top of page


We take a look at the biggest winners from the two day Dublin Racing Festival and analyse just how impressive they were and what we can expect going forward.

VAUBAN (13:35 - Saturday)

The famous pink and green spotted silks that are synonymous with owner Rich Ricci haven't been seen to as good effect as they have been in the past. Of course when you've owned modern day legends such as Vautour, Annie Power and Faugheen to name but a few everything else will pale into insignificance yet this past Saturday we saw a horse, whos jockey was sporting these illustrious silks, who may be in the mold of some of Ricci's former greats.

Going into the second race on the card on day one of Leopardstown's recent weekend festival all the talk was centred around the short priced favourite Fil Dor. The unbeaten Gordon Elliot trained runner had the form in the book and was tipped by many to go well at Cheltenham next month yet Willie Mullins' charge had other ideas. Paul Towned pressed the button on Vauban who jumped the last impecably before leaving the favourite in his dust. He didn't have the biggest winning margin from all the horses mentioned in this article but in what looks a potentially very hot looking Grade 1 he ensured his blistering hurdles career continued on an upward trajectory. With the only horse to beat him Pied Piper, dominating at Cheltenham the previous week he looks to be aimed at reversing the placings with his former victor with a possible tilt at the Triupmh Hurdle where he's now the clear 7/2 second favourite.

CONFLATED (15:15 - Saturday)

Seen by many as potentially the most competitive and mouth watering Grade 1 of the entire meeting we were treated to seeing former King George and Gold Cup victors in the lineup. Yet we were presented with an almighty shock in the form of Gigginstown's Conflated taking home the spoils. The market gave a minor clue that he could do better than expected with the eight year old's odds being slashed from 40/1 down to an SP of 18/1. Despite the betting support it wasn't enough to seriously convince the majority that the horse, who's form was miles away from most of his rivals, would pose a serious threat. He travelled by far the best approaching the final three fences and despite a minor error climbing over the last he still went away from his nearest rival with Minella Indo 6 and 1/2 lengths back in second. Although he wasn't the horse on everyone's lips prior to the off it'd be foolish to dismiss him readily.

Many can look at some of the more fancied runners and look to make excuses for them but all in all Gordon Elliott's runner put some serious chasing talent well and truly in their place. If you can imagine that a decent handful of the field were set to head to the Cheltenham Gold Cup then he deserves to follow suit. Whether or not he is able to reproduce a similar performance at Cheltenham I feel the stiffer uphill finish and longer trip will actually play into his hands. With entries in the Ryanair (Best odds 33/1) and the Gold Cup respectively he'd be worth a shot at one of the biggest prizes in jumps racing. With former Gold Cup victors such as Lord Windermere, who was very much a shock victor in 2014, is it so out of this world to imagine Conflated producing a similar feat? At an eye-wattering price of 66/1 surely he's worth a play after such a cracking recent showing?

FACILE VEGA (16:25 - Saturday)

"A Monster", "A Beast", "A Rocket" some of the numerous superlatives used to describe the beautifully bred Facile Vega after his dominant display on Saturday. I hate to put a dampener on a horse who hails from impeccable lineage but after two runs surely such talk is premature? Yes he won by 12 lengths, yes he was eased down at the line and yes he has the potential to be all the things many think he is but he's still at the stage in his career where we have a plethora of questions left unanswered. Many a time we've seen horses dominate the national hunt flat division before falling back to earth once presented with an obstacle to sail over. It was only 12 months ago when the same sort of adjectives were being used to describe stable mate Kilcruit who found one too good at Cheltenham and although he’s had a solid campaign this term he’s hardly set the world alight. Lets also not forget former Cheltenham Bumper victors such as Relegate who failed to progress after claiming their festival victory.

Could he be phenomenal? Yes he could but talk of emulating his mother's successes is more unlikely than it is likely and people perhaps need to set their enthusiasm to simmer rather than allowing it to boil over.

He’s a best price of 3/1 for The Bumper in March which seems fair enough.

GALOPIN DES CHAMPS (13:20 - Sunday)

The first of four odds on victors on Sunday came in the novice chase division where Galopin Des Champs finished way ahead of his nearest rival in the Grade 1 Ladbrokes Novices Chase. Last years Martin Pipe Hurdle winner kept his 100% chase record intact but it wasn’t without a few doubts. He hoped over his fences but at times looked a tad slow in doing so and less economical than some. A horse where I feel his flat speed covers up some of his shortcomings when tackling the bigger obstacles. Obviously the formbook shows he had over 9 lengths between him and his nearest rival but this years novice chase division looks a lot weaker than it has been in recent times. Of course it’s not the six year olds fault that the level of opposition isn’t quite up to scratch but, and it takes a brave man to say this on record, despite being a short price for both the Brown Advisory and Turners Novice Chases he looks a short priced Mullins horse worth taking on come March.

CHACUN POUR SOI (13:50 - Sunday)

Adding to their success with Vauban the day before the combination of Ricci and Mullins claimed yet another Grade 1 victory to add to their mightily impressive tally, this time in the Dunlin Chase. Another clear victory for an odds-on shot but how impressed you can be with that performance is up for debate. We all saw Greaneteen pick up the Tingle Creek few months back but you have to feel he came up against horses that were way below their best that day and his poor performance on Sunday was more in keeping with a true reflection of the formbook. Chacun Pour Soi well and truly put his last effort behind him but did he do anything more than what we expected of him? Not really! He certainly puts himself back into the Champion Chase frame but even owner Rich Ricci admitted he’s unlikely to have enough to trouble either Shiskin or stable companion Energumene when lining up at British jumps HQ. A fair performance but it’d have been more of a shock if he didn’t come out on top than the convincing victory he produced on the day.

HONEYSUCKLE (15:00 - Sunday)

How many horses can you name that remained unbeaten in their first 14 starts? No matter how many greats you can name you’d be hard pressed to find one that has equalled what Honeysuckle has done in her career so far. It feels unfair to crab her performance this past Sunday but if you ask yourself if that was the best version of Honeyscukle we’ve ever seen or if that was the best performance she’s ever produced I imagine the majority would say no.

She was the shortest priced horse of the entire two day meeting and for it to be enough for her to just simply win wouldn’t, in my eyes, be deemed something extraordinary. She seemed to tire in the closing stages and although at no point she seemed to have any risk of losing the race she seemed far away from her best. The best way to describe her performance would be workmanlike and a tad laboured.

The big question however is why was she not at her vintage best? - Could it be her fitness after a 70 day wait on the sidelines? - Could it be the form of her yard who haven’t been in as spectacular form as they have been the previous 12 months? - Or could it be that she’s on the decline? I’d hate to think it were the latter but to dismiss it as a possibility entirely would be foolish. Of course she deserves to be the clear odds on favourite for the Champion Hurdle and there doesn’t seem to be much in the Champion Hurdle picture that could trouble her but if she was on the decline could we see a shock?

SIR GERHARD (15:35 - Sunday)

Surprise surprise another Willie Mullins trained winner at Leopardstown, this time in the form of last years Champion Bumper winner Sir Gerhard.

The formbook will tell you he won by a clear 6 lengths and you’ll see he remains unbeaten over hurdles however that won’t tell the whole story.

A mixed bag when it came to his jumping, with steady leaps interspersed with less than fluent action he didn’t look his best when climbing over his obstacles. He led from pillar to post but it wasn’t without opposition and if it weren’t for an equally bad jump at the last by Three Stripe Life the winning distance would’ve been much shorter.

He still remains favourite for the Ballymore but with a slight drift in the betting do others make more appeal for March’s showpiece?

written by Rory Paddock

bottom of page