Following the weekend’s action at Leopardstown all eyes are on the Dublin racecourse for the upcoming Stan James Irish Gold Cup
The current leading national hunt trainer Gordon Elliott is hoping for rain to suit his 3-1 shot Don Poli. The eight-year-old Gigginstown House Stud-owned chaser was third to Don Cossack in the Cheltenham Gold Cup last year, when trained by Willie Mullins. He was pulled up on his first start for Elliott at Down Royal in November, but put that well behind him when finding only stablemate Outlander too good in the Lexus Chase at Christmas.
Elliott said:”Don Poli will come back for the Irish Gold Cup. The more rain that comes, the better for him. “I couldn’t be happier with him. He was hunting on Thursday and was winging ditches, so he is grand.”
The Irish Gold Cup Day on Sunday, February 12th is the only race day in Ireland with four Grade 1 races on the one day and Carlingford Lough (10-1) heads the entries of 17 horses for the feature race – the €150,000 Stan James Irish Gold Cup.
Successful in this race under Tony McCoy in 2015 and Mark Walsh in 2016, the John Kielytrained 11-year-old has not been seen since winning the Bibby Financial Services Punchestown Gold Cup last April. He is bidding to become the third horse to win this race on three successive occasions after Jodami (1993-1995) and Florida Pearl (1999-2001).
Florida Pearl also won in 2004 and his trainer Willie Mullins, the most successful trainer in the history of the race with nine wins, has entered Djakadam (11-4), favourite with race sponsors, Stan James, who beat Outlander to win the John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase on his seasonal return and finished a close third to that same rival and Don Poli in the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas.
Gordon Elliot has entered both Outlander (7-2) and Don Poli (3-1) into the feature as he chases his first success in this race. The current leading national hunt trainer, Elliott has also entered the much-improved Empire Of Dirt (5-1) who is the winner of his last three races and certainly worthy of this step up in class after his clear-cut success in the Troytown Handicap Chase at Navan in November.
Roi Des Francs (20-1) completes the Elliott-trained quartet. Road To Riches (16-1) finished runner-up to Carlingford Lough in the Irish Gold Cup last year and he could represent Noel Meade again while Jessica Harrington has entered Sizing John (25-1) who would be trying this trip for the first time, if taking his chance.
Sub Lieutenant (12-1) was third to Djakadam and Outlander in the John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase and he may represent Henry de Bromhead who is having a very successful season so far. There are four British trained entries this year, up from one entry last year, with Minella Rocco (7-1) and More of That (14- 1) for Jonjo O’Neill and Bishops Road (33-1)and Kylemore Lough (14-1) for Kerry Lee. The last British-trained winner of this race in 2009 was Paul Nicholls’ Neptune Collonges in 2009.
Grade 1 Deloitte Novice Hurdle
Entries for the Grade 1 Deloitte Novice Hurdle are up 11 horses compared to last year. Among Willie Mullins’ 21 entries is the Grade 1 Bar One Racing Royal Bond Novice Hurdle winner Airlie Beach and Saturnas who finished second in that race but went on to land the Grade 1 Paddy Power Future Champions Novice Hurdle at the Leopardstown Christmas Festival.
Heading the opposition to the champion trainer could be the Gordon Elliott-trained Naas Grade 1 winner Death Duty, Ted Walsh’s Punchestown Grade 2 winner Any Second Now and Noel Meade’s Leopardstown maiden hurdle winner Joey Sasa.
Grade 1 Flogas Novice Chase
The Jessica Harrington – trained Our Duke, successful in the Grade 1 Neville Hotels Novice Chase at Leopardstown at Christmas, heads the entries for the Grade 1 Flogas Novice Chase. Unbeaten in two starts over fences, the exciting seven-year-old is Harrington’s sole entry in the race while Willie Mullins has put together a team of seven, led by Yorkhill who made a winning start to his chasing career at Fairyhouse in December.
Ball D’Arc, so impressive at Fairyhouse last Sunday, is one of four entries made by Gordon Elliott while Balko Des Flos, a winner at Fairyhouse on New Year’s Day, is one of two in the race for Henry de Bromhead.
Grade 1 Spring Juvenile Hurdle
The €80,000 Spring Juvenile Hurdle has attracted 19 entries, an increase of seven horses on last year. Willie Mullins was responsible for the first three horses home in this race in 2016 and the first two the year before and he has entered impressive course and distance winners Bapaume and Meri Devie. Bapaume beat Joseph O’Brien’s Landofhopeandglory, Gordon Elliott’s Mega Fortune and Zig Zag, also trained by O’Brien, to win the Grade 2 Knight Frank Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown at Christmas and an intriguing clash between the quartet could be on the cards