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Five burning questions ahead of the 2019 Dublin Racing Festival

Nick Murphy | 31 January 2019

Irish Gold Cup and Irish Champion Hurdle among races

ITV4 viewers will have eyes on Sandown and Wetherby this weekend. But the real top class action is taking place at Leopardstown in the spectacular two-day Dublin Racing Festival on Racing TV.

Top trainers from both sides of the Irish Sea will send their best to battle it out across 15 races, including eight fascinating Grade 1 renewals. And we’ve got five questions ahead of the weekend.

Can Min win a second Dublin Chase in a row?

All the talk earlier in the week was about Min’s clash with Footpad. After the latter’s withdrawal, it now seems like Min’s to lose. Willie Mullins’ raider hacked up 12l in this renewal 12 months ago and his victory over Shattered Love on reappearance suggests he’s in fine fettle this time around too.

Recent Grade 1 winner Simply Ned provides the main opposition. But with the 12-year-old not getting any younger, it’s difficult to see how he’ll reverse the form with the favourite from last year’s renewal.

How will Apple’s Jade cope over 2m in the Irish Champion Hurdle?

Gordon Elliott looks set to have three contenders in the six-runner Irish Champion Hurdle. But it’s Apple’s Jade who is his best hope. The mare has returned to the track in sensational form this term with a hat-trick of comprehensive wins in the Lismullen, Hatton’s Grace and Christmas Hurdle.

There’s been no stopping her over 2m 4f and 3m. So we’re intrigued how she gets on back down at 2m for the first time since finishing runner-up in the Fighting Fifth in November 2016. It’s an interesting move from Elliot which should pay off, with Melon and Supasundae her main foes.

Apple's Jade

Will Le Richebourg go favourite for the Arkle?

The Joseph O’Brien-trained Le Richebourg looks a pretty solid favourite for the Irish Arkle. The six-year-old has excelled over 2m 1f this term and claimed a maiden Grade 1 win in some style over course and distance on Boxing Day. Win here and he could go clear for the Arkle at Cheltenham.

Lalor, Dynamite Dollars and Kalashnikov have all beaten each other in England. So a comprehensive win from Le Richebourg would lay down a significant marker. Knockanuss and Mengli Khan are rated his main dangers here, although Henry De Bromhead goes for a hat-trick in the race with Paloma Blue.

Le Richebourg

Who will stake Gold Cup claims in the Irish equivalent?

With the 2019 Cheltenham Gold Cup looking decidedly open – save a taking run from Presenting Percy last week – all eyes will be on the Irish Gold Cup for more pointers. Only three horses have won both contests in the same year, but it can still be an important prep-run ahead of the big one.

Road to Respect – last year’s Gold Cup fourth – is favourite for Noel Meade, although Al Boum Photo and Bellshill are all vying to give Mullins his 10th win in the race. Monalee is one who could appreciate the good ground, while Edwulf will be aiming for another big shock for the second year in a row.

Road to Respect

Can Britain finally usurp Ireland in the Flogas?

Ready for a ding-dong battle between Britain and Ireland in the Flogas Novice Chase? Because that’s just what we’re going to get when four-time seeking Delta Work takes on four-timer seeking La Bague Au Roi over 2m 5f.

Both raiders have looked mightily impressive so far, although Elliott’s charge who has landed two Grade 1s to Warren Greatrex’s one. It’s difficult to call on form. So maybe a look at the historical trends could help. No British-trained horse has ever won the Flogas in its 29-year history. Good luck, Warren.

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