Lossiemouth, Facile Vega and Blue Lord were among the hot favourites beaten at the Dublin Racing Festival, shaking up the Cheltenham Festival ante-post markets; Galopin Des Champs won the Irish Gold Cup but drifted out for the Cheltenham Gold Cup
Tuesday 7 February 2023 15:14, UK
It usually provides major clues for betting at Cheltenham, but this year's Dublin Racing Festival (DRF) left punters with as many questions as answers.
Perhaps the biggest shock of Leopardstown's two-day meeting saw the previously-unbeaten Facile Vega suffer defeat by 20 lengths in the Grade One Tattersalls Ireland Novice Hurdle.
Sent off at a furious pace under Paul Townend, Willie Mullins' Champion Bumper star tired badly in the home straight and came home last of the five to finish.
Facile Vega - 5/2
Marine Nationale - 10/3
Il Etait Temps - 4/1
Gaelic Warrior - 4/1
Tahmuras - 7/1
That performance also resulted in arguably the most significant market move as Sky Bet eased Facile Vega from 8/11 to 5/2 for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle.
It has also meant an unexpected dogfight for favouritism, with Marine Nationale being cut from 9/2 to 9/4 before easing again to 3/1, all while stuck in his box.
Leopardstown winner Il Etait Temps now sits at 4/1 (was 25/1), while some punters are looking to other hopefuls from the Mullins contingent as Impaire Et Passe (5/1 to 10/3) and Gaelic Warrior (6/1 to 5/1) both received some support.
Mullins may no longer have a 'banker' in the Supreme, but his leading hope in the Arkle strengthened his case with a commanding victory at the Dublin Racing Festival.
El Fabiolo's 10-length victory in the Goffs Irish Arkle Novice Chase saw him cut from 4/1 to 15/8 for the second race on the opening day at Cheltenham.
He still has Jonbon (11/8) to beat and Nicky Henderson's runner has a chance to reply to the challenge thrown down by El Fabiolo when he appears in Saturday's Kingmaker at Warwick.
Henderson will have been watching Sunday's Chanelle Pharma Irish Champion Hurdle very closely and while it will still take something special to beat his 'freak' Constitution Hill, it could be that State Man is that something.
Townend may not have got his sectionals right with Facile Vega, but there was no such drama as State Man dominated from the front and never looked in trouble as he ended defending champion Honeysuckle's hopes (5/1 to 10/1).
Constitution Hill remains unmoved at 1/3 as State Man closed the gap from 4/1 to 11/4.
Despite another valiant effort in defeat, Honeysuckle's connections have confirmed she will return to the Mares' Hurdle, the race she won in 2020.
The popular nine-year-old will head to Cheltenham for a final farewell and she has been backed into 15/8 favouritism (from 9/4) to bring the house down with victory.
Honeysuckle - 15/8
Marie's Rock - 10/3
Epatante - 9/2
Brandy Love - 9/2
Love Envoi - 5/1
Henry de Bromhead's mare will certainly not have it easy though, with four classy rivals making the two-mile-and-four-furlong contest the most competitive it has been in a long while.
Henderson looks set to hold a strong hand as Epatante (9/2) looks to be heading here instead of the Champion Hurdle, joining Relkeel winner Marie's Rock (10/3).
Mullins' Brandy Love (4/1) and Harry Fry's Love Envoi (5/1) complete the top of the market.
The opening race of the DRF saw Barry Connell's Good Land justify favouritism to land the Nathaniel Lacy & Partners Solicitors "50,000 Cheltenham Bonus For Stable Staff" Novices' Hurdle.
Connections had given their winner just one entry at the Cheltenham Festival and confirmed after victory at Leopardstown that it would be all roads to the Ballymore, for which bookmakers have halved his odds from 8/1 to 4/1.
A day later, Mullins' Gaelic Warrior saw his odds shorten from 5/1 to 7/2 with a smooth success in handicap company.
Challow Hurdle winner Hermes Allen (9/4) remains the one to beat for Paul Nicholls and Harry Cobden.
Not many will have foreseen Gentleman De Mee's defeat of 1/4 shot Blue Lord by seven lengths in the Ladbrokes Dublin Chase, which saw the former make a drastic move from 25/1 to 6/1 for the Wednesday feature at the Festival.
The form of Mullins' runner from earlier in the season had been far from sparkling, including when 16 lengths behind Edwardstone (13/8) in the Tingle Creek.
With Mullins also responsible for defending champion and 6/4 favourite Energumene, it will be interesting to see how many of his brigade make it to the start line, with Blue Lord eased to 7/1 from 11/4 for the big one.
Now three out of three over fences, the Gordon Elliott-trained Mighty Potter strengthened his case as favourite (3/1 into 11/8) for the Turners Novices' Chase with a commanding victory in the Ladbrokes Novice Chase.
The strength of that form is perhaps best judged by the fact his main rivals for Cheltenham appear instead to come from those down the field in the Irish Arkle, with runner-up Banbridge and third-placed Appreciate It together at 4/1.
It is not very often that a horse defeated at the Dublin Racing Festival retains its place at the top of the betting for Cheltenham but that in itself tells a story of the Donohue Marquees Spring Juvenile Hurdle.
Sent off 1/3 favourite at Leopardstown, Lossiemouth lost valuable ground three hurdles out as stablemate Jourdefete got in her way, leaving Townend little choice but to circle the entire field.
Despite those inconveniences, Mullins' runner got to within two-and-a-half lengths of winner Gala Marceau and as a result of her brave effort clings on as 13/8 favourite (from 11/10) for the opening race on Gold Cup day.
Gala Marceau's victory was rewarded with a price of 4/1 (from 8/1).
On a topsy-turvy day in the markets, it was also a surprise to see long-time Cheltenham Gold Cup favourite Galopin Des Champs eased ever so slightly despite a relatively bloodless victory in the Paddy Power Irish Gold Cup.
It was an efficient, if not entirely dominant display, from Mullins' charge but he eventually galloped clear of stablemate Stattler to win by eight lengths.
Galopin Des Champs - 13/8
A Plus Tard - 11/2
Stattler - 13/2
Noble Yeats - 7/1
Bravemansgame - 7/1
His reward was to see his price for the Festival showpiece drift from 6/4 to 7/4 before coming in again slightly to 13/8.
Sky Bet were a touch more complimentary of Stattler's efforts as they moved him to 13/2 third favourite (from 15/2).