13.30 TRIUMPH HURDLE - The Irish juveniles seem to have the edge here and arrive mob-handed. Vauban is supposedly the no.1 seed for Mullins, 'has been working as well as Gaelic Warrior', - but that one couldn't win the handicap on Tuesday. He sets the standard running a close second to Pied Piper on hurdling debut followed by a 3L win over Fil D'Or in the G1 Juvenile Hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival. Third on that day was Il Etait Temps who was thrown into a G1 on jumping debut, starting at 40/1. He tanked along at the rear of the field, looked green at times and worked home well to take third, recording an RPR better than all bar the top three in today's market. A more positive ride should put him right in contention - 12/1 EW all day! The Queen's former horse Pied Piper beat Vauban on debut and followed it up with an 8L win in a canter here on Trials Day. What's in the tank when he lets him go? Porticello was beaten by Knight Salute in December but has improved since then on softer ground with two decisive wins. He might be able to fill the placings.
IL ETAIT TEMPS (EW 12/1), Pied Piper (3/1), Porticello (16/1)
14.10 COUNTY HURDLE - Typical raffle of a handicap but at least we have some degree of certainty about the state of the ground - it should be soft at worst, possibly on the better side of it. The favourite State Man has just won his maiden but looks very smart. In two starts for Willie Mullins, he has started 8/13 (fell) and 1/7 when he won by a dozen. That gave him the pretty hefty mark needed to get into this field but there's no doubt he has a touch of class. But at the price in a 26 runner race? Nah. A stablemate of interest is Tax For Max. A handy Flat performer in Germany, he finished five lengths behind (last year's Arc winner) Torquator Tasso in a local Group 1 before being bought by prominent owners Munir & Souede. He ran four times last year for three seconds (including one to Teahupoo) and a sixth in the Triumph. He has been off for eight months and comes back the proverbial two stone lighter. The New course is much more of a Flat test, and it's that ability which might be the key here. At 22/1 with plenty of EW places available, I'm prepared to take that on trust. Broomfield Burg travelled too keenly in the Betfair Hurdle and didn't have much left when he loomed up to challenge late. When the zip wasn't there, he was eased up in true McManus handicap style instead of pushing on for minor prizemoney. That's kept his mark in check and he has as good a chance as any. Cormier was in the mix in the Greatwood here in November but made a couple of errors and lost his chance. He took 10 weeks off and has returned with a pair of wins, here and the Morebattle Hurdle at Kelso which was won last year by the winner of another Festival race a few days later, The Shunter. Connected to Cormier through the Kelso race is Faivoir, super consistent and a massive price (66/1) while Flat-bred First Street can also go in from his third in the Betfair Hurdle. But this race really is wide open, hence throwing a few darts. Four of the last six winners have started at 20/1 or higher. Pick a handful and box them up in exactas. If you land it, there's your weekend paid for.
Tax For Max (EW 22/1), Broomfield Burg (EW 25/1), Cormier (33/1), Faivoir (66/1), First Street (18/1).
14.50 ALBERT BARTLETT - This is a race which involves a lot of guesswork, just the one favourite successful in the past decade and only three winners in single-figure odds. Ginto and Hillcrest dominate the market and might just be too good. But at their prices and with the history of this race, I'm casting my net a bit wider. The next four in the betting show real potential without having created quite as much hype. Minella Cocooner wore a hood for the first time when winning a Grade 1 Novice Hurdle over 2m6f at the Dublin Racing Festival. An extra furlong looks right up his alley. The Nice Guy made a stunning hurdles debut at Naas in late January, beating a large field comfortably, and recording a strong RPR. An extra 5f here is new territory but staying blood runs deep through his bloodlines. Shantreusse has already won twice over three miles and will stay all day. Will relish a true staying test if they go hard up front. One of the best Flat horses to switch to hurdling in recent years is Stag Horn. Two from two so far over obstacles, while he hasn't won by big distances, he hasn't shown signs of stopping either. Hard to split the four but I'll lean towards the Mullins machine.
The Nice Guy (EW 10/1), Minella Cocooner (EW 10/1), Shantreusse (12/1), Stag Horn (14/1).
15.30 GOLD CUP - full preview here
16.10 HUNTERS CHASE - really don't see the point of these races at the Festival but anyway, since they are included in the Placepot...
Winged Leader, Dubai Quest, Pont Aven
16.50 MARES CHASE - Three mares from the leading stables dominate the market here, two from Mullins, one from Elliott. Concertista has a win and two seconds at the Festival, Elimay was beaten narrowly in this race last year at 6/5 (and sixth in 2019 in the mares' hurdle), while Mount Ida won the Kim Muir last year, recording a rating far above her previous hurdling exploits. The Elliott mare, Mount Ida, has the recent form to be enthused about - two wins within half a stone of her best, and beating Elimay amongst others. Concertista, while in winning form, hasn't achieved quite those marks and her best requires Mount Ida to underperform to win.
Mount Ida (WIN 2/1), Concertista (4/1), Zambella (12/1)
17.30 MARTIN PIPE - the (current) Festival finale which can throw up anything from a future superstar (Galopin Des Champs) to a handicap coup. Elite trainers win it more often than not with Elliott, Mullins and Paul Nicholls winning seven of the last 10 editions. Hollow Games could have gone to the Albert Bartlett but when his mark came in so light, connections switched track. Placings behind Minella Cocooner and Ginto in his last two runs is solid form, and if either of those win the Bartlett, watch his price shorten further. Decimation could inject some juice into exotics at around 25/1. In his debut hurdle season, he ran second three times before romping home in a maiden, then being tossed into a Grade 2, where he was narrowly beaten by Ashdale Bob (now rated 152, ran third in the Coral Cup). That pushed his mark into good handicap territory so after another placing he was sent for a 10 month break. He recently resumed in a minor handicap at Fairyhouse in what looked like nothing more than a blowout before this race. Cobblers Dream claimed the Lanzarote Hurdle at Kempton recently running away from a decent handicap field, the 8lb rise shouldn't hurt him here. The favourite Langer Dan ran second to Galopin Des Champs in this race last year and we now know just how strong that form is.
Hollow Games (15/2), Decimation (EW 25/1), Cobblers Dream (16/1), Langer Dan (5/1)
Broomfield Burg EW 25/1
The Nice Guy EW 10/1 (next best)
Protektorat EW 9/1
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