It’s a huge Saturday of horse racing with Dublin Racing Festival tips top of the bill! There are also selections from our experts for races at Musselburgh, Sandown and Wetherby, so there’s lots to look forward to besides Leopardstown.
Dublin Racing Festival tips – Unexcepted appeals in Irish Arkle
The Irish Arkle Novice Chase (14:10) over an extended 2m at Leopardstown is one of four Grade 1s on a stellar card. While favourite Energumene commands respect, Unexcepted made a really taking bow over fences in the autumn, so looks a value alternative.
One of four trained in the race by Willie Mullins, this lightly-raced seven-year-old jumped well at Tipperary and won eased down. Unexcepted looked a well above average sort there on the fifth start of his career. He also beat Jason The Militant over hurdles, so has good back form.
As he remains unexposed, Unexcepted can progress more than most of his rivals here. In a cracking race which contains Darver Star and Captain Guinness, he looks worth siding with. Unexcepted can be backed at 11/2 with bet365 for the Irish Arkle spoils.
Champagne Gold gets Ladbrokes Hurdle vote each-way
In the Grade B 2m Ladbrokes Hurdle (15:50), Champagne Gold looks well-weighted on handicap debut now dropped back in trip. Trained by Henry De Bromhead, this six-year-old is an Irish point recruit who has since won over hurdles at Wexford.
The point-to-point form Champagne Gold brings to the table is strong. He beat useful mare Place Des Vosges, who has since won and placed third in a Listed race, on his second start under Rules. Off the back of that effort, Champagne Gold hit the frame when a three-length third to Fakiera in a Grade 3 at Navan.
Now dropping back into handicap company and coming down in distance, he could be thrown in off a mark of 132. Champagne Gold thus looks a great each-way bet among the Dublin Racing Festival tips on offer this year. You can back him at 16/1 with Betfred to hit the frame again.
Kilcruit the Leopardstown bumper bet
In the Grade 2 bumper that closes day 1 of the Dublin Racing Festival (16:25), Kilcruit could capitalise on the absence of Sir Gerhard and win again. One of three trained by Mullins, this six-year-old won at Navan on reappearance after joining the stable.
There is some substance to the form too. Ballycairn, the third home that day, has since come out and won here when stepped up in trip for the extended bumper held at the Christmas Festival. That makes Kilcruit of obvious interest for this.
Gordon Elliott’s decision to go straight to the Cheltenham Festival with Sir Gerhard does leave this looking more open. Kilcruit only needed pushing out for an easy 9 1/2 lengths success when last in action. He gets the vote, then, and odds of 15/8 with BetVictor reflect his chances.
Musselburgh betting tips – Billy Bronco each-way value in Edinburgh National
At Musselburgh, meanwhile, there is a two-day Scottish Trials meeting for Cheltenham hopefuls. In the extended 4m Edinburgh National Handicap Chase (15:45), bottom weight Billy Bronco looks worth an each-way wager. This is just the sort of extreme stamina test he needs.
Now trained by Dr Richard Newland, Billy Bronco is now back down to his last winning mark of 117. He ran well off it at Hereford last time out when trying to give 4lb to Innisfree Lad. If running up to the pick of his form, which includes a fine second in the North Yorkshire equivalent of this at Catterick off 5lb higher, he could easily hit the frame.
With Charlie Hammond again aboard and taking 3lb off, Billy Bronco has place prospects despite being the oldest in the line-up. It would be no surprise to see him roll back the years at Musselburgh. Billy Bronco is 11/1 with William Hill and each-way value in a race where cases can be made for plenty.
Sandown betting tips – Dame De Compagnie the Scilly Isles selection
From Ireland to Scotland and now England, with the 2m 4f Grade 1 Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase headlining the card at Sandown (13:50). In a cracking renewal, Cheltenham Festival heroine Dame De Compagnie can make the most of her mares’ allowance.
Trained by Nicky Henderson for leading Irish owner JP McManus, this eight-year-old won a match with previous Grade 1 winning hurdler Cornerstone Lad on her chase bow at Ayr on reappearance. Dame De Compagnie was a comfortable winner there, and it looks significant that connections pitch her right in at the deep end off the back of it.
She bolted up in the Coral Cup over hurdles last March. This is tougher with the likes of Grade 1 winner Shan Blue and comeback story Messire Des Obeaux up against her, but Dame De Compagnie gets weight all-round. On that basis, she looks worth siding with at 4/1 with Boylesports for victory.
Wetherby betting tips – Thriving On The Blind Side the Cleeve Hurdle choice
And finally, at Wetherby, the rearranged 3m Grade 2 Cleeve Hurdle takes place (14:30) after Festival Trials Day was a washout. On The Blind Side was not among initial entries for this at Cheltenham, but is in terrific form and thus taken for the spoils.
Also trained by Henderson, this nine-year-old has relished the return to hurdles this season. On The Blind Side won a Listed handicap at Cheltenham and then chased home Come On Teddy, trying to give 21lb away. He then filled the same spot behind McFabulous in the Relkeel Hurdle at Kempton, but got his head back in front in a conditions contest at Market Rasen.
On The Blind Side is a better hurdler than chaser. He has also thrived on his racing this season. In the absence of Paisley Park, some of the horses who toiled in his wake down the field in the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot just before Christmas represent the dangers. On The Blind Side appeals most at 7/2 with Betway for Cleeve Hurdle glory.