Welcome to February
Welcome to February – Kyle Merrick on an action-packed weekend of racing to start the month
The start of February in the horse racing world gave spectators a feast of action to absorb Britain and Ireland. It took the whole of Sunday to catch up before it started all over again. Though there are worst ways to spend the day.
Leopardstown’s Dublin Racing Festival is proving a great success and is certainly on my bucket list of racing fixtures to attend in the future. Saturday featured four Grade 1 races which started with a 2m 6f Novice Hurdle where Latest Exhibition, who was up in trip and class, took glory in a good finishing drive seeing out the trip for trainer Paul Nolan.
A lightly raced seven-year-old who has two entries at Cheltenham, he could be intriguing either way in the Ballymore or Albert Bartlett. Fury Road was slightly disappointing to finish fourth for favourite backers but Gigginstown House Stud would soon come back to winning ways.
The Dublin Chase in the two-mile Chase division was a cracker despite a major late non-runner in the shape of A Plus Tard. The finish was dominated by the Ricci challengers as Min was bidding for a third success in this Grade 1, but Chacun Pour Soi had the class and speed to win nicely for another top level victory. This Mullins star beat Defi Du Seuil last May at Punchestown and we could see an exciting match between this pair on Wednesday 11 March.
Notebook remains top of the list in the novice chase division as he remains unbeaten this season, denhying Cash Back for a big race win. This was the start of the excellent grandstand finishes the crowd enjoyed as Henry De Bromhead and Rachael Blackmore made it a big race double as Honeysuckle continued her unbeaten run since November 2018.
An exciting name to watch as the Spring festivals creep closer. The star of the show on day one with a great attitude in a hard-fought finish.
On day-two, the outstanding finishes were headlined by the 12-year-old star Faugheen, who got his hat-trick of novice chase successes this season, set a decent pace and just prevailed with Willie Mullins (pictured) bringing home the first four in the Flogas Novice Chase.
The 2020 Irish Gold Cup was a thriller, with Delta Work following up his Savills Chase win with a duel down the home straight with Kemboy, who wasn’t weakening in the closing stages.
Presenting Percy was staying on too and showed the engine was still there. However, the Gigginstown House Stud seven-year-old and 2018 Pertemps hero, Delta Work, will be on my shortlist for Cheltenham’s version of this Grade 1 in five weeks’ time.
Scotland staged an informative weekend of quality action with Musselburgh holding their traditional trials weekend with Paul Nicholls (pictured) gaining five wins out of the 14 contests, making the long journey from South West England worthwhile.
Greaneteen was most impressive in the Scottish Champion Chase and Thyme White, an intriguing name, who was second behind Goshen at Sandown in December, went one better on Sunday by taking the Scottish Triumph Hurdle.
The race that will be remembered will be the recent add-on of the Edinburgh National over four miles and a furlong where Bob Mahler finished like a two-year-old in a five-furlong dash. An amazing run to snatch glory in the final strides.
Finally, on a busy weekend to say the least the all-weather championships went up a gear with two listed races featuring at Lingfield’s Saturday card where sadly the speed star Kachy was withdrawn but the class prevailed in the Winter Derby trial as Bangkok pulled away to win on all-weather debut. A name for finals day on Good Friday?
I could have doubled the size of this review with the amount of racing this weekend but it can’t go unnoticed that the trials of the new race times have started with Saturday featuring a last race at 4.26pm an example. It will be interesting to see how the experiment progresses over the coming weeks.
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