THE PUNTER'S EYE: Five horses to follow to Cheltenham after the Dublin Racing Festival
Last week's Dublin Racing Festival was a major success, both for punters who turned out in their thousands, and trainers who learned a lot about their horses heading towards the spring festivals.
Going back through the results, we've picked out five horses, not all winners, to follow to Cheltenham in March:
Min - Champion Chase
Min was foot perfect when landing the Grade 2 Coral Dublin Chase at the expense of stable rival Yorkhill who bombed out having been fancied earlier in the day. Min put them all to the sword and won by 12 lengths from Simply Ned. Last year's Champion Chase winner from Cheltenham, Special Tiara was back in third. Discounting his relegation to second after a stewards inquiry at Leopardstown over Christmas, only one horse has got its head in front of Min and that was the mightily impressive Altior. The pair could very well meet again this March but given the fact Altior has not run yet this season, Min could be the bet in the 2018 Champion Chase where he is at odds of 9/4.
Supasundae - Stayers Hurdle
The Irish Champion Hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival posed more questions than it answered in terms of the corresponding race at Cheltenham, but it did reveal a huge contender for the Stayers Hurdle in the shape of Supasundae. The race had been seen as a bit of a soft touch this year, presenting the likes of Yanworth and The New One with a chance of Cheltenham glory, but Jessica Harrington's Supasundae cut a formidable figure at Leopardstown. Seeing off Faugheen, even an understrength one, is an achievement in itself, but the further he goes, the better he gets. Over the stayers trip at Aintree last year, he finished just a length behind Yanworth, but he has undoubtedly improved since. He's teak-tough, will storm the Cheltenham hill, and looks solid at 3/1.
Samcro - Supreme Novices or Ballymore Novices
It's almost not worth mentioning Samcro, such is the hype already doing the rounds for Gordon Elliott's rising star. He was once again imperious as he put his fellow novices to the sword at Leopardstown and will go to either the Supreme Novices Hurdle or the Ballymore Novices Hurdle as a huge favourite. The potential clash with Next Destination from Willie Mullins' yard is mouth-watering, as it appears the Irish hold the key to the novice grade. Despite the looming threat of a horse like Next Destination, Samcro looks a future star, who could be a champion hurdler or even a Gold Cup horse in a few years. He's built for chasing and so is a picture of sheer strength. Prepare to see him bounding up the Cheltenham hill in March, adding further to the fervour of hype that already surrounds him.
Edwulf - Gold Cup
The fairytale of the Dublin Festival was Edwulf for Joseph O'Brien and owner JP McManus. The horse was moments from death after pulling up in devastating circumstances at Cheltenham last year, but stayed on powerfully in Leopardstown last weekend to claim the Irish Gold Cup. He beat the likes of Outlander and Cheltenham Gold Cup veteran Djakadam, confirming for any doubters that he is still a force in the big staying chases. His odds for the Cheltenham Gold Cup have been cut from 66/1 to 25/1, putting him firmly in the picture of a race that looks far from sown up after the recent performances of Sizing John. Edwulf is an out and out stayer and the more testing conditions get at Prestbury Park, the closer he'll get. He'll be staying on late when others are back peddling and could be worth an each-way bet.
Farclas - Triumph Hurdle
Farclas didn't win at Leopardstown but could be the value in the Triumph Hurdle at 10/1 after running both Espoir D'Allen and Mr Adjudicator close in recent starts. Espoir D'Allen was disappointing at the Dublin Festival but before that had been all the rage for the Triumph and couldn't have become a bad horse overnight. Farclas chased him home on a previous start, running him to within a length and a half, and was once again in the shake-up last weekend. He was just pipped on the line by Mr Adjudicator but Farclas' level of consistency is something to be admired in a Triumph. He is still improving and will appreciate spring ground. Despite losing last week, he looked hardy coming to the last and going toe to toe with Mr Adjudicator. He'd have to reverse form if the Willie Mullins-trained Mr Adjudicator goes to the Triumph, but I believe he can. The hill could suit him and his jumping was fluid enough to suggest he'd be even better in a faster run race, which the Triumph usually turns out to be.