be made easy by a quartet of opposing runners which include Lostintranslation & Defi Du Seuil, who fought out the finish in the G2 Dipper Novices' Chase at Cheltenham last time out, with the latter rallying gamely to score. Colin Tizzard holds Lostintranslation in high regard & his jumping over fences has improved with every start. However, if Vinndication gets out in front, he looks a proper Kim Bailey type who stays, jumps & fights when challenged - he's the one I'm with.
Ballymoy did this column a favour at Ascot a couple of weeks back & I hope he goes well in the 3.00pm too.
A brilliant day's Racing with Leopardstown clearly the highlight. Here's hoping Apple's Jade makes it G1 win No.10