The entries for the Cheltenham Festival handicaps will be published later this month and it is worth highlighting some of the most noteworthy revised ratings following the Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown last weekend.
Dallas Des Pictons, who was flagged up as a likely sort for the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle in the February Update, was raised seven pounds following his win in the three miles handicap hurdle on Sunday. Gordon Elliott's progressive young hurdler is therefore rated 137, which ought to be sufficient to get into the two and a half miles handicap at the Festival - the UK handicapper may give him a few more pounds but he still looks tailormade for the race.
Off You Go won the valuable two miles handicap hurdle on Saturday for the second consecutive year. Charles Byrnes' gelding was winning the race off a twenty pounds higher mark than twelve months earlier. His connections mentioned the Coral Cup or County Hurdle afterwards and, if lining up in either, he will be set to race off at least 151 following an eight pounds rise.
There are a couple of Gordon Elliott trained novices who have been given attractive opening ratings with the Cheltenham Festival in mind. Surin finished third behind Sir Erec in the Grade 1 Spring Juvenile Hurdle on Sunday and the handicapper may have let her in lightly off 130 - I will be disappointed if she isn't given an entry in the Boodles Juvenile Hurdle (formerly the Fred Winter). Vision D'Honneur is featured in the Top 40 Prospects in One Jump Ahead and he also finished third last weekend. The ex-French gelding couldn't match the finishing efforts of Willie Mullins' pair in the Grade 1 two miles novice hurdle but he wasn't disgraced. A mark of 142 appears to underestimate his ability. I am hoping Gigginstown House Stud decide to enter him in the Coral Cup, County Hurdle and Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Hurdle. I don't envisage him having any trouble staying two and a half miles.
Looking further ahead, Kaiser Black who produced a career best when runner-up in the Grade 1 Flogas Novice Chase behind La Bague Au Roi was raised seven pounds and is now offically rated 154, which won't make life easy in the Irish National on Easter Monday. However, he is a lightly raced and progressive young chaser.
Joseph O'Brien trained two more Grade 1 winners at Leopardstown, including the aforementioned Sir Erec. Indeed, the former Flat jockey holds something of a monopoly on the juvenile hurdlers at present. Konitho, a five lengths winner at Naas on his Irish debut last month, has been subsequently bought by J.P.McManus. Both he and Fine Brunello, who was runner-up behind stablemate Fakir D'Oudairies at Cheltenham in late January, are likely to be given entries in the Boodles Juvenile Hurdle. Given the stable's strength in depth, in terms of four year old hurdlers, it wouldn't be a huge shock if Fakir D'Oudairies was rerouted to the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle and attempt to make the most of his eight pounds allowance. He may even be sporting different silks by then, too. Who knows.
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