The build-up to The Festival presented by Magners continues with the unveiling of the acceptors for the seven G1 championship novices’ races, plus the G2 novices’ chase for amateur riders, the National Hunt Chase, following the scratchings’ deadline on 19th February.
Impressive Betfair Hurdle victor Al Dancer (Nigel Twiston-Davies), who has a weight-adjusted Timeform rating of 162p, tops 61 going forward for the £125,000 G1 Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (2m 87y) on the opening Champion Day, Tuesday 12th March.
Grand Sancy (Paul Nicholls) is next best on 161 following his game victory against more experienced opposition in the G2 Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton on 16th February.
Britain’s champion Jump trainer Nicky Henderson has G2 winners Angels Breath (157P with Timeform), who like Al Dancer runs in the colours of Dai Walters’ company, Walters Plant Hire Ltd, and Mister Fisher (157p) among his three remaining entries.
Promising four-year-old Fakir D’Oudairies (Joseph O’Brien IRE, 160p) and Leopardstown G1 scorer Klassical Dream (Willie Mullins IRE, 157p) are among 32 Irish-trained acceptors.
Le Richebourg (Joseph O’Brien IRE, 173p) has captured G1 contests at Leopardstown on his two most recent starts and the six-year-old heads 24 remaining for the £175,000 G1 Racing Post Arkle Novices’ Chase over two miles on Champion Day.
The Irish challenge for the Racing Post Arkle Novices’ Chase also features the well-touted Cilaos Emery (Willie Mullins IRE, 172p), who was an eye-catching winner on his chasing debut at Gowran Park last month, and Paloma Blue (Henry de Bromhead IRE, 165p).
Lalor (Kayley Woollacott, 169p) put down a marker when winning the G2 Racing Post Arkle Trial Novices’ Chase at The November Meeting, as did Glen Forsa (Mick Channon, 169p) with a 19-length victory in the rearranged G2 Kingmaker Novices’ Chase at Sandown Park on 15th February.
Ok Corral (Nicky Henderson, 165p) would, if successful, give owner JP McManus his seventh victory in the £125,000 G2 National Hunt Chase (44 acceptors), for amateur riders, which is the longest race of The Festival at nearly four miles.
Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott have won five of the last eight renewals of the National Hunt Chase between them. Mullins’ one entry going forward is Ballyward (168p), successful in G3 company at Naas at the end of January, while Elliott’s six contenders are led by Champagne Classic (160p), winner of the 2017 Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys Handicap Hurdle at The Festival.
Champ (Nicky Henderson, 162p) and Battleoverdoyen (Gordon Elliott IRE, 154p), both unbeaten this season, are among 90 entries going forward for the £125,000 G1 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle over two miles and five furlongs on Ladies Day, Wednesday 13th March.
Exciting mare Honeysuckle (Henry de Bromhead IRE, 158p) also remains, as does Brewin’upastorm (Olly Murphy, 157p), who looked in command when falling at the last in the G2 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle on Festival Trials Day at Cheltenham last month.
Delta Work (Gordon Elliott IRE, 174p) and Santini (Nicky Henderson, 170p) are on course for a mouth-watering clash in the £175,000 G1 RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase (31 acceptors) over an extended three miles on Ladies Day. Delta Work is the leading novice chaser in Ireland with top-level victories at Fairyhouse and Leopardstown, while Santini caught the eye when third in the G1 Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day, a race in which Topofthegame (Paul Nicholls, 169p) finished second.
Defi Du Seuil (Philip Hobbs, 170p) and Lostintranslation (Colin Tizzard, 168p), first and second in the G1 Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase at Sandown Park earlier this month, headline 36 acceptors for the £150,000 G1 JLT Novices’ Chase (2m 3f 166y) on St Patrick’s Thursday 14th March.
They have already clashed at Cheltenham this season, in the G2 BetBright Dipper Novices’ Chase on New Year’s Day, when Lostintranslation rallied gamely to win by three-quarters of a length.
Promising stayers Birchdale (Nicky Henderson, 159p) and Dublin Racing Festival G1 scorer Commander Of Fleet (Gordon Elliott IRE, 153p) head the 79 acceptors for the £125,000 G1 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle over three miles on Gold Cup Day, Friday 15th March.
Willie Mullins has 14 remaining entries, including G2 Navan Novice Hurdle victor Easy Game (156).
Hot favourites Sir Erec (Joseph O’Brien IRE, 167p) is the headline act among 40 acceptors for the £125,000 G1 JCB Triumph Hurdle over two miles and a furlong on Gold Cup Day.
A strong Irish challenge for the JCB Triumph Hurdle also features Sir Erec’s stablemate Fakir D’Oudairies (165p), who impressed when landing the G2 JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial on Festival Trials Day.
The leading British-trained hope is Quel Destin (Paul Nicholls, 158), who has won his last five including Graded contests at Cheltenham, Doncaster and Chepstow.
Nicholls has also confirmed Pic D’Orhy (166), who has not raced since finishing second in a G1 three-year-old hurdle at Auteuil, France, for former trainer Francois Nicolle in November.
The Festival(TM) presented by Magners takes place from Tuesday 12th March to Friday 15th March 2019 inclusive and tickets are on sale.
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12th March 2019 – Day One: Champion Day – click here
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