The build-up for the Cheltenham Festival got a real shakeup in 2018 with the introduction of the Dublin Racing Festival. The two day meeting brings together some of the best horses from the most powerful yards on both sides of the Irish Sea to compete in some incredibly high calibre races.
We’ve got tips from each of the four Grade 1 races taking place at Leopardstown on Saturday whilst we go through the four races covered by ITV Racing at Sandown which includes the Grade 1 Scilly Isles Chase. In what promises to be an excellent day of racing, check out our best Saturday betting tips below.
The Dublin Racing Festival takes top billing in the world of racing this weekend. This is only the third edition but it has already proven itself to be a cracking two day meeting.
Saturday’s card is particularly strong with four Grade 1 races to enjoy, each of which offers real betting opportunities as well as plenty of insight for the Cheltenham Festival.
12:50pm Nathaniel Lacy & Ptnrs Solicitors Novice Hurdle
The Dublin Racing Festival gets off to a suitably strong start courtesy of the Grade 1 Nathaniel Lacy & Partners Solicitors Novice Hurdle. This high class field is headed by Latest Exhibition, quickly followed by Fury Road, Elixir D’ainay and Longhouse Poet.
The last two in that list went up against each other last time out at Naas but neither was able to get the better of Envoi Allen who was a fairly comfortable winner. Connections of both horses will be enthused by the performance of their charges though and Longhouse Poet looks an especially good price to come on for the run and earn a first Grade 1 win at odds of 11/2 with Coral.
1:25pm Dublin Chase
Min is the only horse to have won the Grade 1 Dublin Chase in the race’s short history and Willie Mullins’ nine-year-old returns to Leopardstown with every chance of completing the hat-trick. Min’s sole performance to date this season saw him win a Grade 1 at Punchestown so punters are understandably keen to get on at 11/4 with bet365.
The obvious problem for Min is the strength of the competition he will face on Saturday. Chacun Pour Soi looks a solid shout for the Champion Chase whilst he last horse to beat him, A Plus Tard, also lines up. With a strong supporting cast this is likely to be a fairly quickly run race in which Min is taken to just about hold off his rivals.
2:00pm Arkle Novice Chase
Like the first two races on the Saturday Leopardstown card, the Arkle Novice Chase is a Grade 1 affair. The main difference with this contest is that it was not introduced for the Dublin Racing Festival. The inaugural edition of this race took place in 1956 and in that time the race has produced several winners who then went on to win the race of the same name at the Cheltenham Festival.
Footpad is the latest horse to complete the Arkle double and we could well see another horse win both races with Notebook and Fakir D’oudairies featuring prominently in both betting markets. Notebook came out on top when the two met in the Racing Post Novice Chase on Boxing Day but Fakir D’oudairies should be able to reverse that form and win on Saturday at odds of 9/4 with bet365.
2:35pm Matheson Handicap Chase
The Matheson Handicap Chase offers a break from the Grade 1 races. This super competitive handicap takes place over 2m1f, includes 11 fences and is set to feature a full complement of 16 horses. The recent history of this race includes a combination of winning favourites and long shots and there are various tempting options at different parts of the market.
With so many choices, the best play here is likely to be an each way bet with Avenir D’Une Vie standing out at odds of 12/1 with bet365. The Gordon Elliott trained 10 year old has not been missed by the handicapper but that is only because of some quality performances recently. The softer ground expected at Leopardstown should suit Avenir D’Une Vie perfectly so a place is well within his grasp.
3:10pm Irish Champion Hurdle
The Irish Champion Hurdle is considered to be one of the very best shorter distance hurdle contests in all of racing. Due to its place in the schedule, it is still used as a testing ground ahead of the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham for some horses, including Honeysuckle who tops the betting for this year’s running.
Henry De Bromhead’s six year old holds entries for the Champion Hurdle and the Mares’ Hurdle at Cheltenham and you get the feeling only a win on Saturday would see her entered in the former. Classy as she is, Honeysuckle may find that two miles is a little too short for her to get the better of Sharjah. He was unlucky to be brought down in last year’s Champion Hurdle and has every chance of returning to Cheltenham on the back of a big win in Leopardstown at odds of 15/8 with BetVictor.
The Dublin Racing Festival takes top billing this weekend but there is quality action taking place in Britain as well. Sandown, for example, has a very strong card on Saturday at which the ITV Racing cameras will be in attendance. The Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase is the big race of the day but the three supporting races shown live also provide some great chances to beat the bookies.
1:50pm Contenders Hurdle
The ITV Racing at Sandown begins with a race in which there is a very strong favourite. Call Me Lord is most people’s idea of a perfect horse to place into accumulators this weekend and is available at a best price of 4/7 with BetVictor.
Clearly, that is a very short price and there are high potential competitors in the field for this two mile Listed contest. Quel Destin is a threat at a price of 5/1 with bet365 and there are questions about just how high a level Call Me Lord can go but he should have enough for the Contenders Hurdle.
2:25pm Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase
The Grade 1 Scilly Isles Chase has been used as a stepping stone by some very good chasers over the years with Best Mate and Bristol De Mai among the list of previous winners. Just how far those in the field for this year’s renewal can go remains to be seen but this is shaping up to be a highly competitive renewal.
Many of the key figures in the early betting for the race will compete in Dublin instead so it may well pay to take the 5/1 that Betfair are quoting about Itchy Feet’s chances of winning while it lasts. You can’t take too much from his win last time out against just two opponents but Olly Murphy’s yard are in good form and he can kick on to claim a first Grade 1 win.
3:00pm Betway Heroes Handicap Hurdle
The heavy ground at Sandown is going to be a major factor throughout the card but it could be particularly important in deciding the winner of the Betway Heroes Handicap. This long distance hurdle takes place over a trip of just shy of three miles so stamina will be a major factor.
The trends show that a younger horse, with a couple of previous wins over hurdles (preferably over at least two and a half miles) should be favoured. Agrapart ticks those boxes but it is understandable that many are being put off given he is set to carry top weight. To mitigate against that, Chester Williams gets the ride thanks in no small part to the fact that he gets to claim five pounds. That may just allow Agrapart to contend so an each way bet is tempting at odds of 20/1 with Coral.
3:00pm Betway Masters Handicap Chase
The Betway Masters Handicap Chase is the final race on the Sandown card to be shown live on ITV Racing. This three mile chase features 22 fences and is set to feature a big field. Dominateur tops the early betting at 6/1 with Coral thanks to some impressive recent performances which have marked the seven year old out as one to watch. The handicapper may just have got the better of him for this clash though.
In another open field, an each way bet looks the way to go in this one as well with Royal Vacation available at 20/1 with Betfair. Colin Tizzard’s experienced chaser has winning form at Sandown and on softer ground. He has dug in for some decent performances already this season and has more than enough grit to battle for a place.