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Play Or Pass - Assessing Willie Mullins' Dublin Racing Festival Favourites

jon-vine
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Last updated: 31 Jan 2024
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Jon Vine 31 Jan 2024
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  • Assessing Willie Mullins' favourites at the Dublin Racing Festival
  • Seven of the eight Grade Ones have a Willie Mullins' runner at the head of the market
  • Find out whether we want to play or pass on Galopin Des Champs, State Man, El Fabiolo and more
state man leopardstown
Paul Townend riding State Man (yellow) clear the last to win The Matheson Hurdle from Daryl Jacob and Impaire Et Passe (green) at Leopardstown. (Getty)
    Willie Mullins DRF Favourites
  • 1:20pm Nathaniel Lacy Novice Hurdle - Predators Gold
  • 1:50pm Spring Juvenile Hurdle - Storm Heart
  • 3:35pm Irish Gold Cup - Galopin Des Champs
  • 1:10pm Ladbrokes Novice Chase - Fact To File
  • 1:40pm Novice Hurdle - Ballyburn
  • 2:10pm Dublin Chase - El Fabiolo
  • 2:45pm Irish Champion Hurdle - State Man

Since the Dublin Racing Festival was created in 2018, Willie Mullins has dominated. 

48 Grade One races have been held during this meeting since its inception, and Willie Mullins has won almost 60% of them. Last year, just two of the eight Grade Ones went to trainers outside of Closutton, and the markets for this year's meeting suggest that Ireland's Champion Trainer will dominate once again.

We've taken a closer look at Willie Mullins' seven favourites in the Grade One races at the 2024 Dublin Racing Festival and decided whether they're a play or a pass.

2024 Dublin Racing Festival Day One

1:20pm Nathaniel Lacy Novice Hurdle - Predators Gold


PREDATORS GOLD is a hugely progressive five-year-old. Mullins' star ran out an impressive winner on his hurdling debut at Punchestown and coped with the conditions well at Christmas, where he finished second behind Caldwell Potter, having made an awful mess of the final flight. 

Mullins accounts for six of the nine entries, but his other contenders look more like Albert Bartlett types. As do Gordon Elliott's two entrants, and I'd be disappointed if Jessica Harrington's mare Jetara had the beating of the gelding. Predators Gold could be good enough to run in the Baring Bingham, and should have too much class for this opposition on Saturday.

Verdict - Play

1:50pm Spring Juvenile Hurdle - Storm Heart


Like Predators Gold, STORM HEART made an outstanding first impression on debut at Punchestown and fully warrants his position at the head of the betting. There are, however, several viable alternatives against the market leader.

Salvator Mundi was narrowly beaten by current Triumph Hurdle favourite, Sir Gino on his sole French start. Kala Conti has done very little wrong in her three hurdles starts thus far. Kargese, Bunting and Highwind remain open to any amount of improvement and Intellotto brings course-and-distance winning form to the table. Storm Heart certainly won't have an easy time of things on Saturday.

Verdict - Pass 

3:35pm Irish Gold Cup - Galopin Des Champs


GALOPIN DES CHAMPS, on the other hand, doesn't seem to have that much to beat. The only other potential winner is Fastorslow, who has twice beaten the favourite around Punchestown. Leopardstown is, undoubtedly, the ideal track for Galopin Des Champs and I can't see any outcome other than an easy win for the market leader.

You can also read our full guide to the 2024 Irish Gold Cup here on our website.

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Mark Walsh riding Fact To File easily win The Ballymaloe Relish Rising Stars Beginners Chase at Leopardstown. (Getty)

Verdict - Play


2024 Dublin Racing Festival Day Two

1:10pm Ladbrokes Novice Chase - Fact To File


I'm a big fan of FACT TO FILE. I've put Mullins' seven-year-old up for the Turners' Novices' Chase in my ante-post Cheltenham Festival tips series, so I would be more than happy to see Willie's novice get the job done on Sunday.

That being said, Fact To File looks incredibly skinny at a general price of 6/4. It looks like Facile Vega will be stepping up in trip and he's more than capable of beating the favourite if back to the top of his game. American Mike has already beaten Fact To File this season, and who's to say it won't happen again. Il Etait Temps and Mister Policeman cannot be ruled out if either were to show up, so Fact To File certainly doesn't represent value in the current market.

Verdict - Pass

1:40pm Novice Hurdle - Ballyburn


You could also argue that BALLYBURN is far too short in the betting for the following Grade One, based on what he's achieved. Dropping back down to the minimum distance might not be ideal for Mullins' six-year-old either, considering how well he took to two-and-a-half miles over Christmas.

Ballyburn was, however, ultra-impressive in putting that race to bed, beating a future winner in Cleatus Poolaw by 25 lengths. Like the favourite, Farren Glory and Slade Steel look better suited by longer distances, and I don't think either possesses the same turn-of-foot as Ballyburn. Outside of the leading trio, the other runners hold little in the way of appeal, so I'm expecting Ballyburn to get the job done.

Verdict - Play

2:10pm Dublin Chase - El Fabiolo


Dinoblue has done nothing but progress since her loss in the Grand Annual last season. Gentleman De Mee ran well behind his stablemate when they met over Christmas, and his record during the second-half of the season shows he's more than capable of turning the tables on Dinoblue.

EL FABIOLO should still have the measure of both, barring the sort of calamitous performance that Jonbon put in at Cheltenham on Saturday. Willie Mullins' star is already odds-on for the Champion Chase and I doubt those odds will be much different after Sunday's penultimate Grade One.

Verdict - Play

2:45pm Irish Champion Hurdle - State Man


If Constitution Hill wasn't on the scene, then STATE MAN would be regarded as one of the most dominant two-milers in recent history. Willie Mullins' star has won his last seven starts in Irish Grade Ones and no rival has been able to lay a glove on the winner, once asked for a serious effort by Paul Townend.

Impaire Et Passe was swatted away with impunity when he met State Man for the first time over Christmas and Bob Olinger hasn't any sort of credible form over two miles. If State Man was the same price as Galopin Des Champs, I'd be tempted to play, but the favourite isn't a bet for me at 1/4.

Verdict - Pass

Verdict

Play these favourites:

Best Bet1: Predators Gold 2024 Nathaniel Lacy Novice Hurdle @2/1 at Unibet - 10 Units
Best Bet2: Galopin Des Champs 2024 Irish Gold Cup @4/9 at QuinnBet - 10 Units
Best Bet3: Ballyburn 2024 Novice Hurdle @10/11 at BoyleSports - 10 Units
Best Bet4: El Fabiolo 2024 Dublin Chase @4/11 at bet365 - 10 Units
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