It’s the absolute stuff of dreams for racing fans this weekend. The racing is superb – it’s competitive, it’s top-class and it’s going to be a real thrill to watch.
It’s obvious that Willie Mullins holds the aces in plenty of the races this weekend, and he has the first two in the betting in the opening contest, the first of which is Gaillard Du Mesnil .
He was impressive in his last run, as was Stattler .
I’ve got to say, though, Cape Gentleman impressed me when he won the Irish Cesarewitch in October and I was also there for his maiden hurdle at Punchestown. He travelled well, jumped great and won easily. He could be the each-way value in the race.
The Dublin Chase is another corker! It was so disappointing for his connections that Chacun Pour Soi had to miss the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase at the last minute last year, so I’ll be pleased if he can win another Grade 1 for them here, following up from his Grade 1 win at Christmas.
If he wins this, you’d have to say he’ll be very tough to beat at Cheltenham. He’ll love the soft ground and when he jumps like he does it’s a joy to watch.
Most eyes will be on Energumene who has been flawless over fences so far. You’d think Paul Townend will keep it simple as the horse seems very straightforward, but he won’t be a big price.
As there are nine runners in the race, I think Darver Star offers some good each-way value. He was second in the Irish Champion Hurdle last season and was third in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.
He’s a good jumper and I think it’s fair to say it’s not gone to plan since his win first time out this season. It was a trappy race at Leopardstown that he finished second in last time, but he should reverse the form with Franco De Port .
Every big field handicap at these top meetings requires more than just ability to win – you need plenty of luck too!
You could make a case for so many of them, but the way The Shunter has been campaigned makes him appeal, especially with five places available.
He was a good winner in the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham in November and he’s been freshened up for this since. He’ll love this fast run two miles and he’ll be picking them off late on.
The Irish Champion Hurdle is another race I can’t wait to watch. It’s hard to pick just one because they all have outstanding chances. Honeysuckle is unbeaten and will the love the testing conditions, but does she need further now?
Sharjah would ideally prefer better ground, but he was very good at Christmas and will be ridden to come as late as possible.
Saint Roi needs to improve slightly, but it’s not impossible for him.
The same goes for Abacadabras . It’s just a brilliant race.
As I mentioned earlier, these big field handicaps are so competitive, but I do like the look of The Moyglass Flyer who has snuck in at the bottom. Mark Walsh has chosen to ride him over all the other JP McManus horses and that could be telling.
He’s lightly raced and we’re yet to see the best of him, but I do think this may have been the plan for a while.
This is as good a bumper contest as you’ll see, and we could be looking at the future stars of racing. It could be between the first two in the betting, but they’re so hard to split on what they’ve achieved.
Kilcruit is the chosen mount of Patrick Mullins and as he has first choice of the Mullins horses, he’s not often wrong.
Chemical Energy bolted up at Down Royal last time and must be high up the pecking order of Gordon Elliott’s bumper horses.
4 To Win picks
14:30 Wetherby: Third Wind
14:45 Leopardstown: The Shunter
15:00 Wetherby: Eaton Hill
15:50 Leopardstown: The Moyglass Flyer
Visit Betway’s horse racing betting page.